MEET ANDREW SALGADO written by Mike Ostrowski

For a young and rising, trendy country star, Andrew Salgado sure has some old-fashioned influences: “My maternal grandparents strongly influenced my young life, and that’s where I really learned to appreciate both Southern living and traditional country songs. I remember watching every John Wayne movie ever made with my grandpa, as well as country musicals like ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and ‘Annie Get Your Gun.’ To top it off, my mom is the world’s biggest Elvis fan, so I was exposed to his music and movies, as well.”

That’s why, among other reasons, you’re likely to hear Merle Haggard’s “Working Man Blues” or Hank Williams’ “Hey Good Lookin’” in a typical Andrew Salgado show. Why a Haggard song? “Because some of those older, legendary country artists really made an impact on me,” Salgado admits. “I truly identify with the theme of the working man, and I really relate to those old-fashioned Southern values: family, honesty, standing up for what you believe in, even fighting for it—and just as important, how you treat people at all times.”

Those strong Southern preferences also extend to fried chicken and BBQ ribs, which Andrew has to minimize in his diet, despite his genuine love for that fare. “I have to eat healthy, fruits and veggies--and drink plenty of water to stay hydrated—mostly due to all the traveling I’m doing these days,” he says wistfully. “But I really love chicken and ribs, so those temptations are always out there, especially out on the road.” Salgado works very hard to stay fit and lean, and it shows in the energy and enthusiasm he brings to every show.

“I never do the same show twice,” he says proudly, “because I’m always writing new songs and doing different covers of various favorites. And of course, our audience interaction and participation make each show truly unique. I honestly never know what’s gonna happen up there, and I love that feeling. I want to entertain each and every audience member, and genuinely make them feel a part of the show.” Perhaps that explains in part why Salgado is cultivating a following from Utah to Florida, and from Arizona to Vermont. His shows appeal to a truly broad spectrum of the populace, old and young alike, and his fan base is growing steadily by the day. His Web site is testament to that.

It wasn’t always this way, however. Andrew recalls doing early gigs for as few as six audience members, when he and his bandmates actually outnumbered those watching the show. “What I learned early on, mostly from my dad, is to give everything you have, regardless of the size of the crowd. What I genuinely love now is doing a show expecting maybe 600 people--but seeing 1000 or 2000 instead,” he says fondly. “That’s what I truly live for as a performer. I’ve met a lot of my musical heroes and idols and opened for several, as well, and I’ve won a competition or two, but probably the greatest thrill in this business for me is bringing the music to all sorts of people and seeing them respond.”

As mentioned above, one nice feather in Salgado’s cap was being named the first ever Pepsi Southern Original in 2013, beating out over 6000 entries from across the country, a true testament to his overall talent and engaging, energetic stage presence. He has since opened for Toby Keith, Neal McCoy, Carrie Underwood, Clint Black and a host of big-name country artists. But success will never spoil him. A 2012 tonsillectomy left him worried about his throat and vocal skills, and when he eventually realized his voice was as good as ever, it opened his eyes considerably. “I realized right then and there how truly lucky I am and how everything can go away in just a heartbeat. I had had some successes before the surgery and felt good about things, but after the operation, I really took stock of my life and talent, and about where I want to go as a person and an artist.”

Even as a newborn, Andrew faced challenges. He suffered with a breathing defect as a baby, and an older male cousin noticed just in time that he was gasping for air--most likely saving Andrew’s life. Tragically, that cousin was thrown by a horse and killed just a few years later, making Salgado realize “I am here for a reason. That tragedy really gave me purpose and meaning.” He began entertaining family as early as age 5, moving on as he grew older to church/school choirs, high school band, voice lessons and guitar tutoring. He knew music was his calling after just two years in pharmacy school, and though the road since has been long and often difficult (“I can’t tell you the sacrifices I’ve made, the countless birthdays and other events I missed with family and friends”), he continues to blossom as a singer/songwriter and polished, joyful stage performer.

“I am constantly learning--and hopefully, steadily improving and growing. I’m writing and refining new songs all the time, because I’ve learned you have to write hundreds of songs so you’re never stuck on just four or five ‘favorites.’ I never throw away a piece of paper with a lyric, because each song is like a puzzle being put together, piece by piece. I don’t believe in writing in pencil, because then you erase your changes and they’re gone forever. When you write in ink, the changes are always there to see.”

Keeping all those scraps of paper might pay off in other ways. Salgado has been approached about putting many of his poems into book form, a project he finds delightful to consider. “Getting a poem published for the first time--back as a senior in high school, when my teacher submitted it without me even knowing--really boosted my confidence as a writer, and I’ve written so many poems since. It would be great to have some of them in a book. I’m genuinely excited about the idea.”

Helping others comes naturally to Andrew, as well. After doing a generous number of benefits throughout his career, Andrew has of late focused more on helping Autism Speaks, “because it’s a cause I totally believe in, and they give over 75 percent of what they raise to their cause. And when these kids come to my shows, I can’t tell you how much I enjoy it. It does my heart so much good.”

He has shaped young lives in other ways, also. From freshman year in high school through sophomore year in college, he spent time as both a peer minister and usher at Divine Savior Catholic Church, working with younger children to help them understand the Catholic faith. He participated in activities such as holiday gift drives, senior care, bake sales and spaghetti dinners. “For me, it’s always been God and family first,” he says. Mentoring and providing spiritual guidance to others is right in line with Salgado’s life philosophy. “I knew all about not fitting in, so if I helped a few kids who were a little bit like me, that’s all I could ask for.”

Even today, Andrew remains a perpetual work in progress. Having dealt with his share of bullying in grammar and high school, he holds absolutely no grudges. “That sort of stuff helped make me who I am today. I probably wouldn’t be where I am now if I’d had a ‘normal’ childhood. It taught me to truly believe in myself when no one else did.” And while he has no plans to attend any upcoming reunions, he notes that many of his former school tormentors are now fans who come to shows and buy merchandise. “I leave the past in the past, and I’m always looking forward.”

And why not? The future certainly appears very bright, as Salgado just capped a successful 2014 tour and is still piecing together the 2015 version. “I’m gonna continue to push forward, even more than I’m comfortable doing,” he says about the year to come. “We will release an EP and a CD shortly, and we also have a new manufacturer for merchandise. All I think I really need now is a good Nashville booking agent.” Given the enormity of Andrew’s talent, that should not be a problem.

What about the long-term--does he ever worry about the creative well running dry? “No, because if you run out of ideas and material, then you’ve stopped living, in my opinion.” Down the road even further?   “If I were to ever have grandkids, then my career will be over. Don’t get me wrong, I wanna be in this business for life—but hopefully, when I’m much older, I’ll still produce music and write songs. I don’t want to be still getting on tour buses after a certain age.” He needn’t worry; Andrew’s time is definitely now.

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