She's written, recorded and released a new indie Tejano album, her most personal yet, but that's hardly the whole story.
Torres still tours “Positive Force,” her inspirational, motivational “edu-tainment” concerts for young people. It's something she considers her greatest work.
“I talk to kids and I hear their stories all the time,” she said. “They want advice. They want some kind of motivation and inspiration.”
Lesser known is that she earned her doctorate degree in organizational leadership education at the University of the Incarnate Word in 2011.
In the middle of all that — and dealing with the deaths of her mother and two sisters over the last few years and her father's health issues — Torres launched her own label to pursue her Tejano dreams.
Not easy in these tough times for the genre, where radio airplay is hard to get, especially for a legacy artist like Torres.
Written mostly in the middle of the night, Torres' 13th album, “Mi Inspiración,” is her most personal record ever.
The songs are often about hope, empowerment and faith.
“I usually wrote between 1 and 7 in the morning. I just needed the silence,” she said. “It was like I was just getting messages and feeling my songs. By the time the birds started singing, I had my songs.”
Torres wrote six of the 10 numbers, including the title track, “Nuestro Aniversario” (dedicated to her husband of 25 years, David Lucero) and “Ya Verás.”
The album was released in late June. One listen is all one needs to understand why Torres remains a quintessential Tejano artist. But she doesn't think of herself that way.
“Singing was never my dream. It was more of a fantasy,” she said. “In my earlier years, I wanted to be a medical doctor like my grandfather.”
It was her paternal grandfather, Willehado Torres, who encouraged her to follow her singing talent. Torres made her first album in 1985.
Legendary radio personality Ricky “Güero Polkas” Davila remembers Torres from her earliest days. The former KEDA disc jockey puts her in the same league as Laura Canales, Selena and Shelly Lares for sheer talent.
“She's something for people to shoot for,” Davila said. “Patsy's always helped the community big-time. She's just as great as ever.”
Grammy-winning record producer Gilbert Velasquez, who helped engineer, arrange and produce half of the new tracks, agreed.
“She's proven herself. She's a hands-on musician,” said Velasquez, who brought musicians such as Chente Barrera and David Lee Garza to the project.
The other half of the album was recorded at Danny Zapata's studio.
Torres said she is a perfectionist and that she holds herself to strict standards when writing songs or picking material (she recorded Lydia Mendoza's “Mal Hombre”) for her albums.
“I've always taken responsibility for whatever I've written, (knowing) that young kids would be listening to it. So I've always felt that responsibility,” she said. “A soon as I became a public figure, I took the responsibility that I had to be accountable for my actions and I had to be a role model.”
That was especially evident throughout the 1990s when she was a performer at Six Flags Fiesta Texas, where she combined Tejano and motivation.
“All my teaching is from the stage,” she said. “You can call me an edu-tainer. I'm always teaching. I never realized that.”
Torres acknowledged that her ability to reach people with stay-in-school and anti-drug messages and her wide range of interests (born out of a tough childhood, she said) probably kept her from reaching the absolute heights of the music business.
More than 30 years down the line, it doesn't sound like that clear-eyed assessment bothers her much. She is a hometown legend, after all. There are no regrets.
“It probably was all my work with the kids, rather than being in the studio recording, I was performing at the schools,” said Torres, a Jefferson High School graduate.
“They were my passion. Singing for the kids was my passion. I didn't have that drive to be onstage and having people screaming for me. I'm motivated by the kids in the front row crying. They come up afterward and tell me the difference I made. That's my passion.”