Singing "Souleros" - A Conversation with Santana Band Frontman Andy Vargas

Andy Vargas wears many hats. He is one of two lead singers for the The Carlos Santana Band. He is the son who followed in his father's footsteps by choosing music as a career. He is a dedicated dad to his 16-year-old son. He is part of an effort to replace music equipment and instruments for students in Bastrop County who lost them in the wildfires. He is a surprisingly skillful DJ. But most of all, he just wants to sing.

Rocks Off caught up with the Watsonville, California native at the House of Blues last night where we asked him about his upcoming solo album Souleros, how he got his start with Santana, and what inspires him.

Rocks Off: First of all, welcome to Houston. I know you have been here many times before, so you must obviously love this city as much as we do.

Andy Vargas: Hey, thank you! Glad to be here. I've been visiting Houston regularly for the last nine years. I've made a lot of friends here, and the people of Houston are amazing. Genuine people who love real music, as opposed to some of the electronic offerings that's played on the radio.

RO: How did you get your start with The Carlos Santana Band?

AV: I was working gigs and caught the ear of Clive Davis, who later asked me to audition for Carlos. It was only supposed to be a three week gig, but after a couple of shows, Carlos invited me to be a part of the band. That was in 1999, right after Supernatural was released and the world tour launched. I've been blessed to sing with him ever since.

RO: Your first solo album is set to be released early next year. Tell us a bit about Souleros, and what we can expect from it.

AV: The name is a combination of Soul and Boleros. I grew up around mariachi music and old Mexican love songs that my father and grandfather used to sing. I was later introduced and fell in love with soul and R&B music. So my album will be a mix of old and new, from mariachi to Stevie [Wonder].

RO: What are your favorite songs to sing? One mariachi song and one Santana song please.

AV: My favorite mariachi song is "Jalisco" sung by the world famous Mariachi Vargas.

RO: Wow, they are legends. Are you related somehow?

AV: My dad tells me we are, which is awesome.

RO: And a Santana song?

AV: I love to sing "Hold On." So emotional.

RO: What or who inspires you?

AV: My father is definitely my primary inspiration, and Carlos [Santana] is my musical leader. From them I receive positive energy that enables me to grow. You need to have roots, family, and corazon in order to create a movement, which is what I'm trying to do.

RO: Thank you, sir.

AV: Gracias, hermano.

Andy joined forces with his Soul brother and local musician David DeLaGarza to perform as The Vargas/DeLaGarza Project last night. The jam band performed both covers of Santana songs and original compositions to a respectable crowd. You can catch David DeLagarza performing regularly at SRO Sports Bar (444 Northwest Mall).

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When he's not roaming around the city in search of tacos and graffiti, Houston Press contributor Marco both writes and points his camera lens toward the vibrant Houston music scene and beyond.