Lesly Reynaga has made a striking first impression on Texas’ musical landscape, earning the reputation of an artist with “the potential to be an Austin breakout star” (Austin American-Statesman).
With her new six-song EP, “Dual Passport,” the 26-year-old pop rock, singer-songwriter caps off a year which has seen her celebrated by iconic musicians, industry leaders and a growing fan base that includes Austin Mayor Steve Adler, who recently introduced her to the stage with the acclamation, “one of our top new artists in this city. A favorite of mine, I’ve become a groupie here in the last couple of years.”
“Dual Passport,” co-produced by Reynaga, was recorded with renowned Texas musicians and producers David Grissom, Michael Ramos, Graham Reynolds and AJ Vallejo. A highlight of the EP were two recordings with the involvement of Al Bell, her mentor and an industry legend, formerly chairman and owner of Stax Records and president of Motown Records.
“I have been associated with many rare and successful artists that have excited me and that I’ve been proud of,” said Bell, who has teamed up with performers ranging from Otis Redding to Prince. “But it is always a delightfully shocking phenomenon to me when I meet that artist that I can identify as one-of-a-kind. (Lesly’s) the world’s next female singing and guitar-playing rare superstar.”
Born and raised in Monterrey, Mexico, Reynaga pays homage to her two nationalities on “Dual Passport.” The release highlights stories about her childhood and upbringing in Mexico; immigration issues; and her pride calling America home, having recently become a U.S. citizen.
“It’s a body of work that offers a glance into my life experience as a Latina immigrant in this country,” said Reynaga. “Working with several producers with different backgrounds gave me an opportunity to explore my love for music, from R&B and soul to Latin pop and mariachi. I think what we accomplished in this EP is a combination of those sounds that represent the binary nature of my life.”
“Dual Passport” was recorded in four studios, VMG, Red House and Brown Recluse in Austin, and Haxton Road in Bentonville, Arkansas, where musician/producer Jake Hertzog and producer/engineer Jacob Crabb contributed to the recording.
A serious student of contemporary pop stylings and socially conscious lyrics, Reynaga hopes to make a cultural impact of her own. Her lyrics on “Dual Passport” were carefully crafted to articulate some of her positions, allowing her to “dig deeper into the meaning of leading a life in two cultures and two languages, constantly balancing out both worlds and staying true to self,” said Reynaga. “The duality of the immigrant life is something to embrace, and that’s what ‘Dual Passport’ stands for.
“Though I started my music path as a singer from early age, I began playing around on the piano and picking up guitars when I was a teenager. Shakira and Beyoncé were early influences, and I began studying Bob Dylan in college,” said Reynaga, who has been recognized as a voice of her Latino community, receiving the Award of Excellence for Emerging Artist from the City’s ESB-Mexican American Cultural Center. “After years of playing and singing cover songs, the next step was obvious for me--I needed to write my own songs. I have challenged myself to use my voice beyond delivering pleasant notes. Like many of my influences, I want to tell my own stories and share them with others.”
Noted for her passion-filled showmanship, which has captivated audiences from Dallas to New York City, an extraordinary vocal range, a bilingual song catalogue and as a multi-instrumentalist on guitar, vihuela and keyboards, Reynaga is developing a unique, cross-genre sound.
It’s a sound that can be traced to Mexico, where Reynaga learned her first song at age four from her grandmother. At age 14, Reynaga was tapped for a national Mexican television reality show and after moving to the U.S., she took bows as an award-winning mariachi vocalist in McAllen and as featured soloist of the University of Texas’ Mariachi Paredes de Tejastitlán.
She embarked on her solo career with her first studio release, “Fool’s Paradise,” in 2017, which drew her early praise. Produced by Ramos (John Mellencamp, Paul Simon, Patty Griffin), the EP features four self-penned pop-rock songs and a powerful rendition of Charlie Sexton’s “Spanish Words.”
“Anytime you bring more variances to the table, like she can singing in Spanish and in English, that opens up more avenues,” said Ramos. “She can definitely hit the pop market, the American market, which is an added bonus to her talents. It’s obvious she’s going to be around a long time.”
Reynaga’s stature continues to grow with a collection of honors, including March 1 being declared “Lesly Reynaga Day” in Austin and her being hosted by Troy Campbell and The House of Songs Ozarks in April and June for a televised performance and live showcases in recognition of her burgeoning songwriting skills.