Stefani Montiel chats memories behind new EP, ‘Mis Favoritas, Vol. 2’

Stefani Montiel Interview

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Stefani Montiel has released her highly-anticipated new EP, “Mis Favoritas, Vol 2.” Each of the six tracks evokes a significant memory for the dynamic and versatile performer.

The songs represent some of the most iconic ballads in Tejano music. For Montiel, they also serve as musical markers for pivotal moments in her journey as a Tejano artist. Montiel released the first volume of “Mis Favoritas,” in August 2023, an EP featuring notable rancheras.

“All of these songs are just very, very important to me in my personal musical career,” Montiel tells Tejano Nation in an exclusive interview.

The “Mis Favoritas” project includes influential songs that helped shape her career in a certain way. This is appropriate, because, this year, the petite but powerful-voiced performer celebrates 30 years in the Tejano music industry.

Courtesy of ARC Discos

As one of the top female artists, it makes sense that the lead single from “Mis Favoritas, Vol. 2” is “Si Quieres Verme Llorar,” an emotional ballad made popular by Lisa Lopez, a female pioneer in Tejano music. The song earned Lopez the historic recognition as the “first female Tejano singer to appear on the Billboard Top Latin Albums chart” in October 1981. To further her status as a trailblazer, Lopez won the first-ever “Female Vocalist of the Year” and “Female Entertainer of the Year” awards at the inaugural Tejano Music Awards. In 1982, “Si Quieres Verme Llorar” earned “Song of the Year” honors.

“When I was living in New Mexico, I loved Tejano music,” Montiel said. “I would consume anything that I could as far as Tejano music went.”

Her family all enjoyed Tejano music, but it was her mother that shared the heart-breaking ballad, sung by Lopez, with her young daughter, an aspiring vocalist. “My mom loved this song, so she introduced me to this song, and I fell in love with it instantaneously,” Montiel said. “I mean Lisa’s voice is just so beautiful, so sweet, and just so smooth.”

The passionate, pleading song requires an emotive vocal performance from the artist, and like Lopez, Montiel conveys, with her strong voice, the hurt and sorrow of a lovelorn soul.

Stefani Montiel — Si Quieres Verme Llorar (Lyric Video)

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On the next track, “Que Casualidad,” Montiel is reminded of her first steps into music. Again, her family played a part in her discovery of a song she would grow to love.

“This song is a song that I recorded on my first album that I ever recorded,” Montiel said. “When I heard it, it was by Joe Bravo, and that was the version that I learned and that I fell in love with. His vocal was just so powerful and so strong, and he just has such a rich sound to his voice.”

The performance of the legendary late singer, who passed away in 2022, and the song stayed with Montiel from her youth, when she first heard it, and into her adult years, when she fully grasped the emotions behind the words she sang. “This was one of those songs that just always kind of hit my heart,” Montiel said.

When she first sang, “Que Casualidad,” Montiel admits she was just singing words. “But now that I know what it means, it makes it so much easier to put that feeling into the song,” she said. “This one was kind of a tribute to my 9-year-old self, too.”

As the 1990s began, the next track, “No Te Olvidare,” proved a major success for one of the most iconic acts in Tejano music, Grupo Mazz. Now, a timeless classic, the song reminds Montiel of the early years of her professional career. “I really wanted to keep the essence of what the song was, because it was such a huge hit (for Mazz) in the Tejano music industry and beyond,” Montiel said. “I know they traveled to Mexico a lot.”

Montiel, a new, fresh-faced artist, found herself in front of massive audiences as the opener for Mazz, one of Tejano music’s most popular groups. “At that time, when I first came into the industry, we were doing a lot of touring with them,” she said. “We were opening up for them. I got to hear this song, night after night, and it brought back a lot of those memories and just that excitement of being part of this industry and being able to be opening up for such an iconic group.”

Montiel added this passionate ballad, always had its place on this EP, not only for its success but for how it stirs up the emotions she felt as an up-and-coming performer. “This one was definitely one that I knew I had to record, just because of the memories, and the feelings that it took me back (to), the nostalgia of this song,” she said.

Another track from a female vocalist follows with the emotional, “Entre Las Sombras,” made popular by Esmeralda in the early 1990s. Montiel said she “fell in love” with Esmeralda’s voice and admired her as a person as the two young artists encountered each other at various promotional events.

“When I first came to Texas, we were both kind of coming up at the same time. We did a lot of meet-and-greets, things like that, together,” shared Montiel. “Her voice is just so incredible. She’s an amazing, sweet person, to boot.”

As a result, Montiel said she fell in love with the song, “Entre Las Sombras,” and respected Esmeralda as both a person and an artist. “I love that she has that mariachi background because her voice is just impeccable,” Montiel said. “You listen to the original, and it was very hard to cover this song, because her vocal range and her control, and, at such an early age, you know, she was very young at the time. She’s an amazing artist.”

Montiel hoped Esmeralda would continue her professional career as a vocalist because she envisioned the talented singer could conquer other genres. However, Esmeralda left the public eye as a performer. “Entre Las Sombras” captures her top spot as far as ballads in the Tejano music genre.

“This was probably my first pick when we decided to do this album,” Montiel said. “So ‘Entre Las Sombras’ has always been probably my absolute favorite ballad.”

Montiel’s former labelmates and mega-group, La Mafia, inspired her early in her career with the song, “Me Estoy Enamorando,” the next track she re-creates. “I’ve always been a Mafia fan,” Montiel said. “We were both on Sony Discos together. Actually, when I was getting signed with Sony, they flew me out to L.A. to go to La Mafia’s CD release party that they had at Universal Studios that year.”

As she mingled among industry execs and the press from the U.S. and Mexico, who had come to see La Mafia, the magnitude of the event made its mark on the young vocalist. “It was so amazing just to see where Tejano music was going at that time and where it was at that time,” she said.

Then, La Mafia, led by frontman, Oscar De La Rosa, took the stage. “I remember hearing them perform this song, and I was just like ‘Wow!,'” she said. “I was floored.”

De La Rosa, in particular, grabbed her attention, with his performance. “Oscar just has such a unique vocal style,” Montiel said. “He doesn’t have to do all kinds of runs or anything like that. He just has such a beautiful quality to his voice.”

She took note of his command of the stage, too. “And his presence, he doesn’t have to do anything. he just does it,” Montiel said. “He just does what he does. So that really just, it struck me.”

The entire experience, as with the memories elicited by the other songs on this volume, stayed with Montiel. “Again, I’m taking moments of my life that really just resonated with me, and this was one of those songs, and this was one of those biggest memories for me coming into the industry and showing me what was possible,” she said. “So, I had to do “Me Estoy Enamorando.”

To close out the collection of noteworthy ballads in her life is, “Borracho de Besos,” an iconic song for La Fiebre, the band from Pasadena, Texas. “It’s such a huge song in our industry. I mean, to this day, you hear it at every club, every night, no matter where you go,” said Montiel. “I would always feel kind of funny singing ‘Borracho de Besos. I’m like, ‘I’m a borracha, not a borracho.’ So, some of these, I wanted to have a woman’s take on it.”

She sings, “Borracha de besos…,” for the women, who feel the song’s emotions. “That was my thought process by doing this song,” she said. “It was just a woman’s take on this song, because you know, us women, we have to sing songs like this, as well. So, I just wanted to give it a little bit of a twist, and sing one for the girls.”

Next in the “Mis Favoritas” series is a collection of cumbias, a style for which Stefani is known. “This one’s going to be hard, I think, because there are so many cumbias that I’m like, ‘Wow, which ones are we going to choose for this,” Montiel said.

With the “Mis Favoritas” project, she broke what initially was going to be a single album into several volumes so she could include more material. “I want to just remind people of these amazing songs,” Montiel said.

Even though the songs on the “Mis Favoritas” EPs are well-known, successful, and even historic, many fans still approach her and say they’ve never heard the song or mistakenly think it’s a new release from Montiel.

“We need to re-educate the people who haven’t heard these songs or maybe are just getting into Tejano,” she said. “We need to show them, ‘this is our foundation.'”

Montiel turns the person’s confusion about a song into an opportunity to teach them about the original version that inspired her to re-record them. “I love that,” she said. “I love when people say that they’re hearing it for the first time and they love it. I’m like, ‘Ok, well, check out the original, because it’s awesome. That’s what made me fall in love with Tejano music.'

“Mis Favoritas, Vol. 2″ is now available on all digital platforms. Look for it as Biento’o featuring Stefani Montiel.

“Biento’o is a collective project that we’re working on with ARC Discos,” Montiel said. “Mr. Don Ramon Gonzales is the mastermind behind it all, and then, of course, my husband, Gabriel Zavala, is also co-producer on all of these albums that we’ll be doing.”

She added, “All of these songs that I chose are songs that I took a part and I took little pieces of each of these artists and tried to mimic what they did in their voice, and in their songs, and in their style, and I think that that’s so important with an artist, to learn other styles. I mean don’t take that and try to be that, but take from them and learn from them. And that’s really what I did as a young artist that was coming up and learning. I just tried to mimic what other artists did and just kind of learned my own voice and found my own style within that.”

Thank you to Gabriel Zavala for his assistance with camera and photography.

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