Sometimes things don’t work out, but when the sun, the moon, Meow Wolf, George R. R. Martin, and the retrograde aligns into Pisces and hordor or whatever, magical things happened for Carlos Medina.
“It started about five years ago when I did my first comedy show in Santa Fe,” Medina says. “I got a phone call from [my manager] Max [Walukas]. He was promoting some comedy show for a friend, [Vince Kadlubek], who is now the CEO of Meow Wolf. I was supposed to be the opening act but because so many people showed who followed me on social media, Max met me at the front door and told me I was going last because the majority of the people are here to see you.” Years of working the local scene as a musician and as a comedian, a solid social media following, and a little help from George R. R. Martin (yes, the Game of Thrones guy) led to this moment.
Medina’s rise because of social media isn’t a new path. In fact, it’s the new norm. The internet is the main way for most artists to find their audience these days. It’s only natural that mariachis start using SoundCloud and YouTube to promote their own music. The band La Banda Del Mango leveraged their banda image when they released their cover of “Baby Shark” which exploded virally. In a way, this is what Medina did. He leveraged his fame as a comedian to help promote his music.
“About seven years ago I started uploading skits to YouTube. That is what caught the attention of Max who was promoting comedy shows at the time for Vince Kadlubek. “Many people know me as a comedian and not know me as a musician,” Medina says, switching between Spanish and English throughout his interview.
Born in Las Vegas, New Mexico, Medina was raised in a musical household. He would travel and perform the accordion in a family band made up of his brothers, cousins, and father. Eventually, he would blaze his own way. For a long time, he was a DIY musician trying to catch a break while working in construction. While he blazing his own way as an artist, the psych art collective, Meow Wolf, was doing the same thing in Santa Fe.
“The other individual I met when I first started coming to Santa Fe was George R. R. Martin. He owns a small theatre here in Santa Fe and his camp reached out to me to start doing shows there. This was prior to me working with Meow Wolf,” Medina says.“I would do music and comedy together. “A few nights playing with mariachi and other nights I would be with my trio. I would feature different musicians from the area. It was very much a variety show.”
According to Rolling Stone , George R. R. Martin, a Santa Fe local himself, invested 3 million to buy and develop a space for Meow Wolf. Dubbed The House of Eternal Return, the art space is a collaboration of over 100 local artists and is a unique combination of psych art, playground, and fantasy novel. It drew more than 400,000 visitors in its first year alone. This partnership proved crucial not only to Meow Wolf but to Medina, too. Now a member of a profitable art collective, Medina was able to hire song arrangers, a music video director, and a puppeteer to create his vision.
“In reality, I can say this is my first real job,” says Medina chuckling. “I’m an artist and part of the collaborative and I’ve very fortunate. I feel inspired because they recognize how valuable what I do is. It’s been fun being able to let go of my music and letting others make it into something bigger and better than I could’ve done on my own.”
When Medina first met his music video director, Ryan “Kron” Thompson, the director admitted he had no idea what mariachi music was and asked for a crash course. Medina was quick to give him his vision: “I can tell you what I don’t want to do.” To show what he wanted to avoid, Medina showed Kron all the music videos he could find, so they wouldn’t replicate any clichés. After mulling over the possibilities, Kron came back to him with a crazy idea: “Let’s use puppets!”
The award-winning music video “No Le Digan” is not your typical mariachi music video. Apart from the typical set-up, there is a mercurial shift from all the clichés. The video turns into a portmanteau of surrealism, puppets, and corridors. Medina isn’t trying to replicate Ramon Ayala or Vicente Fernandes in a parochial setting with horses and bulls. Instead, he creates a twisted New Mexico version that mixes mariachi music, Trainspotting, and Dark Crystal. The Dark Crystal feel is thanks to the puppeteer, and fellow Santa Fe native, Michael McCormick who got his big break working for the late-Jim Henson in Return of the Jedi, Dark Crystal, and the Labyrinth.
“It took all this time for this to happen. In other words, the songs were already done, no more need to develop them,” Medina says.
Carlos Medina performs with The Gospel Swamp, Chapis, and MYXEDEMA at the Wayfarer. Sat. March 9, 8 p.m., $8, 21+. For tickets and full info, click here. 
Carlos Medina El Cantador Tour Dates:
03.04.19 – Albuquerque, NM @ Sister Bar
03.05.19 – Phoenix, AZ @ Last Exit Live
03.06.19 – Tucson, AZ @ Hotel Congress
03.07.19 – Joshua Tree, CQ @ Pappy & Harriet’s
03.08.19 – Las Vegas, NV @ Bunkhouse
03.09.19 – Costa Mesa, CA @ Wayfarer
03.10.19 – Los Angeles, CA @ Moroccan Lounge
03.11.19 – Salt Lake City, UT @ Metro Music Hall
03.12.19 – Denver, CO @ Hi-Dive