Flatland Cavalry takes Texas by Storm
May 28, 2019 12:09PM
By Ellen Slater photos provided by Dave Lytle DBL Music Group
When Midland native Cleto Cordero was 14, he taught himself to play the guitar. By the age of 17, he was writing and performing his own music. Today, at 25, Cordero is the lead singer/songwriter and guitarist for the band Flatland Cavalry whose unique style of music is taking the country by storm. In addition to Cordero, the quintet is made up of electrical guitarist Reid Dillion, fiddler Laura Jane, Bass player, Jonathan Saenz and percussionist Jason Albers. “Looking back on how quickly this all happened – I’m really still in shock,” said Cordero. “We were just kids in 2015 when our first album ‘Come May’ hit 17 on the American Folk Albums chart and 38 on the Country Music Top 100 chart.”
And how did this quick rise to fame begin? According to Cordero, his Mom had a lot to do with it. “I was raised in a big Catholic family (Cleto is one of seven children), and we weren’t allowed to watch TV during Lent, as a sacrifice,” he said. “I had gotten a guitar when I turned 14, so I decided Lent would be a good time to learn to play it.” After several years of picking at the guitar, Cordero was asked to perform a song for the Rebel Lee Court Awards Ceremony at Midland’s Lee High School. He decided to write his own song for the show. “I kind of accidentally wrote my first song,” he remembers. “I wrote it in less than a day, performed it at Rebel Lee Court, and everyone loved it.” From that time on, Cordero began writing music whenever he had the chance.
After graduating from high school, Cordero and his best buddy, Jason Albers, decided to room together at Midland College. They formed a duo and began playing at local bars and venues in and around Midland/Odessa. “We were mostly a cover band at that point,” said Cordero. “We performed songs written by others. We just wanted to play for whoever would listen.”
It wasn’t until about two years later, when the pair moved to Lubbock to attend Texas Tech University, that Flatland Cavalry was formed. “We met Laura at a house party where she was playing the fiddle and she was absolutely amazing, so we recruited her that night,” said Cordero. “Then in the spring of 2014, we found Johnny and Reid. We were at a Delta Sigma Pi business fraternity party and they actually approached us about joining the band.”
And exactly how does a business fraternity fit into Cordero’s rise to fame as a musician? “I knew I wanted to play music for a living by the time I was 17, but my Mom and Dad (Felipa and Jesus Cordero) were real big on me getting my degree. I was very undecided on what to major in and my big brother suggested accounting,” relates Cordero. “He said if the music thing doesn’t work out, you’ll always be able to find a job as an accountant, which made sense to me.” Cordero received a BBA degree in accounting from Texas Tech University a few short years later (which he writes about in the song entitled Tall City Blues). In fact, all of the bands’ members hold degrees from Texas Tech, with the exception of Johnny Saenz who earned a music degree from South Plains College.
And while earning their degrees, the quintet was playing locals bars in and around Lubbock. However, all of that changed in 2015 with the release of their first album ‘Come May’ and their follow up full-length album ‘Humble Folks’ in 2016. “All of a sudden we were on tour and we were playing outside of Texas – all over the country- and people knew who we were and the venues were packed,” said Cordero.” And I remember thinking ‘Wow! This is really happening!’”
Fiddle player, Laura Jane’s last show with the band was on July 28th at the Ward County Arena. September of this year, Flatland Cavalry welcomed a new fiddle player, Wesley Hall to the band. Hall has played with artists such as Curtis Grimes and was a member of Dollyshine before joining Flatland Cavalry.
Those in the music industry describe Flatland Cavalry’s sound as an energetic blend of country and folk music. Cordero describes it as ‘easy on the ears, and heavy on the heart.’ “You can’t quite put your finger on our style of music,” he said. “It’s a blend of country ballads, folk ramblers and even some rock and roll.” The heavy on the heart element of the band’s music comes from the lyrics themselves. All of which Cordero still composes himself. “There’s definitely a piece of West Texas in all of the lyrics,” he said. “The West Texas landscapes, the horizon as far as the eye can see, the wind blowing at 40 mph and the dust and tumble weeds blowing across the fields. All of this shows up in our music. Our songs often have a lonesome, longing feeling to them.” In addition to West Texas, Cordero says the lyrics also reflect his daily life and experience, and his feeling that every person has a responsibility to be the best they can be. “We only have one shot at life, and I want to inspire people to be their best possible self.”
Currently, Flatland Cavalry is spending most of their time touring the country. And when they’re not on tour, they’re in the studio producing albums. Cordero shared, “Our newest album is in the pre-production phase and it should release sometime this year. Honeywine, the first single from the upcoming record is out now. During the last two years, we’ve gotten to see a lot of the country, meet so many great people, and experience so many new things. The new album will reflect all of those experiences.”
Cordero definitely enjoys touring, but says it sometimes has its challenges “Right now we go on the road in a van, so its close quarters for sure. We all get along really well though,” he laughs. “Touring with four or five other people isn’t that much different than growing up in a family of nine. The band really is like one big family!”
However, Cordero admits he does enjoy getting off the road, and returning to West Texas whenever it’s possible. “I consider Midland my home. I was born and raised there,” he said. “The people from Midland are really kind, friendly people, and going back home helps me to decompress – it’s good for the soul.”
For more information on Flatland Cavalry or to view their tour schedule visit their website at www.flatlandcavalry.com †