In 2004, Texas-based Los Lonely Boys scored their biggest hit to date with “Heaven.” The single charted on adult contemporary, country and pop charts, underscoring an important fact about the trio of brothers: Their music has always transcended genres. Often and unfairly pigeonholed as a Mexican-American rock band, Los Lonely Boys draw from many styles of music to create their original songs. The band comes to Diana Wortham Theatre in Asheville on Wednesday, March 8.
The three San Angelo, Texas, natives — bassist and lead vocalist Jojo Garza plus brothers Henry (guitar) and Ringo (drums) — had been playing music together for many years when their self-titled debut album was reissued by a major label. Epic signed the group on the strength of the regional success of “Heaven,” even though Jojo says the label execs “didn’t even like ‘Heaven’ to begin with.”
Originally released on the independent label Or Music, the single was a runaway success. “Los Lonely Boys were selling thousands of copies out of our trunk,” says Jojo. “And anybody’s going to want to jump on a wagon that’s moving that fast.”
But once signed to a major label, the pressure was on for the band to deliver more of the same. “We’d always told everyone that ‘Heaven’ is a song we’re very, very proud of,” says Jojo. “But at the same time, Los Lonely Boys were always about music, not just a particular style of music.” The group’s subsequent albums would feature nearly all original material, mostly written by the three Garza brothers. But that music was much more than a bunch of “Heaven” retreads.
Listening to any of the group’s albums — including its most recent, 2014’s Revelation — one can detect the influence of artists as diverse as Bob Marley and Doug Sahm. Leader of the Sir Douglas Quintet and a solo artist, Sahm was a music legend who deftly combined roots, rock, country and Tejano styles into a distinctly Texas-flavored sound. “We have a lot of the same elements in our music,” Jojo says. “It’s in the water, in the air.”
After a pair of well-received records for Epic, Los Lonely Boys returned to self-releasing their albums. And while the projects Rockpango and Revelation didn’t spawn hit singles, both charted.
As Mexican-Americans and Texans, Los Lonely Boys might be expected to have a sharp perspective on this country’s current fixation on immigration. Yet Jojo largely demurs: “We’re not really political.” After a pause, he adds, “We try to stand for all people; we’re all God’s people, so we need to stick together and do what’s right. When you’re separating parents and families, that’s a really sad situation.”
He remains hopeful and paraphrases bits from the Gospels, saying, “Bless the government as well, for they know not what they do.”
Optimism is a key to Los Lonely Boys’ success. The trio has persevered in the face of obstacles that could easily spell the end for another group. In 2013, Henry fell from a stage and suffered severe injuries, necessitating a long convalescence. “I don’t think he’ll ever be fully recovered,” says Jojo. “But I’ve heard him say it 100 times since then: He’s 100 percent happy to be alive.”
Not long after that, Jojo sustained a vocal cord injury. And in summer 2015, the three brothers lost their mother.
Those events caused the band members to put music on hold and focus on what was most important. “We hadn’t really got down to writing songs,” Jojo says, “because quite honestly there was not a lot of inspiration. There was more inspiration to be with our families, our children, our wives.”
Now back on the road, Los Lonely Boys’ current concert dates are billed as the Revelation tour. But there’s still plenty of music from the group’s blockbuster debut in the live set. “There’s a push and pull,” Jojo explains. “We’re always trying to please the fans and ourselves. The biggest response from people is to the original album that Los Lonely Boys are known for. So it’s a balance.”
In spare moments on the tour, the band balances music and community, “whether it’s the Latino community, sick children, or anybody,” Jojo says. “Because we’re just humans, all together.”
WHO: Los Lonely Boys
WHERE: Diana Wortham Theatre, 2 S. Pack Square, dwtheatre.com
WHEN: Wednesday, March 8, 8 p.m. $37.45 – $45.48