When riders step onto the MetroRail, they might not realize the voice announcing the train’s next stop belongs to one of Austin’s top talents.
Meet Alex Marrero, a musician and vocalist who forms part of the funk ensemble Brownout, which this summer released its latest EP “Over the Covers.” About three years ago, Brownout fans around the world got to know Marrero as the lead singer of the band’s cover project Brown Sabbath, which interprets Black Sabbath music but infuses it with traditional Latin and funk elements.
The Ozzy Osbourne-approved band has toured extensively and this spring Marrero and his band mates met and played for the iconic frontman at Ginny’s Little Longhorn Saloon, where they taped a November episode of the reality show “Ozzy and Jack’s World Detour.”
Growing up as a metal head and hard rocker in Mexico City, Marrero never imagined that decades later he’d be singing Ozzy back to Ozzy. “It was surreal,” Marrero said. “But he was sincere and genuine.”
Osbourne has publicly shown Marrero and Brown Sabbath some love as well. In the episode, he praised the group for its uniqueness. “If you ever get a chance to see ‘em, they’re really good,” Osbourne told Rolling Stone magazine. “It’s a good vibe.”
Marrero, the son of Cuban exiles, credits his success to the sacrifices his parents made for him to live freely. When Marrero’s parents fled the Castro regime in 1962, they settled in Virginia before moving to Mexico City about a decade later. As a result, Marrero and his siblings were born in Cuba, the United States and Mexico. His multicultural roots, he said, have helped nurture his unique perspective on life.
But in his 20s, he yearned for a sense of identity as he was trying to figure out who he was as a person.“I thought it was a hindrance, at first, because I didn’t know where to fit in,” he said. “I was kind of in no man’s land. I wasn’t Mexican enough, wasn’t Cuban enough, wasn’t American enough.”
Now at 41, Marrero describes his multicultural roots as a blessing. “It’s actually an amazing thing because it broadens your scope quite a bit.”
While he rebelled against Latin music as a youth, he later fully embraced its beauty and complexity as a musician. In the early 2000s, Marrero co-led the Latin fusion ensemble Ghandaia, helping shape Austin’s Latin music scene alongside other bands such as Grupo Fantasma.
In addition to his work as a multi-instrumentalist and vocalist for various bands, Marrero teaches guitar and drums at the Austin School of Music, as well as records bilingual voice acting work for companies such as Capital Metro, where he’s served as the primary voice of MetroRail since it launched in 2010.
While traveling via public transportation in other parts of the country, Marrero often wondered who announced the various bus stops. “Turns out someone like me,” he said with a laugh.
According to Capital Metro, Marrero is among three voice talents featured in their services. He had previously done commercial work for Capital Metro and was tapped to record for the MetroRail when they sought a bilingual voice actor.
Now whenever he rides an Austin MetroRapid bus or MetroRail train, he enjoys seeing people’s reactions when his voice comes through the speakers.
“Everyone always gets a giggle from the Spanish version,” he said. Every word must be perfectly enunciated so that the message is clear. “It’s almost like a Saturday Night Live sketch because it’s so over the top,” he said.
About 11 years ago, Marrero decided to leave his job at the local ad agency GSD&M to pursue his musical passion full time. The risky move meant leaving behind a steady paycheck with health benefits for a complete lifestyle change.
“But it felt scarier to me to wake up at 65 and regret not doing what I felt like I was put on this Earth to do,” he said. “At some point you have to take a leap.”
If you go
Brownout will headline at Austin’s official New Year2018 celebration at Auditorium Shores.
When: Dec. 31
Time: 3-10 p.m.