The revival of the Bay Area has gifted audiences worldwide with several sonic powerhouses; from wave-makers like G-Eazy, Kehlani, and Caleborate to mogul-filled collectives like HBK at the forefront, there is always more great music to be discovered. Last week I was introduced to yet another icon in the making known as Gaitan Gonzales, a multi-talented music veteran who recently decided to venture forth as a solo artist. I was honored with the opportunity to exchange a few words with Gaitan, exploring the genesis of his career, his approach to the industry, and his ultimate aspirations:
For starters, please introduce yourself.
My name is Gaitan, and I am a 22 year-old R&B/Hip-Hop Singer/Songwriter/Producer from San Francisco, CA.
How’s life going?
Pretty great overall man. I can’t complain at all. I got a family who’s got me unconditionally, a girl who’s always by my side, and the opportunity everyday to make my dreams a reality.
You mentioned you’ve been bouncing around a few bands here and there, both as a drummer and singer– how did you get started with music?
Well I grew up a singing all the time with my pops. He’s the one who really got me into music, always blasting classic bands from the Beatles to Zeppelin on his stereo. Fast forward to when I was in the 6th grade, I was sitting in the band room at school while my teacher was sitting with the guitarists teaching them. I decided that I wanted to jam along with them so I sat on the drum set in there and just went for it and somehow it just clicked. I had never played before, but I for sure did then. I swear it was one of the most euphoric feelings and I knew right then and there that music was what I wanted to do forever.
What made you decide to take the solo route?
It’d actually be safe to say that ever since I picked up drums, I’ve been playing in bands. My first serious band, whom I was with throughout middle school and high school had some success and was on the verge of getting signed and a possible distribution deal with Walmart, but ultimately fell through mainly because the other members weren’t as serious about making music their careers. Then with my last band, in which I was the drummer and lead singer for, we simply decided to just take a different route with our music. We actually still play together, just not under the band guise. We were an Alternative rock band and all of us ended up identifying with different types of music than that, both collectively and individually. We play currently as the band for our guitarist’s (Jonny Zywiciel) solo project and then also play as a backing band for other artists in addition to producing for others.
As for me personally deciding to take the solo route, I just felt it was time to do my own thing. I needed to channel all of me into one project and be that guy singing to you and relating with you on a level deeper than the music. I’ve always vibed with hip-hop growing up and just have a passion for tasteful melodies, simple grooves that still have a great sense of musicality, and songs that make you really feel something. Blend that with all of my musical influences that have placed me where I’m at now with music, and you get what you’re starting to hear now from me.
Ah I see, so you’ve definitely put in some years! Speaking of production, you’ve been co-producing your solo tracks with Ian McKee. Can you shed some light on how you guys linked up?
Ohhhhh yeah man, I’ve definitely been doing this for a little bit haha. But yeah, Ian and I linked up in college where we were both studying audio engineering. He and I quickly became friends and I’d probably credit that to our mutual passion to always get better at our craft. Add that to the fact that we were the same age in a class full of people of all different sorts of ages, I’d say that made it a bit easier to relate too. During school, we worked together a little bit, but were mostly working on our own things, but since we’ve graduated, we’ve found ourselves taking similar roads with our projects, so we’ve decided to work together more. Plus we both know well how each other operates in the studio and that makes for such a organic experience when making new material.
Seems like Ian is a common thread to a lot of great artists coming out of the Bay right now, yourself included! You just put out a new single, “Hepatitis Bae.” Can you tell us about how this song came together?
As cliché as it sounds, it’s actually kind of a funny story. I found this meme with “Hepatitis Bae” on it, I can’t remember what it said exactly, but I thought it was funny and kinda clever, so I thought to myself what if I made a song around that title. So I just went home and started recording, starting with the guitar part which I came up with after jamming to some other songs I was listening to at the time. Marc E Bassy’s “XX” was a big influence. So was “The Hills” by The Weeknd. And also a few Kehlani tracks. I took the melodies I came with and created the beat simultaneously as I was lyrically writing about the good place I was in with my girl, making a semi-abstract metaphor out of it.
Haha that’s pretty cool man. Are you working on any projects/albums at the moment? Or just feeling it out with the singles for now?
Right now, strictly singles. I feel that this generation’s attention span is just so unbelievably short, especially with all the new technology we have and smart phones and whatnot. People barely listen to full albums anymore it seems. Like, unless you’re Rihanna, Kendrick, Beyoncé, or some name like that, most of the time, a vast majority of an artist’s songs are going to get brushed by by the average music listener. I really want people to hear my entire story along the way and really get to know me. Not just as an artist, but as a person. The songs I put out are all like updates of my life and where I’m at at that point in time. So until I’m getting requests from my fans to put out a larger entity of work like an EP or mixtape or whatever, I’ma just ride the singles route.
Specifically speaking, I’m working on a handful of new songs at the moment as well as a collaboration with my homie from my old band (Jonny Zywiciel) on a recreation of a new Weeknd track.
I gotcha man, seems like nowadays all it takes is one single to blow up. I agree, songs are really just archives of memories when it boils down to it, snapshots of life. In today’s industry it’s like you can’t really be heard just by making “good” music– the image of the artist has to transcend. Regardless of what type of music the artist is producing, people are ultimately supporting the image/personality of the musician.
Is it enough to make “good” music and hope for the best, or is an image essential to grab any long-term buzz? If the latter, what’s the image, or brand even, that you want to convey?
I think the image is totally essential. In the end I think you have to have “good” music to last long-term in today’s industry, but the image is almost just as essential. People want someone to relate to or someone that they can look up to in some way. I know so many artists that people have told me about where they don’t necessarily like their music, but they love what they represent, and thus support them. I want to be that artist that I looked up to growing up. My message I want to portray to people comes down to two things. First, that it’s okay to be themselves. So many people spend too much time in their lives trying to be “cool” or something that they’re not, for whatever reason. I grew up in a town where people were told what/how to be instead of being raised to be themselves. I truly believe that every individual has their own inner “cool” factor and that it just boils down to how they rock themselves and what they represent. Second, that it’s okay to feel emotions, whether they’re sad or happy. Positive or negative. We’re all only human and we all feel these things. So why not take comfort in being able to relate to others about those feelings and your experiences?
That’s real man! There’s plenty of music out there that doesn’t fit my personal taste, but I still click with the artist because of how they carry themselves, what they value, etc. I know a lot of people with so much talent and potential locked away due to insecurity, lack of confidence or drive. The world could always use someone to give them that push to pursue whatever it is they are passionate about and in many ways this is what I want my own music to convey as well.
To close the interview, I have a few final questions. If you could choose one artist to collaborate with, who would you choose?
Out of anybody?
Anybody, dead or alive.
Damnnnn. Aiight, that’s one tough ass question ’cause I’d love to collaborate the main artists that made me who I am today. There’s definitely a handful of those, but right now it’s a toss up between Kehlani, Marc E. Bassy, and Kendrick Lamar. I know you said only one artist, but I honestly couldn’t choose between them three, nor would I care to choose. The opportunity with any of them would for sure be a blast. The first two because they both came out of the bay and have similar upbringings to me and I feel that would enable us to relate on so many more levels than just the music. I think that’d be a recipe for some great tracks. As for Kendrick, not only is he my favorite rapper today, and possibly of all time, but lyrically and musically, I feel we share so many of the same values as an artist and individual. When I listen to his music, even though we have different backgrounds, the words he writes literally feel like replayed thoughts of my own sometimes. It’s like I can picture the things he went through and what/how he wore his feelings in those moments. That’s a strong thing for someone to be able to do.
What’s the biggest lesson you’ve learned so far in your music career?
That all good things come to those who stay true. If you work smart and hard, without losing who you are, I promise only success will come to you. The people I’ve looked up to have always said to always be yourself and that life will take you to where you want to be.
Something that many often forget when times get tough. Anything else you’d like to let the people know?
For real man. I think I’d just like to thank all the people who have supported me, believed in me and my music, and have taken me as I am. It’s because of you guys that I have had the ability to find myself through music and I promise that I am going to make you all proud. Don’t let anybody tell you what you can or cannot do. If you truly want something, there is always a way to make it happen, no matter how hard it may be.
Awesome man, thanks so much for your time!
Thank YOU for having me dude!
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