CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Growing up in Southern California, Joey Burns was exposed to everything from Broadway musicals to Trio Los Panchos from Mexico to New Orleans jazz and ragtime.
When his parents went on a business trip together, they often would come back with sheet music from the places they visited.
"I think I picked up on that open mindedness," Burns said. His mom, a singer and piano player, plunked him and his older brothers down for lessons, though they all moved on to their own things eventually.
For Burns, it was drums and electric guitar and bass. In high school, he joined the jazz band and the orchestra.
"I picked up the double bass then," he said. His eclectic interests continued - at home he still played rock.
"I think I knew early on that this is what I was going to do," said Burns, now part of the Tucson, Ariz.-based Calexico, which headlines Mountain Stage's return to Charleston Sunday for the first of three live shows here before it heads on the road again as it celebrates its 30th season.
At the University of California at Irvine, however, Burns didn't declare his major until his sophomore year.
"But I wound up in the music department, and I finished my music degree. I got a bachelor of arts in performance," he said. "I played a lot of concerts. On weekends, I was playing in jazz trios and in garage bands - I was all over the place and that's where L.A. was."
"I loved it and at the same time I knew I wanted to write and compose," he added.
He met bandmate John Convertino in 1990 when Convertino was a drummer for a band called the Insect Surfers. The two played together as part of the group Giant Sand before forming Calexico.
The move to Tucson, Burns said, was a creative decision they've never regretted.
"It's not as big as (Austin or L.A.), but it's very creative and very eccentric. Tucson is tucked away in the Southwest. I came here because it is out of the way, but it's also so close to Mexico and Sonora."
Burns said Tucson musicians are open-minded; it's not unusual to find someone who plays in a rock band and a mariachi band.
"I love that diversity," he said. He found his own music blossoming in that environment.
"It's not so much the genre as it is the spirit behind the people here. People embrace various cultures. It's like, 'Let's do a little bit of everything,'" he said. "That open-mindedness is what I was really attracted to."