Although she’s best known to country fans for her Top 40 single, “Take the Keys,” Leah Turner is showing another side of her musical influences in her dazzling new video, “Once Upon a Time in Mexico.” Reuniting with producer Jesse Frasure, the dynamic singer-songwriter is carrying us away to the shores of Mexico — and sharing some of her life story in the process.
For “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” Turner is putting a cinematic spin on her parents’ romance. Her father, who would go on to become a rodeo champion, met her mother, a first-generation Mexican American, while delivering a shipment of soda to a deli. That spark turned into a flame — and family history. In the interview below, Turner fills us in about the epic video shoot, the diversity she hopes to bring to country music, and the lesson she wants every woman to learn.
CMT: This video is inspired by your family history, right? How did you bring that story into the video?
Turner: A lot of people would be surprised to know that I am half Mexican. My mother and father fell in love in a time when it was thought to be two different worlds – two mundos diferentes — to then come together and fall in love. And so I’m a product of that fighter spirit, in a sense, and that love always wins.
So, when I was looking at, “Where am I going to go next?” and “Where am I going to do next?” it was just time to marry the two sides of me, and that is being half cowgirl and half Latina, and bring them together. Because country music has always had such a love affair with the Hispanic and Latino culture. I mean, Luke Bryan just had a song called “One Margarita”! Come on, I rest my case! (laughs)
You said you gave it some thought and decided to do this now. What was it about this moment that seems like the right time for you?
It wasn’t necessarily that I gave it a thought, because I’ve never said I’m not Mexicana or I’m not Latina. … You know, as an artist you always need to evolve. So I’ve evolved into standing with both of my roots, which are country music and being a cowgirl, and then infusing my Latina roots into that, and bringing the diversity that the world really needs to see in a time like this, that country music is for all of us.
Where did you film the video?
We filmed the video in Rosarito, Mexico. My aunt and uncle live there — mi tío y mi tía – and they have dual citizenship here in California and obviously in Mexico. We filmed it at their friends’ restaurant. They called one of their friends and got us the horses. They had the police come down and make sure the beaches were blocked off and that we would be OK.
They really took care of everything for us, which was really awesome and incredible to have my family be a part of it. My mom came down, my cousin did my hair. It was a cool family event, bringing these sides of myself into country music.
What did your family think when they saw the video?
Well, half of them were there! (laughs) So, they saw it in the making. You know, everyone’s loved country music. Everyone’s loved being Mexican American. Seeing both sides of who I am, and also what my grandmother and grandfather fought for to come over here, has been amazing. I don’t think “validating” is the right word, but it’s the first word that comes to my mind, of being part of the American Dream and the diversity that this country stands for. It’s been incredible for me.
When viewers see this video, what do you hope they take away from the experience of watching it?
What I would love for people to take away from this video is that love always wins — and love who you love. No matter what the “normal” says. Normal isn’t always what people feel, you know what I mean? So, if you feel it in your heart and you love them, you love them! Stand in that and stand in your truth.
I also want women to feel it’s OK to feel sexy. It’s whatever you’re comfortable with, but what I would love is for women to be able to say, “God gave me this body.” Whatever shape or size or color you come in, embrace the skin that God has given you.
What goes through your mind when you watch the video now?
“Holy crap, let’s do this!” (laughs) “Viva la raza!” It’s really exciting to show the diversity that I was raised, and the colorful home that I was raised in. And the fact that I was never taught that just because we’re not like someone, doesn’t mean that we don’t embrace them.
We always just look at our hearts. And your heart is what you should be judged by, not your outer layer. That’s what my parents have taught me. That’s their love story of a vaquero and a señorita who fell in love and beat all odds. Again, look at the heart and love always wins.