Austin Local Legend Denise Quintanilla
5 Lessons You Can Learn From Denise Quintanilla
Austin, Texas buzzes with a lo-fi hum you won’t find anywhere else. While people might flock to the city to partake in its laid-back vibe and rampant clusters of food trucks, it’s the explosive music scene that makes Austin the place to be. As editor of “Rockstar” magazine and a “professional fan,” Denise Quintanilla gets to live the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle most of us have only dreamed about. She makes a living listening to and writing about as much live music as humanly possible, often hitting up to six clubs in a single night. “There’s a certain musical high you get from watching great live music-. And there’s almost a sense of pride -- especially if you’re the one who discovered it,” she says.
Here are five key lessons you can learn from the life and career of this musical taste-making Local Legend.
How does someone with one of the coolest jobs in one of the world’s coolest cities spend her weekends? Surely doing something cool, right? Nope. “Everyone knows I don’t go out on the weekends at all,” she says. When the rest of Austin hits downtown to let loose, Quintanilla steers clear of the music clubs she frequents all week long. “Don’t call me on Saturday nights. I stay in, I order pizza. I watch ‘Forensic Files’ marathons.” It seems that even rock ‘n’ rollers need to leave their work at the office.
Quintanilla’s uniform is “Kate Moss-cool,” Texas-style: a vintage Led Zeppelin T-shirt, skinny jeans and cowboy boots. But her signature style item? “A blazer,” says the decidedly non-corporate mom of two. “That’s my thing -- how I tie it together and make it grown up. I always have three or four blazers in the car.” Talk about ready-to-wear!
After spending time with her two sons at a local shooting range, Quintanilla found herself collecting the empty bullet casings. Later, while perusing gems at a local shop, she had an idea: “I ran to my car and grabbed some of my casings. I brought them inside, sat there for an hour or two, and walked out with two perfectly-fitting crystals. It looked like the bullet had been replaced with this really beautiful stone,” she says. The first time she wore her custom necklace, someone offered her cash on the spot for it -- and wouldn’t take no for an answer. Her first foray into selling her designs online sold out in just four minutes.
Quintanilla believes the symbolism of her designs is what resonates with people. “I received a message from somebody saying that they lost someone in a shooting,” she explains. Her design erased the pain of a damaging bullet, “replacing it with something beautiful and meaningful.”
The woman who spends her days and nights with music’s elite doesn’t hesitate when asked who her dream dinner companions would be. Her first pick is the late, great singer-songwriter Jeff Buckley, who tragically passed away before many of his fans ever got the chance to hear him perform live, including Quintanilla. She says she’s drawn to his intimate, sometimes dark imagery. “The whole point of art and music is to make a person feel, and he did that…haunting and beautiful and uncomfortable.” Her second choice is legendary Fleetwood Mac songstress Stevie Nicks. “I think she'd be really wise and interesting to talk to. Just a fun hang.” And her final pick? The Man in Black himself, Johnny Cash. “I can’t wrap my head around how rock ‘n’ roll he truly was, how politically involved he was and always challenging the establishment for good reasons.”
Quintanilla has two sons, ages 21 and 14. While her oldest prefers history and politics to guitar licks and power chords, her youngest -- already an accomplished violinist -- “is a total music head.” Fortunately for him, there are plenty of perks when your mom has all the right musical connections. “He loves the whole progressive jazz scene. For his birthday, he got to meet Zach Brock, an award-winning violinist who played on the soundtrack for the movie ‘Whiplash.’ Zach will get on Skype and do a lesson with my son, and that's an opportunity 110 percent attributed to my job.”
Sounds like her biggest fans are the ones who call her “Mom.”