The name Daniel Solis might sound familiar. That’s because The Daniel Solis Band has played at numerous events around the county, from the Valencia County Fair and Our Lady of Belen Fiestas to Pete’s Cafe and the Luna Mansion.
Front man Daniel Solis has been surrounded by music his entire life.
He grew up in Guadalupita, a small town in northern New Mexico. Surrounded by traditional New Mexican, Spanish music since he was a child, it influenced Solis’ affinity for it.
“As I got into my adolescent years, country music grew on me,” Solis said. “It was the thing to listen to. It was my mom’s favorite genre, so ’90’s country music is ultimately who I am.”
Solis tried to venture into the new country music but feels the ’90’s country is what he gravitates towards.
He started playing guitar as soon as he was old enough to hold one. He also taught himself how to play the bass and keys.
At 15 years old, Solis played bass in the very first band he was in. The other members were in college in northern New Mexico, while Solis lived in Albuquerque, but they knew of him through his older brother. When he got his licence, he drove to northern New Mexico almost every weekend to play with them.
He then decided to pursue music more seriously right out of high school. He started his own band in Albuquerque and started playing original country music.
After graduating college, Solis was encouraged by a good friend who lived in Nashville to move there and decided to do it.
“The dream actually changed; it wasn’t of me making it big anymore because it was so overwhelming there,” Solis said. “You realize your competition. It forced me to think about my craft and challenge myself to be a better performer.”
During his time in Nashville, Solis met his wife, got married and started having children. After five years there, they decided it was time to move back to New Mexico.
“It was an eye-opener. It taught me that you have to really humble yourself. Sometimes you can’t think the sky’s the limit because then you don’t pay attention to what’s right in front of you,” Solis said.
Once he and his family moved to Belen, his dream changed again.
“... I didn’t really care about making it big anymore. I love playing on stages locally; I love to watch people dance to my music. That, to me right there, is cool,” Solis said.
He doesn’t see touring in his future, at least for now. He has two children with a third on the way, and he’s perfectly happy staying in Valencia County.
While he performs on the weekend, few people might know that Solis teaches seventh-grade Social Studies at Belen Middle School during the week.
“Not many people know that I’m a teacher,” Solis said. “It’s not a secret, they’re just two separate entities. I have a passion for both — teaching and music.”
Solis said he keeps them separate to an extent so he can focus completely on what’s in front of him.
“That’s another reason I don’t travel out of town for shows. I don’t want to burn myself out. I want to make sure I can give 100 percent to everything I do,” Solis said.
That’s one of the reasons Solis started his own band — the Daniel Solis Band — so he can have control of where and when he performs.
“Before, I had to deal with the democracy of five or six guys and it was so stressful,” he said. “Now, I’m so lucky to have the reigns and the guys in the band appreciate that and respect that.”
The band has an understanding that each member can play with other people in addition to being in the band.
After Solis returned from Nashville, it took him a while to find bandmates who shared his vision. He eventually reconnected with familiar faces and met some new people who ended up joining the band, which is comprised of Quinton Zunie on lead guitar, Scott Ross on drums and Kevin Martin on bass guitar.
“The band is cohesive. I’ve been blessed to have these guys in the band,” Solis said.
The Daniel Solis Band is so cohesive that the members never practice together before performances. That is to say, each individual member rehearses on their own time, but never felt the need to practice as a band.
“These guys are professionals; they’ve proved that to me. We all do our homework,” Solis said. “We try new things out on stage, and we take notes of what worked, what got people dancing or engaged.”
The band members boast their ability to adapt to whatever song they are playing and make it feel genuine.
“We’re probably the only band in New Mexico that can sing a George Straight tune that will sound like a George Strait Texas tune, and also turn and do Flor de los Flores and sound like I’m from New Mexico,” Solis said.
Solis said his original country music ties in to the New Mexican influence that he grew up with.
What sets the band apart is their music choices during performances. Solis said he purposely finds songs that people will know and the band knows they can dance to, but no other band is playing.
In addition to performing with his band, Solis will often perform acoustic sets for a more intimate venue.
“I love writing; I love recording and I love producing,” Solis said. “I do it all on my own at home and I just love creating and playing with it. Sometimes, I wish I could just be a studio producer because I like it so much.”
Solis put out an original country album earlier this year and recently completed a Spanish album, “Sobrevivir.” Songs from both albums are being played on local radio stations.
“It feels like my life has made a full circle with my music,” Solis said. “Now, I get to jam out with my uncles and I know exactly what they’re playing and I can teach them a new song in Spanish.”
Solis is grateful for the opportunity to be part of his family’s traditions and bond with them through music.
“I am very happy. I feel like I’ve made it just doing what I’m doing now,” he said. “I want to continue making music and grow as a performer and making people happy with my music. I’ve reached where I want to be in my life with my music.”
Upcoming shows of the Daniel Solis Band include at 9:30 p.m., Friday, Sept. 20, at the Triple Sevens Saloon at Isleta Casino; at 6 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, at the Peralta Fiestas; and at 6 p.m., Friday, Oct. 11, at The Luna Mansion.
For more information about the band, visit thedanielsolisband.com.