Ex-Cowboy is a band that needs to be heard instead of read about. The longtime project of Tucson native Michael Huerta, Ex-Cowboy falls somewhere between the moody finger-pickings of Elliott Smith and the foreboding growls of the Appalachia.
Throwing descriptors at Ex-Cowboy is almost a disservice to Huerta’s sound, however, and he’s gathered some of the city’s finest to help him capture that sound on record.
“I think a lot of it was just me fleshing out fantasies of what I wanted these songs to be all along,” Huerta said about recording Ex-Cowboy’s forthcoming self-titled album. “I always like taking the minimal stuff and then adding these other sounds. It’s like the sum of all parts.”
The album, set to officially release tonight at La Cocina, is a 10-track collection that Huerta said is made up of both old and new songs, connected through feeling.
“The idea was to have all the songs sound seamless,” Huerta said. “Hopefully, they sound like they’re all from the same place.”
A large part of Ex-Cowboy came from Huerta’s collaboration with local musician Logan Greene. The album marks the first time many of the songs have been arranged and documented, as well as Greene’s debut as a producer.
“I heard Mike playing around a lot and almost started to arrange things in my head,” Greene said. “Finally, I approached him about doing it, but doing it right, with a budget and a nice studio and everything.”
The record does indeed sound more professional than most albums by musicians with DIY backgrounds.
“It’s the most ambitious thing I’ve ever been a part of,” Huerta said.
As is to be expected with a large-scale album like_ Ex-Cowboy_, both Greene and Huerta admitted there were hiccups. “Some ideas didn’t work. Others did right away,” Greene said.
“It was definitely a lot of finding out what works in a studio like that.” Although the two began the recording process in March of 2012, they decided to take the summer off to generate some more ideas, a decision Huerta said was a bad choice for momentum.
Now, after a year’s work and countless collaborators and promotions, the Ex-Cowboy CD is about to be released. “It was just such a rewarding process, communicating with people and other musicians like that,” Huerta said. “It was definitely a collaborative effort.”
Even though he has finally finished his album, Huerta has no illusions about the road still ahead. By his own admission, playing music is a tough gig, even if Tucson is a great place to do it.
“I love the idea of living in a harsh desert and making music here,” Huerta said. “It’s hard to survive in the desert, just like it’s tough to play music. … Living here is going to impact what you make, what I make.”
Nonetheless, Ex-Cowboy can rest assured that it has done more than just survive — it’s flourished.
at La Cocina, 10 p.m. Feb. 27.