Editor’s note: Lindsay James is an emerging country artist who latest release, “Behind,” is out now. In observance of Hispanic Heritage Month, which runs from September 15 – October 15, she wrote about how her own roots show up the unique brand of music she’s creating — and her hopes for the future of Hispanic influence in country.
Growing up south of Houston made it very common to have Hispanic roots, so as a young girl it did not feel any different to be Hispanic. Latin music started influencing my life on car rides with my mom where we would listen to artists like Gloria Estefan and Selena. I feel like that is how a lot of our musical palates are formed — listening to our parents’ favorite songs while riding around in the car. To this day, I carry certain movements and feelings that I discovered early on from that music.
I have released a song called “Island of Heaven,” a Spanish/English song about my time visiting Isla Mujeres, Mexico. As a Tex-Mex girl, my upbringing was English and Spanish all around me. I found a love for Isla Mujeres four years ago when I was playing a songwriters festival there called “Island Time Music Festival.” The island was so beautiful and people were so loving, kind and hardworking. I grew fond of the culture, the music and food and the laid-back vibe on the island. The festival is put on every year to raise money for “The Little Yellow School House,” a school for special needs students. I got to sing at the school for the students and they were so happy to sing and dance to my music. When I came back from that trip, the next day I wrote “Island of Heaven” with Heather Morgan and Jason Gantt about Isla Mujeres. Getting to experience a place like that is unforgettable and it was so fun to write about it.
Tejano music also runs in my family through past generations. My great uncle Raul Ruiz is in a Tejano band called Los Campeones de Raul Ruiz. Like many others, I was devastated by the death of Selena. She was very popular in Corpus Christi, Texas, which was where Selena lived and also where many of my relatives live. Beyond that, my Hispanic heritage circulates in my blood and appears through my love for dancing and fashion. Both of my grandparents Carlos and Gloria Benavides were well known around Corpus Christi for their incredible dancing capabilities, and their favorite band to dance to was Los Dinos. My great grandmother, Cookie Benavides, was known for her fashion and accessorizing. After she passed, she was buried directly adjacent to Selena in Corpus Christi.
Since moving to Nashville, I miss out on seeing my family in normal settings and only get to see everyone for the holidays. Large family gatherings at my grandma Gloria’s house are a full-on event and would not be complete without my grandma’s homemade rice, beans and tortillas. My mother is the third of six kids, so just with my uncles, aunts and cousins we are pushing a party of 50 for Thanksgiving and Christmas.
Representation of Hispanic culture in the Nashville Country scene has been few and far in between, but there’s a new wave of really great artists like Sammy Arriaga and Kat & Alex that have made major strides in the last few years, which I love to see. My culture and roots are something I’m extremely proud of, so I like to sprinkle in some Latin flair into my music and give fans a taste of the culture that played a part in who I am today. I come from a long line of hard-working, barrier-breaking Latin-Americans and I know that resilience is in me as well. My Hispanic roots give me a certain confidence to take on this music business.