I can only think of a few reasons you may not know who Roland “RoRo” Gutierrez is… You’re new to the area… You haven’t checked out the local flavor of music (i.e. rock, pop, Tejano, and Kumbia)… You don’t frequent live music venues in South Texas… I don’t know, maybe you’ve live under a rock... But whatever the reason could be, you’ll know him now!
Roland has gone by RoRo for about ten-years, when DJ Kane dubbed him that and it stuck. He is a true local boy; growing up in Robstown, teaching music (piano) in Alice at Musical Minds, playing with a number of local, regional, national, and international bands based out of the Corpus Christi area, and producing Grammy nominated music. He is multi-talented musician playing percussion, guitar, vihuela, bass guitar, and keyboards – Yes, he could be a one man band and he does have a pre-production studio at his house where he does a lot of composing and arranging. He is also an accomplished producer that people seek out.
Are you still thinking that you don’t know him? Back in the early-mid 90’s, when he was just 19, his young band Chikko went on tour with Selena as the opening act for a year and a half. He later performed in the Chris Perez Project, Jennifer Peña, the Kumbia Kings, and the Kumbia All Stars as well as numerous other projects.
Before I go much further you should know that RoRo is currently in four main projects: Stereo Kumbia; the Clarissa Serna Band (Just a side note here: Clarissa will be on “The Voice” this season, so make sure you call in and vote for her!); La Conquista; and Returned 2 Sender. He also teaches piano and told me of four production projects that he’s working on – two in Austin and two in San Antonio. Honestly, I don’t know where he finds the time for all these projects because anytime I see a post from him on Facebook he’s out of town or the country!
STEAM Tell me a little about your main projects.
RORO Stereo Kumbia has been together for about a year as this unit. DJ Kane, Ricky Rick, and I were in Kumbia Kings and the Kumbia All Stars. We recently released our first single, and we have an EP coming out this month which has two songs that I produced. Our record label is Pangea Music out of Brownsville and our publicist is in Mexico; both are really pushing us as we start moving towards the US market. We are performing in large scale arenas so we put on big concert-type shows - big stage, lots of lights, and nonstop communication with the crowd.
I’ve been playing with the Clarissa Serna Band for three or four years now. Any time I’m in town and have the ability to jam with Clarissa’s group I jump at the chance because it’s just a great time.
I’ve played with La Conquista for about five years and those girls are just a bunch of pretty, crazy, fun, talented ladies. Playing with them is always a great time. Machy (lead singer and guitar) and I do a lot of composing and producing together. Returned 2 Sender is more of a cover-band project. We have a tendency to rock out a little bit more than in other bands. We play a lot of covers that we adjust to our style. On Thursdays I teach piano at Musical Minds Academy and have been doing that for three years. I really enjoy teaching because this is the next generation coming up! I wish I’d had something like this when I was growing up.
STEAM It seems that you are always out of town. I would find your schedule to be a huge challenge and I don’t think I could do it.
RORO It really is a challenge, but I love it. This last year I’ve spent a lot of time in Mexico playing with Stereo Kumbia, but that’s where we’ve done our promotions and Mexico is having a great response. The crowds are huge and of course having DJ Kane and Ricky Rick being the front–men from Kumbia All-Stars really has helped popularize our group. We also went to Bolivia three times and we’ll be going back in March. On our last trip we connected with an orphanage, where we met with kids and sang songs, and shared treats. It was a real inspirational and meaningful event to us. We plan to go back to the orphanage and spend time with those kids on each trip from now on.
STEAM What makes being a touring musician so appealing for you?
RORO I think the best thing is that I get to meet all these people and make friendships. Some have lasted for a very long time; I have friends in Notre Dame from when I was touring with Elida Reyna (from the Valley). There are so many people from all around Mexico coming to see Stereo Kumbia and of course, people still know me from when I was touring with Selena, so I guess the best thing is friendships and of course playing music. I don’t refer to people as my fans; I refer to them as my friends, my team!
STEAM Who are your biggest influences?
RORO I’m a huge Michael Jackson fan and I think that’s the type of music I think I’d really like to try to do. I paid a lot of attention to how he performed (sang, danced) and really listened to what he said. He was always ahead of the game, was always thinking out-of-the-box and where things were and where they should go. Actually, the reason I wear one glove is because of Michael Jackson.
I believe AB Quintanilla has to be my biggest influence. He took me under his wing when I was so young and just getting started. He taught me how to write, how to produce, and how to get the production that I was looking for.
I met AB when I was about 19 and in a band called, Chikko. We were practicing when a red Porsche pulled up in the driveway out in front - we figured the guy was lost. Anyway, we’re rehearsing and A.B. walks in with our manager. He introduced himself and talked about possibly producing us and before leaving he told us to be ready for Friday night… We were going to open for Selena. So Friday night we walk in to Hollywood Nights and met Selena. She asked us what we were going to wear and then Suzette brought out outfits for our show! You know I have to say that, in that year and a half of touring with them I learned so much from Selena and AB about the music business and what it takes to be successful and how to be professional. That’s why I am the way I am.
What was really cool was that Chikko was the first band AB produced and recorded in his studio, other than maybe a couple of voice tracks for Selena. A.B. was affiliated with Capital at the time, so our first album was released with Capital Latin and we opened for her until her last concert. We have stayed close since then.
STEAM Watching you perform I’ve learned that you are the backbone to many of your projects. You do the music production and set the tone on stage as to how things should be.
RORO Well, again, that goes back to what I learned from AB. Watching him and what he was doing because he was the bandleader, how he arranged things and made changes to improve what he could. So when I joined Clarissa, I just wanted to play keyboards. After I came in I heard things that I thought could be changed and I talked to Clarissa about it and she gave me the green light to go ahead.
STEAM You do a lot of writing and producing for all the bands you’re in as well as clients. Do you write for yourself and do you have your own album project?
RORO I’ve got a few songs that I have worked out and someday I’ll be ready to release something on my own but until then, I like being in the background. I do get a lot of calls to write and produce for other people. Right now I have projects in Austin and San Antonio besides the four main projects here, so people are actually looking for me and my skills and to me that’s an amazing thing.
STEAM Future plans. Where do you see yourself going?
RORO I’m not married now, so maybe I’ll get married. I don’t have any kids, so maybe that too; but musically and professionally I would love to break into the English market more and maybe collaborate with someone.
STEAM One last question. There are theories’ that music is just going to run out; just hit a brick wall and end. Where do you stand on that thought? Will music stalemate and just be repeated, have we already reached that point, or do you think it’s going to keep growing?
RORO I think music is ever reaching and never ending. There are a lot of people that take a simplistic approach to their creativity but I think there’s a lot of people out there like myself that have these crazy ideas and they think outside the box because there’s no rules in music.