Ganas. That’s what the original members of Calibre 50 say their newest addition, Tony Elizondo, brings to the group. On Tuesday, the Mexican band presented Elizondo as its new lead vocalist following the departure of band founder Edén Muñoz, who left the group to pursue a solo career.
After Muñoz left in early January, Calibre 50 — now comprising Elizondo, guitarist Armando Ramos, drummer Erick García, and tuba player Alex Gaxiola — sent out a casting call to find Muñoz’s replacement. “After countless hours meeting with different singers and going through videos, Tony is finally where he needs to be,” Ramos tells Rolling Stone. “He’s fresh out of the box!”
Calibre 50 says that Elizondo, at just 20 years old, brings a youthfulness, a fresh perspective, and a different voice to the iconic norteño group behind tracks such as “Si Te Pudiera Mentir,” “A La Antigüita,” and “Simplemente Gracias.” With 21 Number One hits, the Sinaloa-based band holds the record for most Number Ones on Billboard‘s Regional Mexican Airplay since it launched in 1994.
“It’s a gigantic step for me,” says Elizondo, who helmed a small norteño band in his hometown of Monterrey, Nuevo León. “It’s something that fate had written for me. I’m really grateful to my bandmates for believing in me and for giving me this opportunity.” Adds Ramos with a laugh, “Just don’t cry, bro!”
Now with Elizondo, the band will have to look for an accordionist, since Muñoz — who signed with Lizos Music and released tracks “Chale” and “Creo en Ti” as a soloist — also played the instrument. They’ll give fans a first taste of Elizondo and Calibre 50 with the release of “Míranos Ahora” (“Look at Us Now”) on March 11, and a tour in April.
Calibre 50 spoke with Rolling Stone about the band’s fresh era with Elizondo at its helm.
Talk to me about yourself, Tony.
Tony Elizondo: I’m 20 years old. I’m from Monterrey, Nuevo León. You have a home there, by the way!
Alex Gaxiola: Single? Married? Divorced?
TE: I’m single, of course. [laughs] I used to have a group in Monterrey under my name. And now I’ve taken this big step toward victory!
What does it feel like to now join such an iconic norteño group?
TE: I’m so happy and I will be working hard so people can see my talent. I also want my bandmates to put me in my place if I ever do anything wrong. I’m ready to see the brotherhood.
Armando Ramos: It’s like everything, it’s been a process. There’s a good balance when we combine his youth, drive, and ganas with the years of experience that we bring to Calibre 50. When you combine it all, there’s definitely going to be success.
Was Tony being 20 a factor in choosing him for the group?
AG: It was definitely a point in his favor, since he brings this great attitude of a chamaquito that’s only 20. We’re already in our 30s, of course, we’re not old. [laughs] He comes to shake things up, and we definitely needed that. To be honest, we were in such a comfort zone that we wouldn’t even rehearse anymore. And so this is helping us get better and get used to Tony being in the group. He’s so intelligent.
How long has Tony been in the group?
AG: It’s been 15 days since Tony joined us. Believe me, it’s been lots of rehearsals. He’s such an intelligent kid and he’s so willing to learn from us. And with our experience, we’re going to try to help him as much as possible.
It must’ve been a difficult transition to go from having someone like Edén who has been with you guys since your start in 2010. How did you guys take it?
Armando Ramos: Like with any rupture, whether it be a couple or a work-related thing, it affected us. But now that we’re on this side with Tony, we see things a lot differently. We reached a beautiful agreement with Edén. Whether you like it or not, being with someone for so many years, they become family. You become brothers, so there’s a deep feeling that goes past work. It affected us on the sentimental side, but there’s nothing like getting past that to keep moving forward. Calibre 50 is a dream we’ve all had because we love the music. With Tony, this new dream is just starting.
Tony, do you feel a responsibility to follow in Edén’s footsteps? Or are you looking to bring something new and different?
TE: More than anything, my work is going to show what I’m made of. I’m not here to put on his boots. Calibre 50 was looking for something different, and so now I’m here.
What do you think you bring to the table?
TE: Maybe you should ask my bandmates that!
AR: He brings las ganas. He’s a young person who is so talented, looking to break through. I think he has what it takes to take this project to a new level.
TE: I will do what I can for everything to go well.
AR: And if not, we’ll pull his ears! [laughs]
You guys went through more than 6,000 casting videos before selecting Tony. What was that process for you guys? What made Tony stand out?
Erick García: It was a really long process. It’s not easy to go through so many videos. We had to take turns watching videos. It took us a month and a half. We’re really grateful to the people who sent in their videos until we found “the chosen one.”
AR: What stood out the most from this process is how much talent Mexico has and the paisanada that lives in the U.S.
What was your reaction to getting chosen?
TE: To be honest, I didn’t believe in the casting. But I went in, performed two songs, and said, “Let’s see if it’s gum and it sticks!”
AR: And it stuck.
TE: I think I put some Krazy Glue on it or something.
What are you most looking forward to?
TE: Performing on stage, definitely. Also spending time with my bandmates. It’s something really exciting. I get goosebumps as soon as we start rehearsing. I will put in all the ganas so you guys get goosebumps, too, but with my voice!
What advice have you guys given Tony?
AR: We talk to him, we scold him, too. We want him to relax and just put in all of his efforts. He’s here now and this is a huge opportunity. He needs to give the best of himself and the rest will come naturally!
What has the reaction been so far?
AR: We’ve been a band for 12 years so perhaps people expect to hear a voice that’s similar to Edén’s, so it’s completely normal for there to [be doubts]. We wanted to renew the concept of Calibre 50.
TE: I think people liked me!
Tony, you have a month to learn all the songs before tour.
TE: There’s a ton of them.
AR: He has to work hard so we can have him en friega. Working his ass off.
TE: Little by little, I’ve been learning. I eat, breathe and drink Calibre 50 songs!
This interview has been translated from Spanish and condensed for clarity