Peruvian-born, now L.A.-based artist Alejandro Chal, a.k.a A.CHAL, has been making waves in the music industry since his 2013 debut EP Ballroom Riots where he showed off his skills as producer.
But it wasn't until last year when the R&B singer/songwriter released his first studio album Welcome to GAZI that he became a charting artist, and proved to be a promising fresh voice in the hip-hop/R&B genre. His single "Round Whippin" reached No. 35 on Billboard's Mainstream R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay chart, and his songs have amassed 20 million U.S. streams to date. His newly released self-love single "To the Light" is a quasi-reflection of A.CHAL's journey to find himself as an artist while also establishing a connection with the Latin audience.
We caught up with A.CHAL just days before releasing his new music video "To the Light," which Billboard is premiering today, to talk about his nomadic lifestyle, inspiration and catering to a Hispanic audience.
You were born in Peru, moved to New York then Massachusetts and now in L.A., would you say being exposed to such different cultures has shaped you as a person and influenced your music?
On a personal level, going to school with people who from different cultures and values and trying to relate with them, that in itself was a journey. I think a lot of people try to isolate themselves with their own cultures groups, but me personally, I like to surround myself with diverse groups of people. I'm not sure if that has a direct impact or inspiration on my music, but personally, yes.
You've said that the first music you were exposed to was indigenous music from Peru, did that play a role in becoming the musician you are now?
I don't think I was aware of the influence until like two years ago. There are a bunch of genres with indigenous music actually, and when you listen to them, they have like this high resonant sound that you don't hear very often nowadays. A couple years ago I was listening to a some of my songs and heard that sound in there.
What inspires you now?
Artists who are honest. I am definitely focused on writing more. I want to get as honest as possible while being as clever as possible. That's the type of songwriting I want to do.
Can you tell us about the inspiration behind "To the light".
I had ben spending a lot of time in the desert and the desert gave me a specific mood that I wanted to bring that to life. We met our director RJ Sánchez around that time and he shot and produced the video on his own. He wanted to portray that feeling of isolation you feel in the desert. The music provokes that emotion but the desert provides an open canvas to think about whatever it is you're going through. It's an honest piece of work and definitely relate to it. I actually just came back from the desert and felt like I re-shot the video.
I know you want to connect with Latin audiences, but is that something that you have in the back of your mind when making music?
That's a tricky question because I don't want to say that I don't think about it -- because I do, but I don't at the same time. I definitely want to connect more with my Latin audience. My new work will show that more and more and so will my live performances. I got a glimpse of my Latin fan base when I started doing shows, which is something that I'm still fairly new at. But that's when I got inspiration and motivation to do something for them because they are such heavy supporters. But I don't just think about them. I don't think about any race when I create. I just think about people who are going through something that maybe I'm going through.