In this divisive political climate, artist Leti Garza, formerly known as Leticia Rodriguez Garza, finds it especially meaningful that her recently released album “El Unico Para Mi” (“The Only One for Me”) focuses on forging connections and features Austin musicians from all over the world.
“I wanted to create something beyond myself, to broaden my scope into a world music vision and to imagine a world without so many borders, creative and geopolitical,” Garza says. “In this place and moment in history, Pan-American art seems particularly important as a means and a symbol of unity.”
Since the release of her 2012 debut album, “La Americana,” Garza has brought new life to the music of her late aunt Eva Garza, an internationally recognized artist who catapulted into stardom during the 1940s and 1950s and whose hit songs helped strengthen Columbia Records’ presence in the Mexican market at the time. Garza’s new album reinterprets three songs from her aunt’s repertoire and highlights seven original songs.
Bringing extra musical muscle to Garza’s album this time are Grammy-winning musicians and composers Scott McIntosh and Jose Galeano (Grupo Fantasma). “El Unico Para Mi” deep dives into culturally rich soundscapes drawing from merengue, cumbia and salsa. Additional musicians on the album help bring a global perspective to the record with their roots in places such as Cuba, Nicaragua and France. The multilingual project with songs in English, Spanish and French are a step toward the artist’s goals of moving in the direction of world music.
“My interest in language has always been about trying to make that connection with another human being,” she says. “Multilingualism is an advantage that affords us to be open minded and helps us throw out that fear of the unknown.”
Garza didn’t grow up speaking Spanish. Like many Texans, her mother was often punished for speaking Spanish as a student in San Antonio. Today, Garza says she continues to study and practice it. For the album, she worked closely with Galeano for lyrical translations. “As a singer, the meaning of language and content of lyrics are super important to me,” she says.
Since the 2014 release of her EP “Sagüita Al Bate,” Garza says she’s thought a lot about who she is as a performer and what she values. It’s led her to change her artistic name to something that she says feels more fitting of her onstage personality. “Leti Garza has energy and authenticity, and the name more accurately describes me as a performer. I have a lot of oomph when I perform, you know,” she says with a laugh. After a couple of name changes throughout her life, she says that “it’s taken forever to find it, but I feel good with this name.”