Breaking ground: Seafood Fest musician defies boundaries

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Ricky Valido, 25, is essentially an Everglades Cowboy. His experience with the raw outdoors comes from the west of his Hialeah home. And he plays country music, seemingly at odds with his Cuban American heritage. His bio is as ground-breaking as his music and niche and voice.

Guests at the Original Marathon Seafood Festival will have a chance to hear it for themselves on Saturday, March 10 at 11 a.m.

The attraction to country music, he said, has many angles.

“I love the songwriting aspect of it; it has a lot to do with my love of story telling,” Valido said in a telephone interview with the Keys Weekly. The other similarity, he said, is its ties to traditional folk music, whether that’s the Appalachian region of the United States or the “guajiro” traditions of Cuba.

“Guajiro music has the same story telling, same guitar, just a different language,” he said.

The 25-year-old plays a solid 120 shows a year. Most recently, he auditioned to be one of the openers for the Suwannee River Jam in May in North Florida, beating out six other acts. That means he will be sharing the stage with Alan Jackson and other national acts like LoCash.

“There is no shortcut for this,” he said of his musical aspirations. “It’s hard work breaking into the scene and paying your dues. My goal is to develop a fan base, a strong one. That’s my entire mindset towards becoming a national act.”

Locals may have caught Ricky’s act in the Keys before. He’s played in the Upper Keys at Caribbean Club and Postcard Inn and at the Sandbar on Greene Street in Key West. In years past, he’s attended the annual Songwriters Festival and hopes to be a participant soon.

Lynne Brooks, his booking agent, has a list of adjectives to describe her client.

“He’s passionate about his family and career, environmentally conscious, has a high work ethic and is very articulate,” she said. “He performs two or three times a week, and sometimes twice a day.”

At the seafood festival, he plans on debuting two of his newest singles — “The Swamp Stomp” about the Everglades, and “Hello, Darkness” about a paranormal relationship. (He has an older demo album out there as well, with six original tracks.) He likes every genre of country music, he said, listing off honky tonk, Bakersfield, bluegrass and the outlaw movement. He’s been influenced by the likes of Waylon Jennings, Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. It’s important to note that Valido has a big voice … big; Think Johnny Cash, one of his personal heroes, or even Rick Astley but just for the fresh-faced factor.

It’s not easy being an up-and-coming country music star from Hialeah. He has studied environmental science and plans to get an education major as well with dreams of teaching at a college. In addition, he works in the family business — Valido Moving, established in 1969 by his immigrant grandparents. Other than some guitar lessons, he’s self-taught from the tender age of 8.

“I’m proud of my heritage. I love to hear my grandparents’ stories from their time in Cuba, but my parents are working-class Americans with a blue-collar background,” Valido said. “All of that inspires me in my songwriting.

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