Spend any amount of time around Stephanie Urbina Jones, and you will no doubt be charmed by her warmth as a human being – as well as her sheer joy in talking about her new album, Fiery Angel.
“I’m so excited and honored from the feedback that we’re getting from listeners, radio, reviewers, and everyone. I write from my own personal experience. I wrote this record during what was a very transformational time, and it was also the hardest time for me in my life so far. All of that journey is in the music, so for it to be touching people so much and to be translating the spirit of my Hispanic roots – some people have told me that’s the part of what I do that they love the most. It’s been so exciting.”
Jones stresses that being able to share her Hispanic heritage with her music is something that she counts herself blessed to be able to do.
“I have found that the culture comes across in the music. It’s passionate and joyful – and in these times where things can be troubling, you can turn on a song, and for the moment – be transported to a different place. I see that a lot of times in my shows. People are having a great time, and that’s a great experience.”
It seems that music has always been a part of Jones’ makeup – going back to her childhood.
“I was born in San Antonio, and as a little girl, I remember being in my grandparents’ backyard, and the Mariarchis lived not too far away. I remember hearing them rehearsing.”
She fondly recalls that there was also other music in her household as well.
“At the same time, they also loved Country Music, so we would be listening to Willie Nelson and George Strait. It was a mixture of Border Music, Mexico, and Country. Those were my influences.”
She also spent some time in one of the most iconic Country Music towns on the map when her parents moved to Fredericksburg, Texas – not too far from Luckenbach.
“The bartender at the bar there – who was also the sheriff — was my baby-sitter. So, that music of the honkytonks there really influenced me, as well as sounds that came from the Kerrville Folk Festival.”
Regardless of the style she was listening to, there was always one constant.
“It was always about the power of a song, and great writing. I just feel very blessed to have all these influences at such a point in my life.”
Jones said that upon graduating college, she knew that music had to be a part of her vocation, but she was unsure about what path she might take.
“I knew I had a good voice, but wondered if I had the ability and self-esteem to be an artist.”
Jones worked a variety of jobs behind the scenes in Nashville until she decided the take a huge roll of the dice.
“Eventually, I pitched a song to a songwriter who was very successful. For whatever reason, he agreed to write it with me, and at the end of the session, he said ‘You have it.’ That led me into writing. I just became very passionate about the vision I had to share as an artist.”
Her first major cut came in 1997, with “Shakin’ Things Up,” the title cut of a Lorrie Morgan album. It came along at just the right time.
“I was at a crossroads. I remember calling my dad, and I was crying. I said ‘I can’t do this anymore. I’m coming home.’ He told me to calm down. ‘Go put your running shoes on, and go run.’ I was going down the street with tears coming out of my eyes, and all of this sudden, the chorus for the song came through. I got home, called my co-writer, Shaye Smith, and we wrote it that day.”
Hearing Morgan sing her lyrics was a powerful moment.
“It’s amazing. The songs are your babies. I know you hear other writers say that, but you birth them, give life to them, and love them. I want them to be able to able to touch people the way they’ve touched me. I want them to fly.”
But, her biggest success as a songwriter was yet to come. At the end of 2014, Jones found herself with a No. 1 record – courtesy of The Voice winner Craig Wayne Boyd’s take on her “My Baby’s Got a Smile on Her Face.” She says that the recording took her by surprise.
“That was so out of the blue. One of my friends was working with Blake Shelton, and listening to my catalog. He took the song to him, and told me ‘Blake loves it. He’s going to cut it.’ But, he never did. I just kind of forgot about that, and was concentrating on being an artist. Then, one day, someone messaged me on Facebook, and asked me ‘Isn’t that your song that Blake and Craig just did?’ I thought ‘Who’s Blake and who’s Craig?’ It was an amazing ride to watch him win with our song, and see him on all the TV shows the next day, and to play the Grand Ole Opry, then having it go No. 1…it was truly a dream come true.”
Looking back at her personal and career path, Jones notes that not all the moments have been great ones. But, in keeping with her vivacious spirit, she prefers to make lemonade out of the lemons.
“The good news is that for writers, there are usually songs in those holes. Some of my most powerful and poignant music was written during the darkest times in my life. They were my medicine. This can be a very fickle business, and I’m surprised every year. I don’t take anything for granted. I’m incredibly blessed. It doesn’t feel like we’re in the golden era that we were with all the writing deals we used to have. You used to have unlimited budgets for publishing, and there were so many things that I got to participate in. I didn’t realize at the moment that how blessed I was to have that experience. If it were over tomorrow – if I weren’t able to continue, I would be incredibly grateful that I’ve had the ride I’ve had. It seems that the more grateful I am, the more doors keep opening up. I think there is a moment in time for everything, and believe that this just might be my moment.”
What does the New Year hold for the singer? She hopes more of the same.
“I have toured nine countries in the past year, and have played some prestigious and amazing places. That was my dream. When my grandmother died, she took my hand and said ‘You are going to take our music and heritage and be a voice for us all over the world.’ I’ve been able to do that, and it’s been amazing. I have no idea what 2016 holds. I have a record in me that I want to make. It’s the South-Of-The-Border experience from top to bottom. I’m looking for all the right people to bring that to life. Who knows? The sky is the limit.”
She says she does have one goal, though:
“I would love to be the first Latino Country artist to break through in 2016…There’s never been a female to really break through.”
With music to back her up like the enchanting “I Wanna Dance With You” and the stunning “He Reminds Me Of Texas,” she just might be on her way!