Q&A with Andrew Salgado
All roads lead to Nashville for this young country singer from Darien and Downers Grove
Raised in the western suburbs of Elmwood PArk, Downers Grove and Darien and a graduate of Downers Grove South, Andrew Salgado is a country singer and songwriter whose career is decidedly on an upward swing. Salgado, who has performed for live audiences his entire life, worked his way into his dad’s band, The Basement Boys, when he was just 13 — and has not put the guitar down since. His career gained momentum in 2013 when he won the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam, a search for the next major recording artist. He has since performed and collaborated with such notables as Brian Wilson, Carrie Underwood, Clint Black, the Eli Young Band and Jim Peterik. Since recording his debut album, Absolutely Everything, Salgado has been named national spokesperson for not-for-profit music education organization Music Over Miles. He now lives in Nashville, Tenn., but wiil return home to perform with Darryl Worley in a benefit concert for veterans at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church on November 11.
When you were growing up your family moved around the suburbs. Where do you think of as home?
I think of home as anywhere that I happen to be. My family now lives in Orland Park, so that’s where I’ll come back to. Since I travel for a living, I never really consider a certain area to be home. It’s always different.
After graduating from Downers Grove South, did you enroll in college?
I went to College of DuPage and then I was going to go to Benedictine University. But I switched for music . . .
Was that a tough choice?
It just was a feeling that I had. And I knew it was the right decision. I got some support from family, as well as some un-encouraging support from family (laughs). Everyone has their own path. I’m a firm believer that if you know you want something, you have to follow it. If you’re unsure, you need to continue to find out before you make a change. I just followed where I knew I had to go.
When did you first become interested in music?
My father (Ovidio Salgado) was a musician. He was a singer and a percussionist. When I was about 13, I had been doing some stuff in junior high — playing trumpet and trombone — and I moved on from there. I just wanted to play with my dad’s band. It was a bunch of guys who were seasoned musicians and they let me in. Year by year, I was doing a little bit more. I started off playing the drums for them for a couple of songs, then I started doing some background parts, and then I was doing shakers. And then all of a sudden before I knew it I was playing guitar and singing with them.
What was the name of the band?
The Basement Boys. And that’s where they practiced. They played all around Chicago and the suburbs. They were a Top 40 cover band. All popular songs, all covers. It was everything from rock to Latin. I was the one who brought up that maybe they should play some country music.
What drew you to country?
Oh, it was early on. My grandfather drove trucks for a living, for a beer company named Schlitz. He watched nothing but John Wayne and I listened to that. I had a Puerto Rican father who obviously had a Latin influence on me. And I had an off-the-boat Italian grandmother who loved, loved Dean Martin. I’ve never considered myself a country artist. I’ve never considered myself a folk artist. I’m just me. And that’s who I strive to be. For me, it’s about honesty and rhythm — a lot of people call it “three chords and a truth.” Growing up, I played anything that really moved me — in any genre. I happened to fall into country music because of my honesty and my songwriting.
Did you play with friends as well as with your dad’s band?
I did form a band, but that didn’t last very long. I was really young. I don’t remember what we called ourselves. My brother and my best friend across the street played in that band. I just loved, loved, loved to play and sing and be on stage. And whether it’s in a basement or in front of thousands of people I love to do it — it’s harder to get me off the stage than it is to get me on it. I played in my dad’s band for about seven years, and when I was around 22, I decided to really try to do this. I started writing my own music and then traveled to Nashville.
Tell us about the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam. Was that a breakthrough for you?
I had put together the Andrew Salgado Band and had been playing with a group of guys who stepped in in 2013. They were all older than I was and they helped me grow. They really got me. That was the band that opened for the Pepsi Gulf Coast Jam with me. It was a huge turning point and a huge jumping off point. It was run by an incredible producer-manager named Rendy Lovelady. He and his entire staff really helped guide me. That was back in 2014 and they did a lot of amazing things for my career. It helped bring me the jolt that every artist needs.
What happened next?
I moved to Nashville and I’ve been here ever since. I had been going to Nashville since 2010. I started out with a couple of trips and then a lot of trips. By 2015, I was spending more money travelling than if I just lived there. I realized I could save money if I just moved. So I got my first apartment in Hermitage (a Nashville neighborhood).
Did it feel like a big step?
No, Nashville is one of the few places where you don’t have to be nervous because it’s just a big community of everyone who’s just like you. We’re all very creative people, and when you put us in the warm and healthy environment that Nashville can be, everyone starts to relax a little bit.
Is trying to break in as a country singer anything like the TV show, Nashville?
(Laughs) I don’t watch the show but I can tell you that my experiences with Nashville have always been that it’s a warm, comforting and friendly environment where you can work on your craft, on creating. Especially in the songwriting community, we’re just very, very supportive of one another. It’s rare you can find that anywhere in the country.
Tell our readers about a concert experience that stands out for you.
There was a summer festival in Darien. It was one thing after another. The amp went out, then a string broke. I remember telling everyone, let’s all make a circle. I went in the middle and somebody gave me a guitar and I just played and sang and played and sang. I knew those people had come to enjoy themselves. You know, with what’s going on right now — what happened (last month) at a country music festival in Las Vegas — I think concerts should be fun. This is important for me to say. My job is not to sing music. It’s not even to write music. My job for those two hours when I perform is take people away from whatever’s going on in their lives, whatever’s hurting or distracting them. Every moment I perform, there’s a mother who doesn’t know what she’s going to do tomorrow, or a kid who’s going through a big transition. It’s my job to make them all forget about anything that’s going on in their lives for two hours. My father taught me that. It’s the biggest thing he instilled in me. He was a stand-up comedian in Chicago as well as a performer. So if I can tell a joke or if I can sing a song or if I give all the energy I have, then I’m good.
Talk about your songwriting.
I’m actually very particular with what I put on to paper. For me, I can only write about where I’ve been or about where I’d like to go, and I have to use honesty in that because it’s really difficult for me if I don’t understand or I don’t feel.
Do you collaborate or write alone?
Both. We have songs on the next album that were solo written. Nashville is a huge writing community and I co-write with a ton of people. They help bring out a different side of you — a whole set of new ideas and you end up with great collaboration.
What is next for you?
Our debut album launched in 2015 and now we’re hitting the studio to start working on the next. It’ll be out on 8-18-18, but fans can go to our YouTube site and vote for songs that are in contention.
Where might our readers hear you play?
I’ll be in Elmhurst in November with Darryl Worley. I’ve played in Burr Ridge and it was packed, and I love playing at Bub City in Chicago. It’s always fun to come home and play.
Andrew Salgado returns to the western suburbs on November 11 for a LOVE Inc. Christian Clearing House concert at Elmhurst Christian Reformed Church, a benefit in honor of local veterans. Visit www.love-cc.org for details.
What guitar do you play?
It’s a Martin, the first guitar I bought on my own and it’s been with me the longest. It’s actually named Aubrey.
Is there an instrument you wish you’d learned?
I’m still striving to be a better piano player. It would allow me to do some different songwriting.
Do you have any pre-show rituals?
Me and the band huddle up and do a prayer. Then we do something funny, like a hands-in.
Three words that describe you as a performer?
Energy, energy, energy.
And as a private person?
Reserved, sensitive and shy.
What do you do in your downtime?
Laugh! I like stand-up comedy. Anything that makes me laugh.
Best thing about the ‘burbs?
Giordano’s pizza. I get it for the entire crew.
Three things that remind you of home?
Pizza, family, friends. In that order, too.