“Hold On Up,” the new single by Qween Paz, carries all the easygoing cool of a spring breeze–and all the crisp, unexpected sharpness. The South Texas indie pop artist wrote it about learning to take life at their own pace and appreciate the season they were in, and it also serves as a swaying showcase of their skills as a guitarist, which is apropos; they say they came to the instrument (and songwriting in general) in a roundabout way, around 2016. At the time, they were performing in their college marching band.
“I played the most difficult, cheapest instrument a kid could play in public school, the french horn,” says Qween Paz. “Brass easily became my favorite tone to perfect and listen to, which led me to falling in love with jazz trumpet, trombone, and the works. I was starting to sound real good, developing my own unique tone–around this time, I was also getting more passionate about listening and learning about bebop, bossa nova, and latin jazz like cumbia, salsa.
But finding a dearth of jazz arrangements for the french horn, Qween Paz made the pivot to strings, stumbling on another way to enjoy playing their favorite styles and opening the door to a new means of expression in the process. “I used what my stepdad had gifted me randomly one day–a bulky washburn guitar purchased from a local pawn shop. I started jamming to a lot of bossa nova tunes with just one string at a time and would get lost in the music. It was awesome playing in such a simple way that makes you feel like you’re playing some romantic lead latin guitar.”
Later that year, Qween Paz was invited to play for the San Marcos Cinema Club’s Halloween party, their first ever live performance. That night at KIVA, an arty hole-in-the-wall bar in San Marcos, they took the opportunity to combine their love of brass and guitar. At the time, they were playing with a band called The Black Abstract.
“I’m not sure if they’re still in business, but that place used to be the local rat hole venue right on the square that all the kids would go to be guaranteed any type of show. Paintings and installations, short films about the mystiques of the San Marcos river. I remember we played a short three-song set where I arranged to play bossa-styled guitar, included trumpet, and did powerful vocal duets with my homie, JeiSoul.”
Qween Paz says they didn’t know then that they’d wind up pursuing music with the sense of purpose they have now, but it was an early exercise in allowing their creative personality to take up space. They’ve gotten more comfortable with that over time, and that’s part of what “Hold On Up” has come to mean. When they wrote it in 2018, they’d graduated college, then taken and later quit a mind-melting call center job. It was a time they found their self-confidence tested, not knowing where they were headed next, but they say now they have a lot to appreciate about what they’ve been able to accomplish as an artist.
“I’m grateful for how much I decided to put myself out there,” says Qween Paz. “I was always a naturally very shy person when it came to speaking up and naming my feelings, taking up space. My music does that, like, times 1,000 now, and I’ve seen that’s where my abundance comes from, just doing my thing here on this Earth.”
In addition to the solo music, they have two collaborative projects in the works with other South Texas creatives:
“I’m working with Poet Laureate Andrea Vocab and Amina Dece in a group called Return of the Matriarch. We’ll be putting out educational spiritual gems,” they say. “I’ll be producing for another ancestral and poetic duo, Amina and Ceiba Ili. It’s really easy to get into painting sounds for them because I feel like their poetry and their stories inspire so many ideas for my music.”
Qween Paz says they look forward to blending their different artistic styles and disciplines, sharing new sounds and ideas with the local scene. In the meantime, “Hold On Up” is available to stream and download via Grimalkin Records.