Fredericksburg native daughter Stephanie Urbina Jones returns to the Texas Hill Country on July 16 to perform at the Gillespie County Fair Grounds.
Stephanie Urbina Jones: Back where she belongs
by Phil Houseal
As she carved out her music career beyond the Texas Hill Country, Stephanie Urbina Jones always sought a larger stage. Today, the singer, songwriter - and now actress - is looking back at that Texas heritage to further her success.
Not that she hasn’t been enjoying a strong career. Jones was the first female Hispanic artist to go to #1 on the Texas Music chart, where she had #1 hits for five years in a row (with great titles such as Como Se Llama, Mama and I’m Not a Pinata). She played festivals across the state, and signed a record deal in Nashville on Clint Black’s label.
Yet many residents of the Hill Country - where Jones was raised - are still unaware of the talented performer that grew up in their midst.
That is changing.
Jones’s father was full-blooded Mexican-American; her mother, Anglo. When her mother remarried, the family moved to Fredericksburg. By the time Stephanie graduated from Fredericksburg High School, she had a path planned.
“I wanted to reconnect to that Hispanic heritage,” she said. “There is so much joy, passion and love that comes from my Mexican-American heritage, I wanted to fuse my music with the culture and share it with the world.”
Jones moved to Nashville where she was able to work with the legendary Texas Tornadoes. It was there she discovered what she calls her “gift of writing.” She was working on staff at Sony Music, writing, recording demos. It was a fulfilling craft, but Jones wanted more. “I kept waiting for a Hispanic-American female to show up,” she said. “Nobody did, so I thought maybe I should try.”
It was natural for her to go from writing to performing, as evidenced by her early success. But as we all learned from music documentaries, the road to the top holds many dips. But a divorce and record label folding were not enough to slow Jones down.
“I am a very spiritual person,” she said. “I love what I do, so I’m going to do it no matter what. This is not about being famous or rich. This is being able to communicate with music with the people you love.”
Jones has had enough taste of the spotlight to know that is where she needs to be. “As you go up in this business, you get better sound systems, and better production values. I want to be able to afford to do that, yet be happy, creative, and continue to love what I am doing. I feel things are coming together again to take me to that point of really connecting with a huge audience.”
Her road has taken her in some unexpected directions, such as playing female lead in a new movie - Courage, a short western directed by William Booth that opens this summer. Even that fits in her plan. “I had the opportunity to see what it was like to work on a movie. The makeup, the clothes, the way so many elements come together to make it work - that is magic to me.”
What does success look like to Stephanie Urbina Jones? “I am trying to get out of my own way about how it’s supposed to look,” she offered.
One of its faces is her pivotal project - the Texicana Concert Series. Jones put together full-day celebrations of Hispanic heritage in Texas. She created the series last summer in Luckenbach, and now hosts them monthly in San Antonio, Austin, Corpus Christi, Boerne, and Luckenbach (coming July 31), with plans to add Dallas and Houston. The event includes a concert performance, mariachis, jalapeno-eating contest, children's face painting, piñatas and more.
“I am passionate about my Texas and Hispanic roots. One of my greatest joys as a child was listening to the mariachis. I love singing with them, I love folkloric dance, I think it is beautiful.”
She emcees each of her “creations” and performs with her full band. The series is underwritten by Arriba!Salsa, is family-friendly, and free.
Perhaps the most rewarding part of Jones’s current path is the way her outward aura grows naturally from her inner being.
“So much of who I am is where I come from,” she said. “Growing up in Fredericksburg, you never met a stranger. It is such a warm community. All of the cultures there, the importance of music, the independent spirit. You go to Luckenbach any day of the week, there is a picker’s circle, with musicians carving out songs with their guitars. It was a great training ground.”
Stephanie Urbina Jones is right back where she belongs. “There is no place in the world I’d rather be than right there.”