A Chat with Alhado (16.12.2020)

Alhado is a young singer-songwriter hitting out with his debut EP The Academy Award. Drawing on personal experience, the EP works through a relationship turning from idyllic to poison. Through the tracks, he touches on different musical styles showcasing what he has to offer. We sat down with Alhado to talk about the EP, creating his music, musical challenges and much more!

OSR: Was there a moment or experience that made you think: ‘Yes, this is what I want to do.’?

Alhado: I think I’ve always known I wanted to make music! I’ve been using music as sort of refuge ever since I was 2 or 3 years old, if I’m not mistaken. However, a couple of experiences, such as going to one of my favourite artist’s concerts, meeting some of the people from my local music scene and rediscovering and reconnecting with who I am as a person made my head finally connect the dots.

OSR: If you weren’t making music, what would you be doing right now?

Alhado: Probably the same things I was doing while making the EP: being a college student, freelance artist and finding ways to speak through other creative outlets, such as animation, design, painting, etcetera.

OSR: Your EP The Academy Award is your debut, why these songs and why now?

Alhado: I started to write for a couple of musical projects before, say between late 2017 and early 2019, but I always ended up not following through with them due to the songs feeling somewhat uninspired or me losing interest in the whole concept after a while.

So, after I went through an incredibly emotionally taxing relationship and the following breakup, I decided to start coping by writing music. By no means had I thought to turn them into a full project, it wasn’t until I had started to write the 3rd song, ‘Brokenvodkaglass’, that I went “wait… this could be turned into a concept EP!”.

As to why I dropped them now, I guess you could say it was partly because of the pandemic. Here in the Dominican Republic, we’ve been in lockdown since early March, so that gave me quite a bit of time to work on several things that had been on the backburner for a while. Last but not least, The Academy Award was released on the 1-year anniversary in which the story began (October 12th, 2020), so it felt kind of like coming full circle.

OSR: Is there a backstory or theme for the EP?

Alhado: Oh, there definitely is. Back in 2019, I came back from a trip that basically changed my life. I learned a lot of things, such as starting to love myself and reconnecting with my personal identity or, to be more specific, making a new creative identity. Unfortunately, once it all ended, I felt incredibly empty and upset. Mix that with me starting to date someone at the time, and you can start to guess how things went. I was basically told a lot of empty love promises that I believed at the time by said person, only to find out I was being used and lied to the whole time.

There were also a lot of toxic behaviours and red flags that I actively ignored and enabled due to thinking that “love must necessarily hurt/make you feel like trash to get a good thing out of it”, but that, in retrospect, were the very indicators on how things were going to end. But I kept pushing through because I really believed it would work.

Obviously, as we all know, it didn’t. It all ended with me straight up being ghosted after I’d been taken advantage of, physically and mentally, putting me back in the same slump I’d been in 2-3 months prior. So, in order to cope, I started writing about every single thing that happened, all the lies I was told, how I felt about them back then and after everything was over and what began as sort of a “revenge plan”, ended up being the very thing that helped me heal and start addressing the trust issues and emotional trauma that followed that experience.

I also felt that theming the EP around plays, theatre and acting would be a great idea since it all felt like a love story without its conventional happy ending and the project had some sort of a cinematic vibe that I tried to keep throughout the entire project with the storytelling. Some people have told me that it reminded them of a musical and, in all honesty, to say it’s an honour would be an understatement.

TL;DR: I was salty because someone I was dating played me to the point I might as well have been Woody from Toy Story.

OSR: With The Academy Award being based on personal experience, did you find it difficult to share this glimpse into yourself?

Alhado: I cannot begin to tell you the times I wanted to change lyrics, change harmonies to make them more “palatable” or just scrap the project altogether, fearing that people wouldn’t be able to relate or just simply wouldn’t like to hear the songified version of my vulnerability. But after a while, and especially after I released ‘Brokenvodkaglass’ and ‘Entr’acte’ back in May, I received and felt this rush of support and love, so it definitely became easier to sort of finish telling the story, turning pain into art and beginning to heal.

OSR: You were in charge of every aspect of the EP from writing to production, what was the biggest challenge you overcame?

Alhado: Finding a good balance between the vocals, harmonies and instrumentals, definitely. Especially in the most instrument-heavy tracks. Being a very DIY sort of project, I had to cram as many YouTube videos as I could to try and make sense of how I was supposed to mix every single song, and that’s basically one of the reasons why I respect mixing and mastering engineers even more now. Holy crap. That would’ve been hell had I not enjoyed it so much.


OSR: The EP spans a few genres, was this a conscious decision or did it organically evolve as you created the music?

Alhado: I would like to say it evolved organically, although I always thought it shouldn’t just stick to the same old “alright this is strictly an [insert music genre here] project”, for the sake of storytelling and to do justice to the experiences that inspired the EP. ‘Best Actor’ definitely had the biggest change out of them all though, going from a late 90s/early 2000s pop vibe to a more sort of indie-pop influence, thanks to notbadjoey, one of my close friends and vital creative collaborator of the project.

OSR: Was there a track that you found easier or harder to create than the others?

Alhado: ‘This Is the Story Of…’ was by far the easiest track I’ve ever produced. Everything just came about so seamlessly and fast, it was basically some old unrelated verses I’d written months before starting to work on the EP, and then, after everything happened, I felt compelled to tie them together and write the chorus and final verse to introduce the story.

‘Life Después De Ti’ is another big contestant when it comes to easy songwriting. I wrote it in about half an hour under a huge Christmas tree at a shopping mall downtown. However, it stayed in production hell for about three months because I wanted it to sound exactly the way I’d imagined it.

‘Best Actor’ and ‘The Award’ were definitely the two most difficult songs to write, no contest. I basically had to sort of mentally fall in love with my ex again to write the very start of the chain of events (even as I was struggling to shake the heartbreak off). But they were so fun to produce!

OSR: What would you like people to remember most about your music?

Alhado: Hopefully not their exes! ? But, in all seriousness, I want them to remember the way it makes them feel and how they can relate to it in a positive way. I think that’s probably one of the reasons why I usually try not to include pronouns or gendered nouns in my music. I want to make something just about anyone can sing along to and truly feel identified and connected to.

OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?

Alhado: Definitely more music and content. I ain’t stopping anytime soon. Whether it be live sessions, new songs or just about anything music-related. The way people have been giving The Academy Award such a huge amount of love, and the catharsis and emotional healing of making it have only made me want to pursue this for as long as I can.

If anything, I’m just incredibly grateful and motivated.

Thanks to Alhado for chatting with us! You can find more about him on his Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Spotify.

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