MUSIC | Happiness on the horizon: Javier Trejo, Primitive no longer


Guitarist, singer, and songsmith Javier Trejo, one of the finest talents around the Twin Cities, has enjoyed strong profiles with two notable area bands (the Beads, which he headed up, and New Primitives, for which he was second frontman). He’s always worked solo as well, moonlighting at this or that club or bar with a trio or on his lonesome. Whenever, wherever he plays, in whatever context, one constant is his ungodly guitar skill, smart songwriting, and powerfully emotive vocals.

During his tenure with New Prims, he also brandished a sure hand with writing and arranging, contributing his fiery original “Buscando La Gente” and reworking the Temptations’ “The Way You Do The Things You Do” with a ska flavor. Considering his style, characterized by passionately articulate lines, it doesn’t surprise that he holds as a hero fellow Mexican immigrant Carlos Santana. It is remarkable, though, that much as Javier Trejo admires Santana—and the influence is evident—Trejo marks his own striking signature on guitar. Also, he plays in a range of genres, augmenting Latin roots with rock, R&B, blues, and, for that matter, country-western.

His albums are the Beads’ Ordinary Sunday People, Javier Trejo, and this year’s Ain’t Got Much Further To Fall. Ordinary Sunday People is strong, jam-band rock. Javier Trejo is easy-going, intimate fare, laced with engaging, Latin-fueled acoustic flights of fantasy. Ain’t Got Much Further To Fall, released this year, is country as corn pone a la the Grand Old Opry. He’s got a DVD, Live at the Cabooze; it’s out of print but a second issuing is under consideration. More info on Javier Trejo, including upcoming gigs, is available at and

It’s heavy news that you’re no longer with New Primitives. Do you feel like talking about that?
No comment.

What’s on your horizon?
I was on tour a few weeks ago in South Dakota. I was playing the Lakota Hemp Fest, which was in the Black Hills. I was honored to stay with the family of Alex White Plume of the Oglala Sioux on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Wounded Knee. If you don’t know who he is, look him up. He’s very heavy. He happens to be the language preservationist for his tribe. The Black Hills are considered the center of the universe in his culture and it is a very sacred area. I went to this land to ask the Great Spirit what to do next. I played a show, solo, at this festival and being in this sacred area, out in the middle of nowhere, the stars were amazing. The smoke from the campfire and the stage lights were just right so that—this is going to sound weird, but I could see my silhouette in the stars. It was magical for me. I really got lost in the music. Later I was told that my music could be heard for mile around the Res. My prayer was answered and I was invited to do a Sweat. To their culture this symbolizes going back into the womb. And coming out in the cool air is like being reborn; a second chance, if you will. I asked the spirits what I should do, and the answer came to me through the words of the Ceremony Chief. He said, “Thank you for coming here and sharing your music. You made a lot of people happy and that’s what people need right now.” There it was, plain as day. I asked myself, “Why did I start playing music?” Not money, fame, ego, none of that, simply because it made me feel good and made others happy. To answer the question: what’s on the horizon? Happiness. That’s it. If it doesn’t make me happy I don’t do it. I continue to write, practice, and book shows.

Have you been recording?
Writing mostly. I have the freedom to write, create posters for my shows, work on my technique, e-mail and network and feel good about it. I am excited to put new songs on tape [and] want to tour [in support of] this new record. Shoot. I never really got a chance to tour in support of Javier Trejo, but I can do anything I want right now. I will record soon.

You’re devoted to your children. How do you hold down a music career and be a good dad at the same time?
On the days I have my kids it’s pretty simple. I don’t book things. If there is an opportunity that is too good to pass up—and it is not a festival or kid-friendly show—I have very supportive parents that are always willing to help out. You gotta love grandparents and, hey, that’s what families do. I just taught my son how to play “The Lemon Song” by Led Zeppelin, which was one of the first songs I learned to play when I was his age. It was cool to see him playing one of
the first songs I learned on literally the same guitar I learned it on.

I played my copy of the Beads today. Still damned good music. Any hope of you guys doing another reunion gig?
I’m not saying it is out of the question, but not any time soon.

So right now, it’s all about the new album.
Country music is in my blood. I was raised on it from my mother’s influence.

What’s next?
I’m working on two live records right now. One is a collection of radio performances/interviews and the other is Live at Cowboy Jack’s Saloon.

Dwight Hobbes is a writer based in the Twin Cities. He contributes regularly to the Daily Planet.

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