When Belen singer-songwriter and musician Daniel Solis takes to the stage, he does so with an abundance of enthusiasm. 

His passion for music — whether it’s traditional Spanish, country, rock or Americana folk — was born while growing up in the northern New Mexico town of Mora. 

“Music was part of the whole family dynamic, with aunts, uncles, my grandpa,” Solis said. “I’ve been playing guitar since I was a little kid, listening to corridos (traditional Mexican stories told in song) and church songs my grandpa would sing. I grew up with music in my blood.” 

Along with his grandfather, Marcelino Herrera, Solis credits his older brother, Dominico, with inspiring him to write and play music.   

“My grandpa was the biggest influence on me with music,” he said. “At almost every family gathering, someone would always bring out a guitar, someone would be singing and someone would get on the organ. It was always traditional New Mexican music, maybe some classics like Patsy Cline or Meryl Haggard. That’s where my music started.” 

Photo courtesy of Daniel Montano 

Daniel Solis, of Belen, has been able to write, produce, record and perform his own music for the past 25 years. 

When Solis’ family moved to Albuquerque when he was in middle school, he watched and learned from his brother, who would perform guitar ensembles at Albuquerque High School.  

When Solis began his high school career, his love of music and performing guided him to take an elective class called Los Enamorados, which, he says, was more like a band rather than a class.   

“It wasn’t a traditional music class. It was where all the kids could join a band. We used to go on field trips and play at various places around town, to other schools who was having an assembly,” Solis remembers. “One time, we played at Civic Plaza when (former president Bill) Clinton came into town, and we were entertaining the crowd when they were waiting for him.” 

Growing up in a musically-inclined family, Solis continued to practice and hone his musical skills vocally and on his guitar. He actually wrote his first song when he was 13 years old.  

Most people assume you need to know how to read music to become a good musician. In reality, some of history’s greatest musicians (ranging from The Beatles to Elvis Presley to Daniel Solis) did not know how to read music. 

When Solis went to college at UNM, where he majored in criminal justice hoping to become a police officer, he took his first classical guitar class. He tried to learn to read music, but it just didn’t take.  

“I don’t know if I just didn’t get it or I didn’t like the theory behind it all. It just didn’t interest me,” he said. “It’s kind of strange that a music class didn’t interest me. I don’t know if I was just set in my own artistic way, but I didn’t feel it necessary.” 

While Solis had a goal of becoming a police officer, his passion for music exploded while in college and he began trying different things, including recording his own music. In his bedroom on a desktop computer he recorded his first CD.  

“It wasn’t horrible; it was very amateur,” Solis said. “ I did the piano and guitar parts, the bass, electric and acoustic guitar. What was cool about technology is I could manipulate drum patterns.” 

Solis describes the music on his first CD as “very rock, Americana, a bit of pop and soft alternative.  

“It was more of an artistic value because it was something you wouldn’t expect from Daniel Solis today,” he said. 

Solis said even though the CD wasn’t very good, he learned a lot — how to record, how to arrange and how to write.  

“When it came to producing stuff in my so-called studio, I learned how to work through a song and create,” he said. “Since that first CD, I became my own music producer and that’s how it’s always been.” 

News-Bulletin file photo

Daniel Solis performs at the 2023 Belen Music Walk.

At only 25, Solis was determined to learn the ins and outs of the music industry, and after college, and kinda-sorta dating his now-wife, Natalie, the couple decided to make a big move — all the way to Nashville, Tenn. He was determined to write music.  

As soon as they arrived in the Music City, the couple got work in the service industry and Solis began to play two to three nights in Downtown Broadway. It was a lot but Solis was determined.  

“When you’re there, you realize the magnitude of talent in that town, and it was a bit intimidating,” he said. “They were so talented. I just pushed myself and I knew I had to step it up.” 

Solis took the opportunity to enroll in song-writing sessions and seminars, and ended up finding his niche with acoustic patio shows. Just him and his guitar, Solis was playing country and Americana. He hadn’t played a Spanish song since leaving New Mexico.  

His whole goal was just to get better, to keep working and to learn. The bigger goal, he said, was in his songwriting.  

“I always had a dream that I would write a song that would be recorded by someone some day,” he said. “I didn’t want it to be me because I knew I didn’t have that Nashville sound. Even until this day, I still don’t have it. I just have that Daniel Solis sound now.” 

Two years into their journey in Nashville, Daniel and Natalie returned home to get married, but returned to the home of the Grand Ole Opry.  

The couple soon started their family with their first child, Michaela, and shortly realized they needed to head home. 

“Things were very expensive, such as song-writing sessions and seminars. We just couldn’t make it that way,” Solis said. “I even recorded my second album out there, ‘That’s Home.’” 

Instead of returning to Albuquerque, the Solis family made the decision to settle somewhat south in Belen.  

“We came home to 2010, and we immediately came to Belen. The priority was to let the family grow here,” he said. “As far as music, I knew I had done better in the few years that I was gone.” 

After returning to New Mexico, Solis settled down, got a job working security at Belen Middle School but kept playing and joined a band called Unwound, a cover country band in Albuquerque. The band would play everywhere and anywhere they could, and by the end of their stint together, Solis was one of two frontmen, singing about 80 percent of their songs.  

“We’d write some stuff here and there, but we never did anything with it,” he said. “We were pretty busy though, playing three to four nights a week.”  

A year and a half later, Solis was teaching Social Studies at BMS, and in 2011, their second child, Aaron was born. They family was assimilating into small-town life, with Daniel continuing his music and woodworking skills and Natalie becoming the athletic director at St. Mary’s School in Belen and starting her very own jewelry business.

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 When Unwound decided not to play together anymore, that’s when “Daniel Solis” really started. He began playing acoustic again locally at the Luna Mansion, Teofilo’s Restaurante in Los Lunas and Pete’s Cafe in Belen. 

“Now, I was playing a complete variety of music — country, Americana, folk, rock and, of course, Spanish. It went over so well,” he said. “The Torres family was great and they liked me so much that I stayed for a couple of years. I was constantly writing.”  

During that time, Solis recorded his third album, “My Kind of Friday Night,” in 2016, which was all country — Daniel Solis style, which is not traditional country but rather unique.  

“The way I do arrangements is not normal for country music,” Solis explained. “I just arranged it how I liked it. The lyric writing is getting much better.” 

Feeling more confident about his lyrics, his music and performing, Solis eventually formed another band with Scott Ross, a drummer, from Belen; Quintin Zunie, on guitar, Gallup; Kevin Martin, bass guitar, of Grants; and Tony Chavez, peddle steel guitar player, of Grants. 

“We’ve never done a rehearsal ever … not once,” he said. “They’re top notch, they’re professionals. We all do our homework, and if we do good on stage, then it works out.” 

Solis’ next album, “It’s Just Me,” recorded in 2019, took off and several songs became fan favorites, including the original “Vacation Time.” 

“That album was quite fulfilling when it came to songwriting. I liked almost all the songs … there was a couple that I didn’t care for too much,” he said. “They all worked and became very popular in their own little ways. People would come up to me and ask us to play certain songs.” 

That same year, Solis recorded his first Spanish album, “Sobrevivir” (Survival) at the same time as “It’s Just Me.” There’s a couple songs he translated into Spanish, such as  “Maria Isabelle” that he turned into a 90s country song.  

“Aside from some traditional New Mexico music, that was the key to put me on the New Mexico map,” Solis said. “Original country music wasn’t stirring things up, and New Mexico doesn’t have a radio outlet for any other local artists other than Spanish music. Now there’s internet radio, but up until 10 years ago, there wasn’t a way to get your music heard unless you sold CDs.” 

Sobrevivir” was well received because it was a fresh sound and it hadn’t been heard before. It has unique arrangement and song selections.  

With the album becoming recognized and getting radio time, the Daniel Solis band was rockin’ and rollin, playing all the casinos and being invited to play at events, wedding and parties. He was busier than ever — with music, with work, with family.  

It was at that time that Daniel and Natalie made the decision to have their third child — Daniella — who was born when Covid hit. While the pandemic halted his performing career, the Solis’ enjoyed every minute of it.  

“We went camping, we spent a lot of time outside, just together,” he said. “I did miss performing, but it wasn’t detrimental because we were so indulged with Daniella and our family, it just took up all of our time. I couldn’t perform, so I ended up writing another album, “Here’s to You,’” which was released in 2021.” 

This album is very special to Solis, as every song is an original and written specifically for special people in his life — his wife, his children and others.  

Last year, Solis released his second Spanish album, “Lo Que Hago Mejor.” As his skills as a producer and engineer have gotten better over the years, he is very proud of how the album turned out.   

One bilingual song, “La Gente Esta Loca” on the album was named Crossover Song of the Year by the New Mexico Hispano Music Association in January.  

Now having lived in his adopted hometown of Belen for the past 14, years, Solis says he’s made his best music while living and performing in Valencia County.  

“Being able to play my music in Valencia County has really gotten me to where I am at,” Solis says. “When I was doing my acoustic shows here, it helped getting my name out there but it also helped me personally. Now I’m being invited to play at local events.” 

Solis has been a regular performer at the World’s Largest Matanza and the Rio Abajo Becker Street Festival in Belen, and the Fourth of July event in Los Lunas.  

Photo courtesy of Daniel Montano 

Daniel Solis is getting ready to produce other artists under D’sol Music Productions. 

With the creation of D’sol Music Productions, Solis has begun his own annual event, a Music Walk, in the Belen Art District in early August. 

“It gives me the opportunity to showcase artists and provide some music for the local community,” he said. “This next one is going to be a little bigger with more of a show at the end of it. We’re going to promote everyone who is local. We utilize the businesses in the art district, such as the wineries. 

“We brought some musicians in the past from Albuquerque and they’ve done well. But with D’sol Music Productions, we want to focus on up-and-coming artists, people who need a little guidance in getting exposure. This year we’ll focus on the younger artists.”  

This year’s event will be held Saturday, Aug. 10.  

“It starts with developing a studio name, a label, it’s my own label,“ he said. “It’s in the works to produce other artists. That’s where I want to go within the next few years; I want to make it a priority. I will still play a show or an event here and there, but we’re planning and getting a brick-and-mortor building to have a studio, have my Solis Custom Design (woodworking) studio and my wife’s jewelry business. That’s in our five-year goal.  

“I won’t stop playing music, but we’re just going to refocus,” he said. “There’s a lot of changes in our lives, and these next few years are going to be fast and furious, especially with our children. I’ll be able to pick and choose the events I will play.” 

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Clara Garcia is the editor and publisher of the Valencia County News-Bulletin.
She is a native of the city of Belen, beginning her journalism career at the News-Bulletin in 1998 as the crime and courts reporter. During her time at the paper, Clara has won numerous awards for her writing, photography and typography and design both from the National Newspaper Association and the New Mexico Press Association.