Before Jesús Mendoza became one of the brightest new faces in Latin music, his first goal as an entertainer was to payback his mom the $200 he owed her. She'd lent it to him just days before his first gig to make his debut recording, which he made at a friend's home studio. It wasn't much, a CD full of traditional Mexican cover songs, but it was enough to use for merch at a show inside a local restaurant in his hometown of San Clemente, singing on a small karaoke stage.
Raised in one of the whitest cities in OC, you don't see too many young musicians aspiring to sing Regional Mexican music. Yet when Mendoza puts on his tejana and opens his mouth to sing, people respond. By the end of the gig, he'd made enough to pay mom back plus walk away with $400 of his own, just from album sales.
"From then on, I knew this is what I had to do with my life," Mendoza says.
So far, all the evidence shows that he's made the right choice. Today, the 22 year-old Mendoza is steadily blowing up in the Latin music world. His contemporary brand of Regional Mexican music combines the traditional sounds he grew up on with various influences of pop, and reggaeton.
"I would say I can rap too, but that's not really my thing," he says laughing. Considering he's grown up like so many Mexicans today with hip-hop and banda in the same household, it's easy to believe.
Currently signed to Universal, his first single "Aun Te Sigo Amando" landed in the Top 30 on the Latin Billboard charts last year. Songs like "Al Cien Y Pasadito" and his latest single, "Te Perdi"continue to push his career forward.
This weekend he'll perform twice on saturday at the this weekend's L Festival at the OC Fairgrounds Oct 24-25, presented by Universal Music Latin Entertainment (UMLE). You can see him on the Universal Stage at 2:30 p.m. and again on the El Rodeo Stage, dedicated to Regional Mexican Stage at 5 p.m. Pairing contemporary and old school mega headliners Enrique Iglesias and Juan Gabriel, the inaugural festival bridges the gap between generations of Latinos. It represents the wide range of music that's become a part of the culture over the last several decades across four stages including acts like 3BALLMTY and La Santa Cecilia.
In that regard, Mendoza's presence is an important one. As a native of OC who has grown up with a mixture of cultures and music, Mendoza says his family helped him hold onto his roots through music.
"My family was always there to push me and taught me the whole Mexican tradition and I enjoyed living both lives, Mexican and American," Mendoza says. "When I was in the car, my parents would always put on straight up Mexican music so I got the hang of it from there."
After graduating from San Clemente High School, Mendoza was performing steadily until he found his manager Alex Henriquez and started getting booked for bigger and bigger events. A year and a half into his studies at Saddleback College, he decided to drop school and become a full time musician. So far, he says L Festival is one of the biggest, most important shows he's ever played. Not only as a musician, but as an OC native.
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"This is the new generation so you have a little bit of everything," Mendoza says. "You can bring in a big idol like Juan Gabriel to Enrique Iglesias and then my people, I guess you could say it brings the whole family and we're able to party and enjoy the whole festival together."
Jesus Mendoza performs at the LFestival on Saturday, October 24 at the Universal Stage at 2:30 p.m. and again at the El Rodeo Stage at 5 p.m. For tickets and full lineup info, click here.