Chilean singer songwriter is redefining Latin Alternative with cabaret style ballads....
"Niños Rosados" made me want to laugh and cry simultaneously at first listen. The beautiful voice behind this pop ballad about gender identity is Sebastian Sotomayor, a 26 year old Chilean singer songwriter who made me fall in love at first piano key.
He was introduced and quieted an entire room by singing a capella to a bar full of industry folks looking to discover the newest star. He was definitely one of them. He was soon featured in the New York Times, and NPR’s Alt Latino as one of the standout LAMC discoveries of 2014.
I asked Sebastian how he felt after his show in New York, “I was sooooo nervous it was my first appearance here in the U.S. and the show was beyond my expectations, it was so beautiful and I felt a connection with the audience. It made me very happy.”
There’s a humbleness and sweetness to Sebastian that draws you in and makes you want to give him a hug while also being in awe of his musical genius. When I asked Sebastian why some of his songs are self-deprecating (See “El Grupo de los Feos”) he stated matter-of-factly, “I usually go into things with low expectations. I know this business is very competitive and there are so many amazing artists and musicians out there, I would consider myself lucky if I am able to reach any kind of success doing what I love. When I was little my parents wanted me to be in showbiz so they had me compete for TV spots in Chile similar to American Idol. I went through a lot of rejection, a lot of bullying, comments about my music, appearance, weight, everything. I constantly felt judged so that still comes out in my music sometimes,” he added.
Sebastían is an openly gay artist. His song “Niños Rosados (Niñas Azules)” explores the confines of femininity and masculinity that are assigned to children at a very young age, such as girls must wear pink and boys must wear blue. “I know my parents didn’t mean me any harm by taking my sister’s Barbie’s away and giving me a toy car instead. In that song I just want to make people think about being open minded to other ways of being. Kids don’t understand religion, and social constructs but they know what they like. I just want people to be tolerant of that,” Sebastian states.
(me llamo) Sebastían writes autobiographical songs that teeter from pop to cabaret to romantic ballads while singing about topics like homophobia, love, vegetarianism, Disney, and beauty. “Music is my therapy. I write about things that happen to me, my friends, and my family. I came from a background where everything was very rehearsed and cheesy and edited for TV. So when I was 18, I finally came out of the closet and started to sing and write about the things without adornment, without pretense, simply singing what came out.”
El Hambre (2013) is (me llamo) Sebastían’s third and latest production. It’s an intelligent album that shows maturity and a vocal and musical greatness that’s hard to describe. Aside from “Niños Rosados”, the album contains “Varita Magica” a whimsical song about wishes coming true and happy endings. Influenced by a wide-range of music from Laura Pausini, to Disney soundtracks, to cabaret singers, and Broadway musicals, Sebastian constantly reinvents himself performing with orchestras, violins, cellos, and even choirs. “My songs are literally me putting an emotion, a thought, or a story into a melody. I don’t worry about whether it sounds artistic, romantic, or intelligent, I just want it to be the truth. Sometimes they are nerdy, funny, and weird but that’s just me,” he laughs.
As luck would have it, Sebastian recently won tickets to his first Broadway show in NYC, Hedwig and the Angry Inch starring Neil Patrick Harris, “The show was sold out and I couldn’t believe I won a ticket out of hundreds of people! I sat in the second row and Neil Patrick even spit in my face during the performance…I became a total fan boy, it was my happiest moment!” Sebastian’s excitement is infectious he later took to his social media page to share the entire experience "in graphic detail" from possibly running into Lana del Rey in Williamsburg to winning Broadway tickets and being hated by a woman who lost.
After his incredibly successful performance in New York City for LAMC, Sebastían plans to take his momentum to Mexico for a few shows after which he will return to Chile to work on his fourth album. “Each time it gets harder and harder to generate new material. I’m very insecure so I never feel like the music is good enough. I love to write, I write lyrics anywhere and everywhere I can. I’m like a journalist writing about everything that happens, however making a decision about what music to use is another story,” shared Sebastian. He confessed that El Hambre was his most difficult and ambitious production yet, and he feels it will be difficult to top it.
To end our interview, Sebastian shared how his mother recently gifted him a new phone. “It was pink! ‘I know it’s your favorite color,’ she told me. We both laughed because my parents have actually gotten to know me better through my songs. Now they understand me,” he beamed. I can relate. After listening to Sebastian’s music for a short time, I feel like we are long lost friends.
You can listen to (me llamo) Sebastían by visiting: www.mellamosebastian.cl. Or better yet catch him performing LIVE on Saturday, July 26th at Marx Cafe in Washington DC for an intimate show presented by Alumbra DC Nights!
Ooh and guess what? It's also my birthday bash so come by and grab some cake!