by Donalevan Maines • Photo by LeeRoy Holmes
He’s here, he’s there, he’s everywhere! So imagine my surprise when pop music writer Joey Guerra tells me that he doesn’t know how to drive. A car. In Houston!
Who’s driving Mr. Guerra?
Okay, he rides Metro from Montrose to his job downtown at the Houston Chronicle. But didn’t he just go back and forth to Reliant Stadium for 20 days straight to review every single act at this year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo? “My partner/boyfriend would drop me off and pick me up,” Guerra explains. “I have the best boyfriend in the world.”
In March, Guerra and partner Scott Moore celebrated their 15th anniversary. “He was my first boyfriend—and still is!” says Guerra. “I knew immediately he was the one—no lie. We have been together ever since.” Moore is director of financial aid for the Houston Community College System.
Guerra grew up in the predominantly Hispanic neighborhood of Denver Harbor near Houston’s Fifth Ward. “Music was always around,” he says. “My dad is from Mexico, so there was always Spanish and Tejano pop. But I was always exposed to every kind of music—disco, R&B—his record collection is immense,” says Guerra. “He’s gone through a few turntables. I remember the needle always breaking, and we would go to Sears to get a new one.
“My uncles—my dad’s brothers—were always in bands. They used our garage to practice in, and we would go listen to them play.”
Guerra was “really young” when he played Hansel in a musical version of Hansel & Gretel. “I had like 20 songs in it,” he says. “I don’t know how I did it.”
In high school, when other kids were taking driver’s ed, Guerra says his father was working, so he didn’t have a ride to the classes, and that’s why he didn’t learn to drive as a teenager. “Then it sort of got away from me,” he explains.
After high school, Guerra enrolled at the University of Houston, intending to become a chemical engineer. But at the school’s central campus, he discovered more appealing options. Soon he was majoring in journalism and writing for the school newspaper, the Daily Cougar. “I was news writing, but I became friends with the entertainment editor, and she asked me to review CDs for her. She thought I would be good at it,” he says.
Guerra started writing more entertainment articles and fewer news stories, and by his sophomore year he was the paper’s entertainment editor. “I stayed entertainment editor until the semester after I graduated,” he says.
Meanwhile, he worked on a contract basis for the Chronicle. Three years ago, he was hired as the paper’s full-time music critic. “I decided if I’m going to cover music, I’m going to cover music,” he says. “Whenever I go into something, I jump in. I go for every detail.” That means he leaves the house listening to music on his iPod, with the sounds serenading his bus trip downtown and his walk to the Chronicle. At his desk on the building’s fifth floor, he’s met with “a mountain of mail,” bands screaming to be heard and promoted in the newspaper, on Facebook and Twitter, on his blog, even in the Chronicle’s Spanish-language supplement, La Vibra.
“It’s impossible to write about everything, but I try to get in as many things as I can,” says Guerra. “I resisted Facebook for a long time because I was already doing so much blogging, but everybody kept saying, ‘You gotta get on Facebook!’ Then I got on Twitter when none of my friends were on Twitter.” Both sites have amped up Guerra’s career, such that he seems to be everywhere at once.
The day after the rodeo ended (“Somebody said I completed a marathon. It felt more like the entire Olympic season,” he laughs), Guerra began writing about TV’s Dancing with the Stars. Soon thereafter, American Idol was back, too.
His editors are more than happy to pile on more assignments, he explains, because “I work fast.” They can count on him to meet the paper’s 10 p.m. deadline for the next morning’s edition. “This job is crazy. It’s stressful,” he says. “I get it done by never stopping.”
So what’s driving Mr. Guerra? “I love what I do!” he explains. “I feel happier now than ever.”
Off the job, Guerra has two pet projects on his latest joy ride. For the fourth year of the Pride Idol competition, Guerra returns as a judge—but more than that, he’s once again ultra-involved in moving the weekly contests to Meteor and attracting super prizes for the winner.
“Also,” he says, “the Houston(hearts)-Haiti CD is very special to me. I’ve assembled an amazing array of Houston artists who have either donated songs or recorded them specifically for this project. All of our proceeds benefit Haiti relief.
“Miss Money, our new Pride Idol judge, recorded the song ‘Miracles’ specifically for this CD,” he adds. “Also featured is Los Angeles-based artist Cassidy Haley, who is gay. He gave us an exclusive remix of his song ‘Fly.’ Some of the acts have national recognition, including Kady Malloy, who was on America Idol 7; and Katie Armiger, who has charted nationally,” says Guerra. “VerseCity is also one of Houston’s most popular bands,” he adds. “Jennifer Grassman is also featured, and she has worked directly with me putting this together. She’s amazing.”
The Houston(hearts)Haiti CD was scheduled to be released in April, and can be ordered at houstonheartshaiti.com.
A teaser of some of the featured songs on the Houston(hearts)Haiti CD can be foune at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8oqnpfBZmGg.
Houston Pride Idol
Following auditions on Saturday, May 2, Pride Idol competition swings into full gear at 10 p.m. on Thursday nights beginning May 13.
Pride Idol Dates
May 13–June 24
Meteor, 2306-08 Genesee
10 p.m., May 13, 20, 27
10 p.m., June 3, 10, 17, 24
Pride Idol Prizes
· Recording time at Urbana Studios (home of Grammy winner La Mafia)
· Cruise provided by Gayislander.com
· Cash prize provided by Pride Idol
· Performance at Houston Pride Festival
· Entry in Houston Pride Parade
· National Anthem performance at Sam Houston Race Park
· More to be announced
Pop Music Writer, Houston Chronicle
· Music, pop culture, and more blog: http://blogs.chron.com/peep
· Twitter: http://www.twitter.com/joeyguerra
· Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/joeyguerra
American Idol Coverage