Veteran Tejano performer Shelly Lares stunned fans on April 19 when she announced her retirement set for 2022 at the end of her LMD Legacy Tour so that she could pursue a full-time career in nursing. The surprising news came with the release of her new album LMD82, which marks the last Tejano album she will ever record.
The much-anticipated album, which the title stands for her longtime nickname, “Little Miss Dynamite,” and the year 1982, when she began her professional career, is currently only available on her website at shellylares.online. It will be available on digital platforms in late April.
Lares spoke exclusively with Tejano Nation on Tuesday in Part 1 of a two-part interview to further explain her post-retirement plans and to talk about her last Tejano music release, LMD82. She discussed her childhood and the beginning of her professional career.
Watch the complete Part 1 of the interview with Shelly Lares for more about how she feels about the next chapter of her life and to hear her talk about how she has been singing for as long as she can remember.
Lares began singing in 1982 at age 10 with the Hot Tamales Band and started touring full-time in 1989, when she was a junior in high school, but she had long dreamed of attending college.
“Literally, like the last day of my junior year of school, I stepped on the bus and never looked back,” Lares said. “I had aspirations of going to college, too, before my music career took off. I wanted to go to Texas Tech. So that’s what I grew up wanting to do was kind of still hoping to go to college.”
While on the road, Lares studied fitness, nutrition, and physical therapy aide, but still was not fulfilled. When her father got ill after a stroke in 1999, she witnessed firsthand the work that the nurses and doctors performed as they cared for patients like her father.
She admired the medical staff and all they did and then started thinking about plans for her own future.
“So, it was maybe about six years ago, I just started to think about the latter part of my life, because I always knew that I wasn’t going to want to be on the road my whole life,” Lares said. “No disrespect to anyone that’s still doing it or has done it or wants to do it. I’m just saying for me, my personal self, I knew that there was going to be something outside of music that I was going to want to do for a long time.”
Shortly after this, Lares became a caretaker to see if tending to the needs of ill or elderly patients was truly the profession for her.
“I fell in love with it,” she said. “And I talked to my father five years ago, maybe the same year he passed. I was like, ‘Dad, I think I want to go into nursing.’”
Her father encouraged Lares to pursue her passion. She prayed on her decision for about five years before she decided she would pursue a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN).
“Of course, it’s intimidating because I haven’t been in school in over 30 years,” Lares said. “But I know I’m excited about it. I want to go into hospice.”
“I want to go all the way to my BSN,” Lares added. “That’s my goal.”
When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Lares gained an even deeper appreciation for nurses.
“I would see the nurses, and I knew they were so exhausted,” Lares said. “And I have so much admiration for them because I was like, ‘God, I wish I could be there. I want to be there. I want to do that. I need to do that.’”
Another motivation for Lares’ new career path is the stability it provides as opposed to the music industry.
“I’m just very blessed that God has presented me with another passion, because if not, I don’t know what I would be doing,” Lares said. “I would still be okay still performing but think about this. We don’t have retirement per se in the music business. And unless you’re really smart about your monies, which we have been over the years, thank God. (But) a lot of my peers have not, especially a lot of my veterans.”
For this reason, many performers must hold fundraisers when they fall ill, because they cannot afford medical expenses. While she will assist like she has in the past with these types of fundraisers, she wanted something different for herself.
“For me, I want to be a little more set when I’m older, which is why I want to get my BSN,” Lares said. “If I get my BSN, when I’m older…if I can’t do the physical parts of nursing, I will still have an amazing education and a degree that I can still be part of nursing but not have to do anything physical…”
Lares wants to eventually retire completely so that she can pursue other lifelong aspirations like purchasing a home in Oregon and traveling for the pure enjoyment of it and not for touring.
“When I’m retired, I still want to travel, but I don’t want to travel to work,” Lares said. “That’s what I do right now is I travel to work.”
Overall, Lares feels like “there’s a bigger calling for me outside of music.”
Music, however, will never disappear entirely from her life. Lares started her Shellshock Records 3 label with the intention of producing artists and she still has plans for that once she has established her nursing career.
“I would like to continue to produce,” Lares said. “I’m going to continue saving my monies for that, because it takes money to record artists and to manufacture CDs and to promote artists. It takes money. I don’t want to sign artists if I’m not financially ready to back them up.”
When she does sign artists to her label, they will learn all about the music business.
“I really want to invest a lot of time and money into who I sign,” she said. “They’re going to have to be more than a good singer, that’s for sure. They’re going to have to learn business, they’re going to have to know the ins and outs as to what goes into having a career. It’s not going to be just sign and look pretty or handsome.”
As for the final notes of her own career, her LMD82 album brings her full circle for several reasons and each song has significance, including the collaboration with Tejano pioneer David Marez, who played a pivotal role in the entrance of Tejano music for Lares.
Marez was the lead singer of the Hot Tamales Band, which was an orchestra, or orquesta, and that the band was hired for her older sister’s wedding because her brother-in-law was a fan of Marez. However, a week before the wedding, Marez left the band. Still, the path was set for Lares as the Hot Tamales Band discovered she could sing, and the rest, as they say, is history.
“Had it not been for (Marez), we would not have gotten Hot Tamales,” Lares said. “I wouldn’t have sang a song with them. They wouldn’t have liked my voice and I wouldn’t have started doing Tejano music.”
“Things don’t happen accidentally,” Lares continued. “This was God’s path for me, and he put David (Marez) in my path.”
Lares and Marez collaborate on the romantic cumbia “Mi Persona Favorita” for her new album.
“It just made sense (to include Marez), because this was a full circle album for me,” Lares said.
In addition to Marez, Lares included some members of the Hot Tamales Band on the album, as she re-recorded two of her first 45s that she originally recorded with the band.
“There were just so many things that just fell into place for me with this record,” Lares said. “I redid ‘Mil Besos,’ which is my favorite song and was my father’s favorite song. I redid it the way I initially learned it, which was a 1964 or ’54 bolero version.”
Lares also redid a song that her parents wrote for her third album. Fans will find cumbias like “Me Duele El Alma,” and rancheras like “Por Amor” that Lares described as “old-school Tejano.”
Two standouts that have already been released include the big band sound of the unique and catchy, “Salsipuedes,” and the mariachi-flavored “Nada de Ti,” that features the incredible blending of voices from three of Tejano’s up-and-coming artists including Sonja De La Paz, Monica Saldivar and Demmi Garcia.
“I’m very proud of that song for so many reasons and I worked so hard on that record,” said Lares.
The album ends with an R&B influenced song, “Misunderstood,” that she described as in the style and sound of Bonnie Raitt and Wynonna Judd. Rebecca Valadez and Joel Villarreal handle the back-up vocals.
The album offers a little bit of everything and each song was selected carefully.
“For me, at the end of the day, I’m doing music that speaks to me,” she said. “I’m not doing it just because I want to be part of the in-crowd or part of the popularity vote or because that’s what everybody’s listening to. That’s not why I do it. I have to do a song that I really feel 150 percent, because if I don’t believe it, then I don’t expect my fans to believe it. So, I always keep that in mind.”
Lares has received support from her fans regarding her retirement decision, but some sadness, too. And unfortunately, some negativity from people she said are either naïve, ignorant or just want to be mean. She said these comments include people who say she is leaving because of lack of money or that she is being forced out. However, she brushes those comments aside.
“I know what’s really true and I know what God has put in my heart and why,” Lares said.
She shared her decision to leave because she cares about her fans and the industry. Lares could have just left without an explanation but that wasn’t how she wanted to make her music career exit.
“I could have just said, ‘I’m retiring. Peace out. Thank y’all for the love,’” she said. “And bow out gracefully. But I did share my next passion with my fans because I want them to know that I’m not abandoning my genre.”
Lares set out to do what she always intended, which was achieve success as an artist in the Tejano music industry, and she has remained true to her word.
“I started as a Tejano artist and I’m leaving as a Tejano artist,” Lares said. “And that’s something I always promised myself that I would do. This is the genre that I set out to conquer for myself and to make a name for myself and I did.”
In Part 2 of her interview, coming soon, Lares talks of her most memorable performance, her most coveted awards and recognitions, how she performed for so long in the shadow of her friend and peer, the late Tejano icon, Selena, and she reminisces about the close friendship and fun times she shared with the Queen of Cumbia, as well as looks toward to the future of Tejano music and artists she sees as carrying on the torch for the next generation.
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