ALBERTO ABREU | THE GUITARIST. From Santana to the Strokes, Alberto Abreu shares his chords.
Born to a Dominican father and Ecuadorian mother, Alberto Abreu picked up the guitar and started writing songs in middle school. Abreu performed with many bands before he decided to pursue music and moved to Chicago. Now 21 and living in the South Loop, Abreu continues to grow his audience in music through his current band, Witch’s Rave. “The goal of the band is to make incredible music and create a community of authentic people,” explains Abreu.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I’ve always liked performing, since I was little. I always wrote songs when I was a little kid. I just had a knack for expressing myself. Once I hit middle school, I really got into a band, The Strokes. I thought to myself, ‘That’s what I want to do with my life.’ I’ve been serious about it since then.
When did you start making the commitment to become an artist?
In eighth grade, my friend Dimitri started playing guitar and he brought it around my house. I was like, ‘Dude that’s so cool.’ My friend Grayson was there and said, ‘Hey, I have an extra guitar, I don’t use it anymore, do you want it?’ Since I picked up that guitar, I was completely obsessed with it and I think since then, I really haven’t strayed from that.
How would you define your music?
I really like rock music mostly, so that’s a big focus, and alternative. I like things to sound moody.
Who are some of your top influences?
The Strokes, obviously, are one. I love The Doors, and maybe Jeff Buckley and Radiohead.
Being half Dominican and half Ecuadorian, how would you describe your culture?
I guess it’s definitely a mix of both, depending on which side of the family I’m hanging with. Also, growing up here, I’ve gotten a lot of the western culture in me. So, it’s a nice mix, and I’m grateful to have both of those perspectives.
How has your identity as a Latino influenced your passion for music?
Well, part of it is just the influences that I draw from. I grew up listening to a bunch of Latin music, so a lot of my favorite artists sing in Spanish and play Latin-based music. My favorite guitarist is Santana. Because I grew up in the States, sometimes I feel separated from the Latin side of me, so getting into music is kind of a good way to dive back into those roots.
In what ways does your Latin influence come out in your work?
I guess up until now I haven’t really done it purposefully. I haven’t tried to put a ‘Latin spin’ on any of my music, but I think that a lot of the melodies and just the chord progressions that I use have a little bit of that flare because my ear tends to go to that familiar place.
“I grew up listening to a bunch of Latin music, so a lot of my favorite artists sing in Spanish and play Latin-based music. My favorite guitarist is Santana.”
Does your family have any influence on what you do?
They’ve been super supportive. My grandpa is the one that basically got me started with most of my equipment. My mom has always been super supportive of me. I can’t complain.
What drives you to continue your work as a musician?
It’s a lot of things. Honestly, I’m very sensitive so it’s nice to have that outlet because I love to express my emotions. I feel like I’m an open book and music is a great way to put it all out there. I just love it. I love to sing all the time. I love music, so it’s pretty easy. It just happens naturally.
What is it like being a Latino artist in Chicago, and how do you think it has shaped you as an individual?
I guess I’ve never really thought too much about how specifically being Latino in Chicago has shaped me. I see art as a very individualistic thing and I think being Latino is just a part of my identity, not the whole sum of it.
How do you make your art accessible to an audience?
My only thing with people that I want to listen to my music is that I will accept anybody, no matter what they like, as long as they’re not assholes. That’s about it.
What do you think is missing from the music world that your music provides?
I think the rawness of it, the straight forwardness of the way I perform, and also I feel like I bring a lot of charisma to performing. I feel like that’s been lacking for a long time out of artists and bands. I’m really good at being authentic, and I think that will come across in the music.
What are the challenges that you face as a musician?
Myself. I’m super lazy. It’s easy for me to get trapped, not do anything, and it’s hard for me to build up good habits. I’ve been trying to teach myself to be more disciplined, and that’s been my main concern. Just using my potential.
What do you think of the term Latinx to identify people of Latin American or Spanish background?
I don’t like it. I understand the reasoning behind it, to be more inclusive, but I don’t feel that it’s needed in a language that is completely gendered. That’s half of what makes the language itself beautiful. Also, because our language is gendered, it takes away the whole value of a word. I think it’s more America and western culture that are pushing it. I think a lot of the Latinos that are pushing it are being influenced by western culture because of the internet and social media. I don’t think the movement would have happened if it weren’t for America and western cultures that are super progressive.
Who is your target audience? How do you want it to be received?
I feel like in today’s culture, especially for the youth in our society, people don’t really engage in open dialogue with each other. It’s become a bad thing to agree to disagree, it’s not really done anymore. People can’t disagree with each other and still be friends. But people are afraid to speak up over things that they may not agree with and be honestly genuine. I want my audience to be those people that feel that way and who want to be authentic. That’s what I’m pushing: Just be yourself, think for yourself, be authentic. I want those same values to be reflected in my audience.
How do you build your platform as an artist? Do you use social media?
I’d say, when I was back home and I was in a band for a while, I was just telling people about the band and playing shows. Just playing good live. There’s no cheating that. If you’re good live, then you’re just good and people are gonna like it. Nowadays I do want to focus on social media, but at the same time focus on really putting my personality out there and showing people who I am.