"I was invited to play for George Bush at his last Christmas in Texas," Hinojosa recalls. "I sang a few of my songs, sat next to him at dinner. Very nice man. But I don't think he'd really want to hear anything I'd have opinions on."
Opinionated songwriters are not always popular. But unlike some writers who prefer to stick closely to self-examination or storytelling, Hinojosa says she's never shied away from performing both personal and socially relevant songs.
"I don't think it hurts me. Because of the kind of artist I am, I think people sometimes sort of expect that from me," she concludes. "When you carry a guitar around and you write your own songs, I think people expect you to have opinions on things."
Much of Hinojosa's charm lies in how directly she conveys her opinions and her roots. Raised in San Antonio by parents of Mexican descent, Hinojosa grew up in the 1960s and '70s surrounded by south of the border culture. But she was also immersed in American pop and the social concerns about war and inequality coming to the fore at the time.
These humane concerns remained important to Hinojosa during her years in Nashville and later back in Austin. She came into her own when she began to write songs about her heritage and political beliefs. Mixing Southwestern imagery and shuffle rhythms with contemporary concerns came naturally to her, and the honest beauty of the songs caught the ear of the record label that signed her to her first deal.
"A lot of stuff I began writing had to do with family or something in Spanish, and that's really when things began to happen for me," she says. "[The record label] was looking for singer-songwriters who had some sort of roots base, and mine worked out."
These rootsy, personal songs have stood her well through 15 years of working the club, folk society and theater circuit throughout the United States and Europe. She's received awards from numerous humanitarian groups and has recorded 13 projects, including a children's album that's brought her gigs in schools and churches.
Now, Hinojosa is on the road again in support of no album in particular, just a 12-album catalog that spans five record labels, two cultures and one artist's opinions. S
Tish Hinojosa plays Ashland Coffee and Tea, 100 N. Railroad Ave, at 8 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 4. Tickets are $15 in advance through www.ashlandcoffeeandtea.com. Call 798-1702 for information.
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