What instruments do you play?
I play quite a few that I’ve learned over the years, but mainly guitar. From there I think bass would be my second instrument, but I also play a little bit of they keys, drums… the uke. Yeah, it’s fun to learn new instruments.
Tell us about yourself as an artist, like, what kind of music do you write?
That’s a weird question because I’ve been asking myself that question for a while. I asked Jon [Esqueda] one time if he could put a genre to my music; he said it’s singer songwriter—which I agree now, it makes sense—but I don’t think I have a specific sound or [I don’t think] I go for anything specific. It just started when I was a kid growing up; whatever I had in mind [would turn] into a song and that’s how I write. To this day [I don’t] write with the intention that I’m a singer songwriter, but I do it for myself and I share it.
Well, I know you typically have a specific kind of groove though… as far as when you’re playing guitar?
Yeah, with guitar, I do. Especially lately that I’ve been into blues and funk, I get that. When I jam with people I go to those specific sounds because they're very familiar to me, but it’s funny because once I go home and I’m on my own, writing something, I go weird places. I go everywhere, funk and blues aren’t even near!
Can you tell us a little bit about your writing process?
Basically it’s just… Sometimes I feel inspired out of nowhere and I want to write a song. I just sit down, jam and come up with weird stuff until I like something, and that becomes a song. That’s pretty much it; there’s nothing special to it. I’ve tried to do [it] like, “I’m gonna write a song,” like you mentally set yourself—you tell yourself you’re gonna write a song—but it’s just difficult for me. It’s usually just when I’m watching a movie or I hear someone perform; that’s inspiring and from there I just go… make a song.
Okay, so you do or you don’t sing?
I sing for myself. I would never, like ever, consider myself a singer because I don’t think I’ll ever reach standards that I have for myself as a singer, but I will sing for myself. I’ve been working on being more comfortable to share with people. It’s funny because when I was younger—in high school—I had a band and I was the singer and the guitar player, and I was okay with it. I was singing in front of people because it was family members and parties, but once I decided to take it seriously… I don’t know. I know I’m not where I want to be, and I don’t think I’ll ever consider myself a singer until I achieve that, and I don’t even know if I’ll ever achieve that. But I’m okay—I’m more okay nowadays—with sharing my singing… online. Not in person.
Tell us about your time at Norco, in the Norco Music department.
Fun, great, loved it. I loved it, and it’s all thanks to David [Morales]. He’s been my friend since high school, and he was the first one who told me about the music program at Norco. Growing up, I loved music and that’s why we became friends—we’re still best friends—because music is the main connection we have. He told me about it [and] I came and checked it out. I knew that I wanted to do something with music and my parents weren’t sure about it because it’s music! You can’t really have something secure with music. But then they saw that I was studying and that there was an actual program here nearby. Ever since, they’ve been super supportive. I’ve grown as a musician and I’ve met many, many friends that I know are going to be there until the day I die, probably.
Do you have a favorite memory or experience from being in Norco Music?
There are so many! I think to me, the highlight of my whole Norco career was the one summer, two years ago—the summer of 2014—which was the first time they ever had MUC during summer. Basically all of my friends took it and it was amazing! We were just creating music every single day, it was super busy. To me, the best memory would be when I wrote a song called “Gamble Away” and I showed it to Judith [Quan], Jourdan [Montano], and Alanna [Urias] because I was debating who I wanted to sing on it. I ended up choosing Jourdan and I was [still] planning to use Alanna, but she had other things to do so it didn’t happen, but Judith was still in it… It was going to be recorded [on one of] the final recording days and we asked Stephen [Taylor] the day before if he could play drums. He said, “sure, man, just send me the song!” Overnight he came up with stuff and the next day—I didn’t even know what the song sounded like because Judith’s part, her harmonies, I didn’t know what they sounded like; I didn’t know what the drums sounded like. I just knew the guitar and Jourdan—it came together right then and there in front of our eyes, and it was beautiful.
What are you doing now? School-wise, musically, professionally, etc?
School related, I just finished my second degree—in performance—so I’m technically done with it even though I show up every now and then just to hang out and support the new [musicians]… Outside of that I’ve been working on my own music, I’m working on my album right now, I created my website, and I’ve had a couple of gigs related to music. I had the opportunity to write scores—musical scores—for two independent films, with Stephen Taylor. It was a very fun experience and I’m trying to develop that; that’s basically what I’ve been working on.
You said you’re working on an album, right? Not an EP?
Yeah, album. Yeah. Because everybody is releasing their EPs—
Yeah, and you have to one-up them!
No, it’s not that! It’s just… yeah, I do.
I know you were working as the studio intern, but you have a home studio and you produce there as well, right?
I was [the studio intern] in the spring of this year (2016)… In my home studio I bring friends over and I produce whatever they’re recording, but once I was offered the internship at Norco, of course I accepted it. In a heartbeat. It’s a different experience because it’s way more professional than being at home with your friends, just hanging out and recording whatever. Here you have time and you have deadlines. You’re under pressure, but it’s fun; it’s really fun and I got to meet a lot of new talent. Not only that, I got to learn that I was capable; I think I did pretty well.
I know you were talking about working with people like Jourdan and Stephen during MUC, and I know you work on your own, but is it just you as an artist? Do you work by yourself or do you have any common collaborations?
It’s mainly myself outside of school. I recently had an idea, though, that I wanted to invite some of my old friends and maybe come up with another album and just have all of the MUC superstars that I’ve met over the years, and just have something outside of Norco, to continue. But yeah, outside of school, it’s mainly me. I have tried collaborations with other people—they work out! It’s not like they don’t work out—but somehow they just die… everybody has their own life.
Well, I know for a while—I’ve already interviewed Jon [Esqueda]—you were a part of Harbinger for a while, but it was a known thing that it was a temporary thing.
Yeah… he offered it to me a while ago, Jon did, and I was super excited for it! I love the guy, I love his music, I respect him as an artist—not only as a person and as a friend, but as an artist—I think he's unbelievable. So, of course! I was down to be the guitar player and I felt honored to be asked. We worked together for a while, but it came to a point where I had to be real with myself. Although I love his music, it’s not my style and it wasn’t the place I needed to be at the time, I believe. So I quit. But [I left] on good terms. It was a great experience and I love Jon.
Do you have any hobbies outside of music?
Well, I do many things… One of the things [about me] is that I love knowledge and learning new things… So I dabble. Like, computer stuff, graphic design, I did that and I was able to work professionally with Norco for Out of the Darkness | Into the Light; I designed the album cover and it was a cool opportunity for something outside of music. Well, it was still music related, but you know… not like playing an instrument or composing or anything.
I love art, just in general. All of it. I think if I wasn’t a musician, I would probably be a painter or something.
Can you paint?
I can draw and stuff.
Do you have any goals that you’ve set for yourself, either short-term or long-term?
Currently, my priority is my album and just trying to find my rhythm outside of Norco. Because being a kid and having all of this musical output—and not having a place to put it in—and then finding out that there’s such a thing as Norco Music… Finally being part of a community where you can put all of your musical [efforts] into, and [being done] with it… I need to find somewhere else, you know? Although I know that I’m welcome there and I can always hang out—I think I will—I think I need to find my own path. That’s a priority right now, musically.
Is there anything you’d like to add? Anything you want people to know about you?
I don’t think so. Other than to share gratitude—to show gratitude—to Brady and Kamerin; I don’t think they were mentioned in this interview, and they should be because they're a huge part of my musical life. I remember coming in, the first music class I ever took was Introduction to Pro Tools 101 with Brady; I remember I needed help one day and he came by and helped me out and he was very, very supportive. I feel—I don’t want to say that he knew there was something in me because I don’t want to sound arrogant—he had an appreciation for what I did and he made sure I knew that, and he’s been very supportive ever since. Always. And he always gives me opportunities and makes sure I go out of my comfort zone to improve. I am very thankful for that.
On the other hand, Kim Kamerin, I started school when he started teaching there and he has [had] so much knowledge that I am thankful for… I love learning and I always believed that you didn’t need school because, with the internet and so much knowledge out there, I think you can do it yourself. But with Kim Kamerin there were so many things that I didn’t know existed or that I needed to know, you know? So I am very grateful for that and they're both great. Great teachers and very supportive.
Missing Piece written by D. Renee • Devin Renee (vocals, acoustic guitar) • Ricardo Santiago (lead guitar) • Brady Kerr (programming) • Adam Jauregui (bass, drums)
Too Close written by S. O’Connor & N. Scott • Summer O’ Connor (vocals, electric guitar) • David Morales (lead guitar) • Ricardo Santiago (bass)
Torn written by D. Renee • Devin Renee (vocals, acoustic guitar) • Ricardo Santiago (lead guitar)
Everyone’s Lonely written by S. O’Connor & N. Scott • Summer O’Connor (vocals, electric guitar) • Nathan Scott (vocals) • Ricardo Santiago (lead guitar) • David Morales (bass)
The Last Petal written by D. Renee • Devin Renee (vocals, acoustic guitar) • Ricardo Santiago (lead guitar) • Adam Jauregui (bass, drums)
Hurricanes of Jupiter written by Judith Quán and Ricardo Santiago • Judith Quán (vocals) Ricardo Santiago (acoustic guitar) Stephen Taylor (cajon)
What Would That Be? written by Jacob Tucker and Jon Esqueda • Jon Esqueda (vocals) Jacob Tucker (rhythm guitar) David Morales (lead guitar) Ricardo Santiago (bass) Michael Tucker (drums)
Sweetest Lady written by Scarecrow, Romo, Chelly TRK, and Bollyhood • Romo (vocals) Chelly TRK (vocals) Bollyhood (vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar)
Out of the Darkness | Into the Light
Shores written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/acoustic guitar) Ricardo Santiago (slide guitar/bass) Michael Tucker (cajon)
Drive written by Jourdan Montano and Judith Quán • Jourdan Montano (vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar/bass) Judith Quán (piano) Stephen Taylor (drums)
Gamble Away written by Ricardo Santiago and Jourdan Montano • Jourdan Montano (vocals) Judith Quán (backing vocals/piano) Ricardo Santiago (guitar/bass) Stephen Taylor (drums)
No Love Song written by Judith Quán and Jon Esqueda • Judith Quán (vocals/backing vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar) Mona Lee (cello) Jon Esqueda (shaker)
A Flash of Red written by Joshua Grandbouche, M Cesareo and G Arias • Urias (Vocals) Ricardo Santiago (Lead Guitar) Ryan Hickman (Rhythm Guitar) Steen Kevett (Bass) Joshua Grandbouche (Drums)
New Religion written by Jourdan Montano, Brady Kerr, and Judith Quán • Jourdan Montano (vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar/bass) Judith Quán (piano) Stephen Taylor (drums)
My Love, My California written by Ricardo Santiago andJudith Quán • Judith Quán (vocals/backing vocals) Urias (vocals) Ricardo Santiago (guitar) Stephen Taylor (drums)
Home written by Harbinger • Jon Esqueda (vocals/rhythm guitar) Abdel Dakhil (lead guitar) Ricardo Santiago (bass) Stephen Taylor (drums)
Our Love written by August Eichman, Mona Lee, DJ Humanoid, and Jon Esqueda • Judith Quán (vocals/backing vocals) Jon Esqueda (vocals/backing vocals/guitar) August Eichman (piano) Mona Lee (cello) DJ Humanoid (programming) Ricardo Santiago (shaker)