Frankie Hernandez: Musical madman of Ashland

You know Frankie Hernandez and the Frankie Hernandez band. The man has played every venue conceivable between Seattle and Los Angeles. Half jokester, half home-brewed Tito and Tarantula, and always love-struck, Hernandez has carved quite a name for himself. The only thing bigger than Hernandez's voice, which could fill a closet or Yankee Stadium with equal aplomb, is his exuberant personality.

Hernandez is from Austin, Texas, where he earned a music/performance degree at University of Texas.

"I did my time in punk bands, and everything else"&

166; including accompanying music demos, playing the horn in a Rod Stewart video, commercials, etc. Coming from a musical city like Austin makes it hard to find that immediate musical identity. Every region has something it's known for that its musicians gravitate towards. You're tempted to go rockabilly, or country, or blues. I don't need to play the blues; I've heard enough of them already. Finally I just realized that I'm a Texas singer-songwriter."

"I just like to play with different emotions; funny, serious, topical, etc. The world's going through a lot of changes, from economical to spiritual. Also, I like to wrote about love"&

166; and in that, there's always something to sing about. I have musical ADD," said Hernandez. "If you want to work here, you've got to have a band."

It's the first thing Hernandez learned after landing here from Los Angeles. Hence, the Frankie Hernandez band, formed following the musician's year long residency at former Medford venue Osprey, and involvement with the band T-Club. The Frankie Hernandez Band consists of Mike Chemeeno, Chad Sweely and Matthew Wells.

Hernandez also cites his four-year-old daughter Ariel as a key influence and a source of pride. He has her sing with him at the Inner Child Caf&

233; sometimes. "Even at her age, she can already steal a room from me, which is pretty hard to do," gushed Hernandez with a grin.

"This is the year I'd really like to expand our name and fan base and become a really solid West Coast band," said Hernandez.

The band already has a demo EP out, but they're working on a full album due out hopefully by summer.

"We're still feeling out our musical direction and gauging the audience," said Hernandez, adding that it would be good to get the album out before the band begins touring again.

"I've noticed that there are a lot more real people here. Here we have pedestrian traffic. We can play well and maybe someone walks by and likes it and potentially comes into a venue. In Los Angeles, it was mostly just show-casing," said Hernandez. "Back in Austin, whole streets closed on Friday nights and folks just circulate, looking for what they're into. They're looking and listening and music is just everywhere. Here people are also looking for a great time. They're looking to engage. Over here, it's not so much a music center like some of the larger cities I've lived in. But it's a spiritual center for the whole country. I feel really nurtured as an artist as here, which I hadn't felt in a long, long time. I feel really lucky to be right in the middle of everything here."

"It's cool that I got to make a name for myself and have people come up and ask my advice on music and their careers and such. I really like that they trust me to give that kind of advice," said Hernandez.

For him, music is all about connecting. He toured with Chris Chandler, performance poet, for three years.

"He's a 20-year road warrior," said Hernandez. "He was a street musician for a long time too. He taught me the real difference between playing music to eat versus as a hobby. You have to know everyone in that audience somehow. It's important."

For Hernandez, who plays at least four instruments in his band, connectivity is the most important.

"Playing any crowd depends on one's ability and willingness to engage.," he said.

This coming Sunday, Hernandez and company headline a benefit concert, the first in a series, in support of the Bellview Grange and Peace Village. At 8 p.m., Hernandez says it'll be all about bringing "sustainability, agriculture and community back to the Valley."

Another thing Hernandez is excited about is a February concert at the Historical Armory where he'll be opening for English Beat.

"You get to a certain point where you don't worship music like when you're young," said Hernandez. "Back then, certain bands help form your identity. That said, I've loved this band since I was young and this is really special to me on a personal level."

Hernandez also hosts a weekly open mic at Jackson Creek Pizza in Medford on Thursday nights. "I want to keep the music scene rich and connect with bands and help find good venue fits," said Hernandez. "You come to my open mic, and have that courage, you'll get my full attention and an A-list intro. It's like a musician petting zoo and the last thing I want is anyone feeling awkward. I feel it's my job to make aspiring artists feel as comfortable as possible."

"I want the world to be better. And I play music. So maybe I can do that," said Hernandez. "I'd like to get to a place where I've done the inner work to get there."

Check out Hernandez on MySpace music or at

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