Sunny Sauceda is a Musical Chameleon
By Ramón Hernández
Sunny Sauceda’s most recent compact is a reflection of his past, the present and a glimpse into his future musical direction. He kicks off this musical production with “Si Quieres,” a tune that immediately hooks the listener and invokes a strong desire to dance. In short, this ranchera is sheer listening pleasure for the ears and a joy for any pair of dancing feet.
However his bass player, Pete “Tiny” Gutierrez’s initial idea was for this song to feature Sauceda’s vocal prowess. “I’ve always loved this song, Juan Gabriel is a true poet and this tune also struck a chord with me since it was the song I sang to my wife, as a surprise when we got married in 2002,” the Squeezebox Monarch said during an interview at the Hispanic Entertainment Archives.
“I too, wanted for the vocal to shine. So the little accordion I put in was due to my co- producer’s suggestion. As she said, ‘How can you not have accordion when you’re Mr.Accordion Abuse, ha, ha, ha.’ But the funny thing is that I’ve been singing longer than I’ve played any other instrument and the voice is the oldest instrument in music history. So this is me knocking down the walls of the accordion player/vocalist box because I feel that when you play accordion, your vocal ability gets overlooked.
“As to the arrangement, I suggested to our keyboard player (Art Guillermo) that we needed more power and energy in the intro because you’ve got to start and end strong. The guitar thing was something I wanted to do because I wanted more variety in the leads and in the switch offs.”
What makes “Chaparrita” good is the musical arrangement and fast-paced cumbia rhythm with a great drum beat. Besides, how can Sunny miss with a tune composed by Brownsville’s top composer, Esteban Mares? And if you like Ricardo Castillon’s “Linda Chaparrita,” you’ll also love Sunny’s “Chaparrita.”
“The minute I heard it I heard a hit,” the recently turned 34-year-old accordionist said. “This tune is a cross between Tejano and cumbia Mexicana, or vallenato, so I coined the term Tejano vallenato; because it’s a hybrid/pure-bred cross-genre song to me and something I started when I was producing Vida as a musical director with my first attempt, ‘Vueltas y Vueltas.’ It has chord structures and stylistically, it’s Tejanismo, but that rhythm and words are very Mexicano.
“An inside scoop on this song is that Esteban (Mares) and I arranged this one together without knowing it and the intro and feel is similar to ‘Cumbia Con Acordeón.’ That was kind of cool. It wasn’t intentional, but it just happened. So you could call it 'studio magic.’ I also asked Esteban if I could change the first line in the first verse from ‘chapparita’ to ‘güerita’ since I am attracted to gueritas and because the title was getting too redundant.”
Tracks two and three, “Acariciame” (“Caress Me”), were written by Esteban Mares, who has composed hits for Graciela Beltran, Bobby Pulido, Conjunto Primavera, LMT and Liberación. An added treat is the way Sunny dips down to some low notes and progressive licks on the accordion for a most unique squeezebox sound. This one is among the most commercial tracks on this compact disc.
“This was a fun song to sing and when I sang it, I had Marc Anthony in my mind because he added this really intense timbre to his vocal that sounded so cool and I thought this song could use that,” the GRAMMY and Latin GRAMMY singer-accordionist explained.“I am really a lead vocalist trapped in an accordion player’s body and this song is lyrically profound; and the way Esteban (Mares) used metaphors to profess his love is so awesome.
“Fuego En Tu Piel” was written as a group with a bunch of writers with Warner Music Group and the tune is performed in a mellow Tejano-pop/regional cumbia cross genre style. However, the difference is in this tune, which already a salsa and a música Duranguese Billboard hit, is Sunny’s unique accordion style.
“It’s a really pretty song and I get to use dynamics on my vocal which is lot of fun. To me, it’s very Mexico, but the arrangement is kind of popish since my guitar player (Leroy Esparza) listens to John Mayer, Dave Mathews, and etcetera.”
“Si Pudiera Olvidarme (de Ti)” (“If I Could Forget You”) is more of a throwback to the good old-fashioned polkas most baby-boomers grew up with. This one was composed by Sunny y Todo Eso: Guillermo, Esparza, José Gonzales and Greg Enriquez.
“We were in the studio when we wrote it together and then cut it on the spot. This is a real raw, drinking, dancing, conjunto song. I even sang the song late at night so my voice would be raspy and really raunchy,” Sauceda revealed.
Guadalajara, Jalisco-native Aldo Ulises Delgado, who in 2008 won “Los Compositores,” an international songwriter’s contest held in Los Angeles, wrote “Te Lo Mereces” (“You Deserve It”). To date, numerous Mexican groups and bandas plus a slew of soloists such as Ángela María, Tony Galindo, Mayran Bazán plus many others, and now Sunny have recorded his works.
Therefore, this slow cumbia is going to grow on you, especially when he sings, “Mejor buscate otra buey.”
“Aldo is an incredible composer who I met on Facebook when I was looking for songs for my new album, crazy huh? This song was technically fun because there were lots of notes jammed into the vocal lines. And for this one, I kind of changed my vocal approach and I used more throat -- like Elvis did back in the day.
“This song has cool synthesizer lines and something different I did was going straight into the vocal, no musical intro. I also considered not saying ‘buscate otro buey.’ But I figured, oh well what the heck, a little controversy never hurts.
“Eres Todo Mi Ser” is another tune in which Sunny comes across as a crooner. The easy-going, smooth, jazzy tune is light, bouncy, and highly danceable and the vocals are sophisticated yet Sunny’s creative squeezebox runs can still be heard in the mix. Y Todo Esos' Art Guillermo won “Songwriter of the Year” at the 2010 Texan Music Awards and this composition is going to be another notch under his belt.
“Art did it again finding ways to move melodies and cords in directions you don't usually hear in Texan so I had fun doing this song.”
Sunny’s wife/co-producer came up with the hook on “Suelta Mi Corazon” (“Let My
Heart Go”) and Sunny added the verses, but this is not her first composition since she also wrote ‘Regresame El Corazon’ (“Return My Heart”), which is included in the ‘Vagar Libremente’ CD. This one will grab you, not let you go and find yourself singing the catchy tune long after you turn off your I-Pod, home or car stereo.
“Vickie and I were driving to San Marcos when she started singing, ‘Suelta Mi Corazon, ta ta ta ta’ and you know me, I got the digital recorder out. She has lots of cool ideas and good hooks. She’s very artistic and it doesn’t stop with music, her talent includes art and design, but fashion is her forte. Anyway, I think that we finished the song by the time we got to her hometown where she’s a revered State Champion athlete.
“This is also one tune in which you can hear my old arranging style since I think I wrote it at the same time as “Contigo Quiero Estar” on “Ultimo Segundo.’ It has a pop, cumbia feel, stacked vocals and cool harmonies. Then, at the end, I do this vocal bit with accordion bass notes making it sound like Boyz II Men.
When all is said and done, the tune destined to become a radio classic will be “Papas Fritas”(“French Fries”).
However, as the title implies, this is not a novelty tune. Instead Sunny and songwriter Memo Correa’s offspring is a catchy cumbia that from its rock laced intro will grab your dancing feet’s attention and snare your senses into a dancing frenzy. Its obvious Sunny and the band are having a good time because they want to project that to their audience.
The predominant line is “Soy el mero cumbiandero, tengo ritmo pá la cumbia’ which translates to “I am the real cumbia player. I have the rhythm for playing cumbias.”
Asked about the concept of “Papas Fritas,” the two-time GRAMMY winner said, “I’m merely doing what rappers do when they rap, ‘I’m so and so. I’m this and that. I’m the best there ever will be.
“It’s who I am. It’s who people say I am. It’s what I do. My old friend from Monterrey,
Remigio Reyna used to call me ‘El Papas Fritas, el mero french fry – estas bien tirado TVT. So ‘Papas Fritas’ is my anthem.
“So I called my good buddy, Memo, from Atrapado, who wrote my first radio hit, ‘Cumbia Con Acordeón’ and we came up with this. It’s similar to what a rapper does. In all reality, it’s a self-proclamation of what I think people perceive me as. Nonetheless, it’s fun, catchy and it makes you dance. ‘The proof is in the pudding,’ as Bill Cosby says.”
Sunny brings the CD to a close with “Si No Te Vuelvo a Ver” (“If I Don’t Get To See You Tomorrow”), a rock-tinged romantic ballad in which his bandoleón-sounding accordion takes a backseat to his lush vocals. Tejano newcomer Miguel Hernández rocks the musical bridge with a rock-guitar solo. Don’t be surprised if an international pop crooner such as Luis Miguel or José José covers this song and makes Sunny a millionaire.
“I wrote this song right after 9-11. Someone sent me a picture of the lights where the towers once stood and a dear friend Chris Calvillo has passed on. So I started writing. Then I got with José Gonzales, better known as Valenzi, who wrote ‘Paloma Blanca’ for Michael Salgado, La Mafia, Gary Hobbs, Sonya López, Sonora Santanera plus others; and this is what came out.
“It’s a song about telling that special someone you love, ‘don’t leave it for tomorrow because you don’t know if tomorrow will ever come.’ You know, people are hurting every day from stress, sickness or missing loved ones on the war front. People are too busy working all the time and sometimes you don’t get a chance to say or express their feelings. We miss our grandparents and/or our parents get sick. So this is my chance to tell the world, ‘I love you.’“Me, I’m the richest man because I’m already a millionaire in having the love of God and
“I titled this CD, ‘Camaleón’ because we, as a band, strive to change according to our environment and I chose to do this via my voice, accordion and band. That’s why you will hear many different cross-genres in one album. Listen to the way I changed my vocals and I even changed the way I played accordion to suit each song. Yo soy el camaleón (I’m the chameleon).”