Singer-songwriter Aly Tadros is not unlike the authentic vihuela she once drove 12 hours across Mexico to find.
The Laredo native has led a nomadic life, leaving Texas at 17 to travel between Spain, Turkey, and her father's native Egypt, soaking up the different languages and cultures. Later, when she was living in Barra de Navidad in Jalisco, Mexico, a mariachi band performing across the street from her bungalow caught her attention. One of the musicians plucked at a vihuela, a small, five-stringed guitar-like instrument. Here was an instrument that crossed cultures and gave a sound of traditional world music and reminded Tadros of the Middle East. The musician directed Tadros to Paracho de Verduzco in Michoacán to find her own.
She and a friend paid another friend in beer to drive them to the little town. The vihuela she purchased makes an appearance on several tracks of her second album, The Fits, to be released January 15, delivering a sound as well-traveled as its owner. Her folk-pop roots — think Damien Rice meets Feist — may reach from Mexico to the Middle East, but the sound is her own.
Tadros will be back in San Antonio — where she lived before moving to Austin and then, Brooklyn — to perform work from The Fits at Hotel Havana on October 3. The return is a welcome one for the artist — she cut her teeth performing around the city.
"I've probably played at every little cafe and wine bar and dive bar in San Antonio," Tadros told the Current on the phone from Lexington, Kentucky.
The singer took a different approach to The Fits than she did on her 2009 debut, Things Worth Keeping. She began her Duane Lundy-produced sophomore effort by recording each track live with her drummer and upright bassist in a few takes. Tadros later added harmonies and strings to create a layered sound to complement her smooth alto.
"This [album] is a lot more vulnerable," Tadros said. "I think it's probably much more organic because time just sort of moves a lot freer than it does on the first album. I can say that with certainty this is more my sound. I had just started playing when I did the first one."
Her move to New York may be the latest in a long line of continent-hopping transitions (she even spent about two years at Sarah Lawrence College in Yonkers, N.Y., before her move to San Antonio), but her search of more industry opportunities has kept her challenged.
"Living [in New York] as a musician, it can make you completely ambivalent or else a lot more determined to be better," she said. "Luckily, I'm in the camp where I find it really inspiring."
7pm Wed, Oct 3
Ocho at Hotel Havana