When Midland arrive all duded up at the 53rd Academy of Country Music Awards next week, they'll do so on the strength of "Drinkin' Problem," their debut single that hit Number One last summer and scored the trio a pair of Grammy nominations. Heralded as a return to traditional-sounding country, the song has helped the group find an audience, one that the band hopes to expand with a new Spanish-sung version of "Drinkin' Problem."
Titled "Drinkin' Problem (Brindemos)," the re-recorded song features Midland's Mark Wystrach trading verses with Mexican singing star Jay De La Cueva, whom the group first befriended when recording demos for the songs that would ultimately make up their debut LP On the Rocks at the Sonic Ranch in Tornillo, Texas.
"Brindemos una vez mas is like a cool slang way of saying, 'We're going to have another fucking drink.' That's the idea behind it," says Wystrach, who learned Spanish growing up on his family's ranch on the Mexican border in Arizona. "The Mexican culture is very much a huge part of my upbringing and my life. I spent a lot of time in Mexico and absolutely love the people."
Wystrach and his bandmates Jess Carson and Cameron Duddy were toying with a Spanish update of "Drinkin' Problem" before the song ever went to radio. While soundchecking before gigs, Wystrach would improvise lyrics in Spanish to get a laugh out of Carson and Duddy, who suggested they actually follow through with the plan. That became easier after the song proved a hit. "The success of 'Drinkin' Problem' allowed us to turn a far-fetched idea into a reality," Wystrach says.
The Midland singer views the new version as a way to pay homage to the group's Latin American fans who are particularly represented in Texas, Arizona and California – and also ease some of the tension that seems to surround any talk of the U.S.-Mexican border today.
"Music transcends all of that. For us, music is about connecting with people, making them forget something bad and feel good, and if we can do that with people across the border too, that's awesome," Wystrach says. "[The Latin American population] is a huge part of our population and of American culture as well, and it doesn't get serviced. There are no crossover artists anymore like Freddy Fender or Johnny Rodriguez."
During the recording for "Drinkin' Problem (Brindemos)," De La Cueva, who will perform with his band Moderatto at Coachella this month, pushed Wystrach to master the updated lyrics with the Mexican audience in mind. "He said, 'Listen man, if I'm cutting this with you all, it has to be of the quality where they don't think you guys are a bunch of gringos,'" Wystrach says. "There's a difference between speaking Spanish and cutting a song in Spanish that sounds like you're a Mexican artist."
Midland are set to perform at the ACM Awards in Las Vegas on April 15th, where they're nominated for Single Record of the Year and Vocal Group of the Year. They're already early winners in the New Vocal Duo or Group category and learned of their victory via an early-morning call from ACMs host Reba McEntire, who caught the guys still in their pajamas. Wystrach says the band, currently on the road with Little Big Town's the Breakers Tour, is also revving up to return to the studio to cut the follow-up to On the Rocks.
"We've got a very large catalog of songs. We're running full steam now," he says. "Life is good. La vida es buena."