News Column

PeeWee finds success chasing his own dreams

October 23, 2013

YellowBrix

Oct. 23--PeeWee thinks he's finally found his footing as a singer. And it's thanks, in part, to a TV dancing competition.

The performer, who scored hits as a member of the Texas-based Kumbia Kings and Kumbia All Starz, says his experience on the Mexican television series "El Show de los Suenos" helped solidify his standing as a solo performer. (The Spanish-language "The Show of Dreams" was equal parts "Dancing With the Stars" and "American Idol," pairing celebrities with unknowns.)

"It was really difficult. I was really overwhelmed with things that I had to learn in just one week," PeeWee, 24, says during a recent visit to Houston. "It was a challenge, but I think people saw a side of PeeWee that could make it on his own. I was very fortunate to have so much support from the public."

His new album, "Vive2Life," is a reflection of the past several years and combines cumbia, power ballads, electro-pop and the requisite cameo from rapper Pitbull (always good for a radio hit) with bilingual lyrics. It's a blueprint that has served Enrique Iglesias and Ricky Martin well. With the right promotion efforts, PeeWee could replicate some of their crossover success.

"It's a Spanglish concept because that's what the majority of the Latin people in the United States relate to. We're speaking English, and then empezamos hablar espanol for a little bit. We go back and forth," PeeWee says. "I'm Latin, and I'm proud to be Latin, and I wanted it to be a part of this album.

"I've always had a very big imagination when it comes to music, and I've always tried to be innovative, even if it means taking a big risk. I prefer to take a risk and be different than to not have an identity in my music."

He now calls Miami home but grew up in the Rio Grande Valley town of La Joya and has family in Houston. ("Lots of barbecues and jamming out on the guitar.") Musically, his tastes ran from R&B (Boyz II Men and K-Ci & JoJo) to norteno (Ramon Ayala and Intocable) to pop royalty (Justin Timberlake, a big influence on his image and sound). Texas is where PeeWee linked up with A.B. Quintanilla, older brother of the late Selena, who recruited him in 2003 as a vocalist for the Kumbia Kings. PeeWee sang on some of the group's biggest hits, including "Sabes a chocolate" and "Na Na Na (Dulce Nina)." Quintanilla changed the then-teenage singer's name from Irvin Salinas to PeeWee in reference to his age.

Internal fighting caused Quintanilla to leave the group in 2006 and form Kumbia All Starz. PeeWee went with him but left that group less than two years later, equipped with his own growing fan base.

Still, striking out on his own was unfamiliar territory. He also was trying to make the transition from kid singer to young adult.

"I'm going to be very honest," he says. "It's been very difficult. I shave, and I look like I'm 18 again. It has been a challenge to have the public see me as a more mature artist.

"It's always going to be a challenge when you're part of something and then you're trying to do your own thing. When everything happened, I stood on my two feet and said, 'Here we go' -- just like 'Live Your Life' says."

His debut solo album, "Yo soy," was released in 2009, and he starred in the 2010/2011 Univision telenovela "Camaleones." Acting is still on PeeWee's radar, and he points to "Instructions Not Included" and "Pulling Strings," recent Mexican films with family-friendly messages and crossover appeal, as examples of what he'd like to do in the future.

But right now, he's focused on making music, living his vida and making sure his sound stays ahead of the curve.

"The music world evolves very quickly. A trend comes in for 10 months or something, and then it's gone. You have to always keep yourself up to date with what's happening. Everything has to be en orden (in order)," he says. "Like the message that I'm trying to send with this album, you just have to enjoy life and be positive about things. Even when negative things come into your life, you have to see them as learning experiences."

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(c)2013 the Houston Chronicle

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