Since 2001, The Woodlands performer Yelba has specialized in weddings, corporate entertainment and fundraisers. Though Yelba Heaton is originally from Nicaragua, she has been a resident of The Woodlands for over 25 years and is a local musician who performs for three different bands, including Yelba's Variety Band, Latin Fire and The Carpenters Tribute.

The bands are made up of Heaton, her husband and bass player Roy Heaton, keyboard player Rangel Morao, drummer Luzbel Jimenez, and sax and vocal performer Hiram Figueroa.

What inspired you to become a musician?

When I was really little, my whole family sang. My dad would serenade my mother and play guitar, and sing her all these old songs in Spanish that I basically learned to play by watching his fingers on the guitar and then trying to mimic them when he got done. We would all fight for that guitar, and we would all go try to figure out how the songs went. And when I was about 9 years old—because the whole family sang, and there were five of us, by the way, five brothers and sisters—they put my sister and I on this TV show in Nicaragua called "Junior Panthers." And so I grew up singing from a very, very young age. We were performing either at talent shows on TV or just for my dad's friends at home.

What led you to start performing in Houston?

I was going through a horrible divorce back in 2001. When I started at that point I'd only sang at church. And I was so sad that one of my church mates said, "Yelba, let me go get you Thursday [and] just bring your guitar. I'm going to take you to an open mic night." I didn't know what an open mic night was or anything. But I decided, okay, I'm going to go ahead and go. So there I was with a little guitar. And I showed up at this little bar in Houston. And these people are so good that I didn't know what to do. I was like, 'Oh my God, when it's my turn, what am I going to do?' So I sang in Spanish, and nobody else could sing in Spanish.

What is Yelba known for?

So, although I love to sing, like, love songs and things that will make people just feel emotion, what we are known for is high-energy, dance music, in English and in Spanish. And so when you go to one of our shows, you can expect to see a very full band for people just having a blast, having fun from the time we pick up starting on the first set all the way to the end.

What venues does Yelba perform at?

We are at Buffalo Run; we're at the Hyatt Centric coming up here shortly. I mean, people just basically make reservations and fill up the place. Oh, and we're at Ego Cuisine where people make reservations way in advance and fill up the place at the dance floor just from beginning to end.

How have you incorporated your Latin culture into your music, and what is the importance of that to you?

In the music industry, there are lots of Latin bands, and I'm going to say that they are probably much better than we are. But there are very few bands that can play Latin music mixed in with American music with the same players, and that's what makes us so popular because The Woodlands has got a huge Latin community, and so we cater not just to the people that want to dance to "Mustang Sally," we cater to the people that want Mark Anthony, Celia Cruz and Selena.

What would you say is your goal as a local musician?

To make as many people happy and have as much fun as we can—as long as they keep coming to my performances I am going to keep singing, and the moment that I see we've got an empty venue or an empty dance floor, I guess that's when I'll retire because, truly, I've got three CDs out. I haven't recorded any in a while, but I have three CDs, and if I want to do one thing it's I want to record one final CD and feature all of the local artists that I've had the pleasure of singing with through the years and have, like, the whole CD just be a mix of myself with all the musicians that [I] have come to love and to know from the community in Houston and beyond.”

As a local band in The Woodlands, what is one message you would give to the community or your fans in the area?

I would say to all my fans that it's so important for them to support live music, and it doesn't necessarily have to be mine. But we have so much talent in this area. These people are crazy. Like they could be famous anywhere in the U.S. But they're here in Houston, and they're here sharing their talents, and if they don't go to our shows, then we won't be playing many more shows in the future. So that's the thing that I just want to tell them. Come out, listen to live music, have fun and help the music scene in The Woodlands grow. It's already fantastic.

What is your favorite thing about being a musician in The Woodlands?

All the opportunities that we have in The Woodlands are second to none. And I am blessed to have been here so long that I have so many that support my music performances, like I said, that I'm very well-known [and] very well-supported in the local music scene. So venues I know always do really well when they hire our band to play for them. And, as long as it continues that way we'll continue making music for everybody. So yeah, there's just no place like The Woodlands to be honest. We do venture out; we go out and we play in a lot of other cities, but the vibe here is second to none.