They will arrive sometime after the first of July, mother and daughter, in a place reverently known as “Music City,” a place that for a young singer-songwriter from Gilroy might as well be called “Oz.”
They will unpack, freshen up, maybe relax a bit. Then, Angelique Lucero and her mom Patty will hit the streets of Nashville.
All success stories begin with the anecdote of modest beginnings and this summer, the 20-year-old Gilroy musician is ready to write that first chapter. She is going to Nashville for the July Fourth holiday not to sightsee, but to be part of the tableau for other sightseers. Just as she does in Santa Cruz every Sunday, she will take her guitar, find a suitable place on the sidewalks of Nashville and sing for whoever happens to pass by.
Her potential audience may number in the tens of thousands—imagine the crowds milling about in downtown Nashville on the Fourth. Maybe a few dozen will stop to listen and toss a dollar or two her way. Maybe one person will make a connection that will change her life.
“She’s a little go-getter,” said mom Patty Lucero who is always by her daughter’s side on this busking adventures, giving encouragement, chatting with listeners, keeping an eye on the clock. “She can play about three hours straight, but I don’t want her to overdo it.”
Before the Nashville trip, the Luceros are planning on doing something similar on the streets of Los Angeles and Las Vegas, taking part in the most elemental of performance rituals. All this sidewalk serenading will be done by the end of July, though. That’s when the busking will give way to the stage at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.
At 20, Angelique Lucero is doing everything a soul can do to establish a career in music, including singing on a soapbox. She’s taking public gigs at festivals and open mics, and private ones at weddings and parties. She performs every Sunday at church. She’s building her own recording studio. She’s making noise on SoundCloud, iTunes and Spotify. She’s three quarters of the way to a degree in music at San Jose State. She’s making videos and, perhaps most crucially, she’s writing her own material. The trip to Nashville is also pivotal to her future. After graduation next year, she’d like to return, permanently. “We’ll see,” she said.
The child had a nickname before she had a formal name. Long before her parents had decided on “Angelique,” her mother was calling her “Tigger” in utero. “She was just kicking everywhere,” said Patty, who had two sons before her only daughter. “The boys didn’t do this to me. I mean, my ribs were all purple.”
By the time she was 3, little Tigger was singing gibberish vocalizations to songs she’d hear on the jukebox at Pinocchio’s Pizza. As she grew up, her dad began exposing her to all forms of music and by 11, she was writing her own songs. “My cousin was a rapper,” said Angelique, “and he was telling me how to write, where to pause, all those things. At the time, I was really into Eminem and I could repeat every word of his big hit songs. So I began writing a bunch of rap songs.”
Her cousin was not impressed. “He told me to never do that again,” she laughed. “It was a pretty dark phase for an 11-year-old girl to be going through. I had these binders of poetry that I wrote, these really dark stories. And one day, I threw them all away. Why was I so depressed? I was actually pretty happy at the time. Now I regret (throwing away the notebooks) because it would have been cool to go back and see that crazy little mind at work.”
The tough days would come later. When Angelique was 15, just at the point when she was beginning to embark on performing in public, her parents split up. “She used music for therapy,” said her mother, “when she going through her ups and downs, a lot of downs, a lot of time spent alone in her room. When (her father) left, she was sort of lost. At that moment, things could have drastically gone south for her. But she made a choice to do the music and work on herself.”
By this time, she was embracing Adele, Taylor Swift and especially British crooner Sam Smith whose gift for channeling deep emotions in his songs inspired her as a performer and songwriter. For her first open mic in San Jose, she sang to a poem that she had written, with a karaoke track for accompaniment. Meanwhile, at Christopher High School, she dove into activity—cheerleading, softball, theater. She worked hard to get better at guitar. It was full speed ahead.
On YouTube, and on her own web site, you can find Angelique’s video to her own song “Shy Love,” a plaintive power ballad that represents another front in which the young singer-songwriter is going boldly into places where others would tread lightly. As its title suggests, “Shy Love” is a declaration of love and it stems from a real-life event. In fact, she first sang it directly to the object of her interest. She had decided that she had romantic interest in a long-time male friend and she played the song for him in an attempt to break out of the “friend zone.”
“It was the most nerve-wracking thing I had ever done,” she said. “I mean, I can perform in front of five thousand people and not be nervous. But when it’s in front of this one person, it was hard.” The song did not, however, have the intended effect. “I was just too late. I was crushed.”
At San Jose State, Angelique Lucero is taking her musical education to a deeper place, certainly outside her comfort zone. She’s doing a lot of jazz vocals, including the practice of wordless scatting. Her repertoire embraces everything from country to R&B to pop, including her own compositions. She admits that she’s still finding her voice. To do that, she’s following two strategies: to play whenever and wherever she can, or to always be honest in her songwriting.
“To sing the song now is still very hard,” she said of “Shy Love.” “You have to re-live it. Because if you don’t, you’re not truly telling the story. I write from pain and I write from heartache, warm heartaches. I don’t think a good song can be written if you don’t go through it and live it, and then learn something about yourself from it.”