It’s not the first time in his career that Ybarra has been “of note.” Indeed, he’s been a mainstay of the local music community since the mid-’90s, performing with his alternative rock group at the time, Liquid Groove, later renamed, 34 Below. The band would go on to win three San Diego Music Awards (Best Rock 1995, Best Alternative 1996, 1999), but what most would see as their career peak was only an early chapter in Ybarra’s career - in 2009, now playing in the pop/modern country field, he won another SDMA, this time for his solo acoustic work. He’s even sung the National Anthem at a Padres game.
All laudable things to be sure and yet only the build up to Ybarra’s latest work, “What I Really Want to Say.” On May 1, Ybarra hosts a CD release show for what is his eighth solo album at the Valley View Casino Center in the Stella Artois Lounge.
“(The place) has a lot of history,” he said. “It is where Janis Joplin and Hendrix performed; it was also used in the movie Almost Famous. I have been here to see many great concerts - it has hosted over 9,000 events. There is something very mystic about the entire venue.”
Recorded at Castle Recording Studios in Nashville, Ybarra considers “What I Really Want to Say” to be a significant leap forward in his musical work.“I really spent time crafting the songs so that a wide audience could relate,” he said. “I wanted to make sure there was emotion and meaning behind every millisecond on this record, so I went to Nashville and worked with amazing musicians and in the best studio. I co-wrote with very gifted songwriters. It was surreal. It is almost difficult to put in words. But I worked with some of the best musicians in country music, top touring musicians and producers/engineers. All of them are well respected and honored in Nashville including, on guitars, Chris Rodriguez who plays with Keith Urban and Kenny Loggins and on fiddle, Jenee Flenor who currently is in Blake Shelton’s band.”
Although Ybarra’s is now a multi-instrumentalist, his focus on guitar playing was originally pragmatic. “Guitar was a great accompaniment instrument for vocals - (Besides), you can't carry a piano on your back,” he laughed.
Originally from Houston, Ybarra was inspired to play music by his home life as a child. “A wide diversity of culture and music surrounded me in every way,” he recalled. “One side of the family was German, the other Hispanic, both rich with song and dance.” Family remains important to Ybarra, with his wife Kellee helping to manage his career and day-to-day business. “Even my 6-year-old son Levi enjoys selling CDs at my shows, and my little 4-year-old daughter comes up to sing with me sometimes.”
Beyond the chance to hear songs from Ybarra’s new album, the CD release show will also feature the premiere of two new videos, including a self-explanatorily-titled documentary, “The Making of the CD in Nashville at Castle.” There will also be a clip debuted for the lead track from the new album, “Stand.”
“This video was filmed at North County Solutions for Change, a charitable organization located in Vista that helps homeless families get back on their feet,” Ybarra said. “We held a private concert and filmed it as a music video to raise awareness for their organization, with part of that night’s proceeds benefiting Alliance for Hope, another charitable organization that helps families who suffer from domestic violence.”
While Ybarra is happy with his music career to date, he sees it all as a bit of a learning curve, with new heights still to be climbed. “Playing and trying to master music is a challenge,” he said good-naturedly. “When I come to the end of my life I am sure I will have just barely scraped the surface of it.”