When Dave Atencio first got his hands on a piano keyboard, he was 11 years old and listening to his godfather, Fred “Lico” Subega, playing Mexican folk songs.
“I didn’t understand the words, but I remember being intrigued by the way the music sounded,” said Atencio.
Since then, Atencio has picked up drums, bass guitar, ukelele and acoustic guitar. But that folk vibe went on to inspire the easy listening style Atencio creates when he plays with the Box Music Family at venues around Lodi.
Atencio, along with Marcello Lopez and J.D. Lowrey, have been playing together since 2005. At local venues, they play a combination of covers and original songs by Atencio.
“It’s really chill, mellow and happy music,” Atencio said. But playing with the band is just one of his projects.
He released a self produced album titled “Southbound Train” in June on iTunes, and has seen some success. Recently, the project was picked up by Dream Makers Productions and 30 Second Records in Southern California.
“It’s pretty amazing. We all play music to get people to like us, but when people spend money on it, and request your original songs at shows, and sing along, that’s something different,” he said. “It’s what every musician wants, but when it happens it’s unbelievable.”
The album has tracks in several different styles, including reggae, country and Spanish guitar. While this album is gaining momentum, Atencio is picking through his collection of songs for his next project.
Atencio also hosts open mic nights at the Rusted Mic on School Street every Thursday. He remembers the nerves he felt performing his first few open mic nights, and wants to support the new artists as they follow the same road.
These days, he’s only nervous when there’s family in the crowd. A few weeks ago, his mother and five aunts were in the audience for a show at a winery.
“I have such a high respect for them, and I know they’re proud of me, but they’ll let me know if I did something wrong,” he said.
Recent success has urged Atencio to continue his music education. Every few weeks, he makes the trip to San Jose to visit Subega, who was recently diagnosed with cancer, and practice the requinto guitar. It’s a specialty of Mexican mariachi music. The lessons help take Subega’s mind off medical matters, and makes him feel like a teacher again.
“We just play together. I like getting back into the classroom that way,” said Atencio said.