When singer-songwriter Tish Hinojosa moved back to Austin five years ago after spending nearly a decade in Germany, she intended to rebuild the musical career that had made her a Texas trailblazer in the 1990s. She hoped to heal after her marriage ended, reintroduce herself to the local music scene and climb back to the top.
But she didn’t realize that before she could fully pick up the pieces, she had to fall harder than she ever had.
Hinojosa’s latest album “West,” which releases June 15, marks something of a rebirth for the noted artist who has more than a dozen albums in her discography spanning about three decades. It’s her first album since returning to Austin, where she’ll perform June 8 at the One World Theatre and June 13 at Waterloo Records.
In 2015, Hinojosa almost lost her life after a minor surgery to alleviate acid reflux went wrong. She woke up in the hospital and couldn’t breathe. “There was an incredible pain in my chest, and it scared the hell out of me,” she says. “I bolted out of bed.”
Hinojosa’s blood pressure had plummeted. Her lungs had collapsed, and excessive internal bleeding prompted blood transfusions. “I felt myself dying,” she says. “It was terrifying.” She lost her spleen and spent days in intensive care.
Music — for a couple of years after that — took a backseat. She was trying to survive.
Her long and painful recovery required numerous hospital visits, another surgery and a temporary move to San Antonio where her family could care for her. In 2017, a fundraising attempt to purchase her San Antonio childhood home and convert it to an arts center didn’t work out. Hinojosa also lost her nephew that year. Her inspiration vanished.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d get back to the point of creativity again,” she says. “I wasn’t real sure that music was going to be my main focus anymore.”
Some uplifting moments such as the weddings of her two children kept her going, and Hinojosa says her second chance at life made her reflect a lot about what the future held for her.
Then, in the summer of 2017, Hinojosa woke up “with clarity I hadn’t known in quite a while.” She pulled her damaged Dillion guitar out of its case because “she was broken and I was broken, so I thought, ‘We’re going to pull through this together.’” She went to Home Depot, purchased some wood clamps and glue and began to repair both the guitar and her spirit.
“I strung her with shiny new strings,” Hinojosa wrote in her album’s liner notes. “We sat down with hot morning coffee, and a flood of music came tumbling out.” Among the new songs she wrote was “My Good Guitar,” where she sings:
We’ve been through hell, we’ve fallen hard
I’ve picked up pieces and glued the shards
And music flows through cracks and scars
It’s you and me, my good guitar
Her musical rebirth comes through in what she calls a Southwestern-flavored collection co-produced by longtime collaborators Marvin Dykhuis and Chip Dolan at Fire Station Studios in San Marcos. Along with her new original music, she pays homage to Austin singer-songwriters with songs such as Tim Henderson’s “Maria Consuelo Arroyo,” which tells the story of an immigrant woman raising her family. Hinojosa also includes her late friend Jimmy LaFave’s “Only One Angel,” which she performed at a tribute concert for him at the Paramount Theatre.
The album’s title track, “West,” came to her in an epiphany. While still going through a dark period in 2014, she took a solo road trip to California to visit friends. As she drove through Tucson past an afternoon thunderstorm, she saw a beautiful sunset ahead. She embraced the moment as a sign of better things to come. She scribbled in a little notebook, “west of the mountains by Tucson.” Three years later, during that burst of clarity, she remembered that moment. The song, she said, came pouring out.
“There’s not a lot holding me back now,” Hinojosa says. “I’ve dumped off the unnecessary burdens of the past, and the future is feeling good.”
Hinojosa plans to re-release her debut album “Homeland,” which has long been out of print, and looks forward to working on a Spanish-language album soon. She hopes to bring more cultural programs, songwriting workshops and perhaps a new music festival to Austin and is applying for grants to make her new goals happen.
“Sometimes, the harder you fall,” she says, “the more traction you get to bounce back up again.”