At 23, New Mexico native and LA-based artist, Jandro, combines the “trial by fire” process that shaped his artistry with decades of industry wisdom beyond his years to craft his most recent release, Do or Die. A bitter situation that challenged his trust drove him to create his most inspired work to date, and this next chapter will deliver a more concentrated and poignant message than ever before in his career.
An artist of Jandro's caliber understands how essential an effective and professional workflow is to creating a productive environment. Having recorded the majority of songs on the EP at In the Mix Studios in North Hollywood, he praises owners and engineers Lu Moreno and Dee Kei for their unparalleled commitment to quality and hospitality.
In the midst of the release of Do or Die, we sit down to talk about the mindset behind his success, Zodiac signs, and what’s in store for the future in the interview below:
Tell us about coming to LA from New Mexico.
Yeah, New Mexico is a super small town. My name is just starting to be mentioned around the whole state. Other than that, we really don't have a hometown hero. It's kind of cool, because from what I've been hearing I've been filling that void. Now we just need that somebody to go to a superstar level. Everybody really knows everybody, it's definitely not LA. Out here, it's very dog eat dog. Once someone gets an opportunity to throw you under the bus, you're out of there. It's very hard to figure out who to trust, because everybody's here for their own reasons; you're just a stepping stone to get to where they really want to be, so it's very rare to find genuine people in LA. Everybody's hungry for something, and you're just in their way at that point.
It’s hard finding a sense of genuine community here, how would you say you’ve found that?
I just know who to stay away from and what to keep my distance from, and that's something that LA has taught me. I don't have best friends. I’ve got family, and I’ve got people I roll with. It's usually genuine people who have their own talent, who are secure with who they are as a person. Anybody that I have really in my circle I bring from back home, because there's not too many people from where I'm from that even believe in music. I don’t surround myself with people who want to use me for what I can do for them.
I'm a big fan of Zodiac signs; I'm a Cancer, and Cancers lead with our emotions, so when I talk to somebody it’s like I can see their soul. I’ll even know if I mess with you or if I don't within the first 15 to 20 seconds.
Would you say that in your personal and professional life, one of the biggest strengths that you've found being in LA is in picking up on people's vibes?
Definitely. If I come to sessions, I'm not like a Trippie Redd type of person; he pulls up with 30 people. Anywhere I go, I'll go by myself, because I can handle myself as a man, I can handle myself verbally, and I can read a vibe. It’s like my spidey senses are on 10,000. Usually, if you see me leave a party early, everybody should probably get out too because it’s about to crack off.
So when you walk into the room, if anyone's with you, it's people that you trust.
If you see me walk into a room with somebody other than myself, I’m genuinely down with that person. I respect the types of people that are just like, “Hey, I'm trying to go play some darts, drink some beers. What's the vibe?” People that go someplace with the intention of actually kicking it, not “Hey, bro, pull into the studio and help me write this verse out.” I'll do that, but I want to do that of my own accord.
Tell us about your “boot camp” experience when you first came out to LA.
When I was around eighteen, I was with a management company called Fakework with Stat Quo. They had me in this boot camp of creating songs, which was like, “Look, you can't leave the studio until you have three to five songs”, and within a certain time period. It was literally five to six days out of the week, non stop, just hit after hit after hit. Everyone would be like, “These are amazing!”, but when it came down to it, my manager would say, “These ain’t the ones, you could still do better”, and then not tell me that they actually did like them. They were just being hard on me so that I could keep going harder, keep growing as a young artist. It’s crazy now, being 23. Some people around twenty-eight, twenty-nine, have been doing this way longer than I have, but I’m much faster. It’s my thought process, the way that I create, and that way that I can read a vibe. I’m able to say “this ain’t it, switch it”, before anything else. Most people will try to force it, next thing you know you’ve wasted six hours on a song. If it doesn't roll off naturally, if I can't say, “This is a hit, and I created it in 45 minutes”, it's not for me. My studio process is very, very different now, thanks to that.
How has your community shaped you as an artist?
The team I had around me at the time is hugely responsible for the artist I am today. At that time, I had a producer and engineer, and they were older than me. At the time that I was around eighteen, they were around twenty-six, twenty-seven. Nova is a very well known producer/artist, Matt cash is a very well known engineer/artist, and they were giving me some grown man knowledge. They would help me with new concepts and different writing techniques. Now when I write, I picture a movie or music video. I'll write the storyline based off of what I'm seeing, like a movie I’m directing in my head.
Around that same time I met Lu. When we first met, we hit it off. He’s an incredible guy. I hit him up, probably like a year or two back, and found out he’d started his own studio. Next thing you know, I pulled up and we started working again.
How has your experience been working at In the Mix?
For my Do or Die project, I did seven out of the eight songs all here. It's just super cool. I wasn't expecting it to be this big when I first came over here. Most big studios will have equipment for the look, but everything here actually works. Everything you see here, Lu knows how to use it, how to make it work, and how to set it up. He's just an engineering genius; the Rain Man of engineers. Dee Kei has been super supportive too, every time I see him he’s like “Everything’s open to you, man. Let me know what you need!”, and Lu’s a really good person. He's the type of guy that I can call anytime and he picks up.
"Everything you see here, Lu knows how to use it, how to make it work, and how to set it up. He's just an engineering genius; the Rain Man of engineers."
Tell us about the inspiration behind Do or Die.
I was working with a very well-known Latin artist, Snow Tha Product. We went on a bunch of tours, we've done a bunch of music together, and we were a really strong team. She’s like my sister; I still consider her to have been my sister/mother figure at the time. She brought this assistant/manager on board. Like I was telling you, not everybody in LA is who they claim to be. He was getting in my ear saying one thing, and getting in her ear and saying another thing. That started the separation, causing two very talented artists to look at each other differently. I removed myself from that, and later came to find out that he was trying to play me all along. Leaving after having this management, being with this team, dealing with disingenuous people, all drove a wedge between me and the person that was actually trying to help me. I thought “At this point, it’s do or die”. I have no other option; it's either that I’ve got to do it, or I'm going to live in depression for the rest of my life. Now, it's 100% me, independent. Every dollar from every project that I do now is coming from me.
The whole project features Cap G, Reverie, and the homie Baby Gas from the Bay, and they're all all Latino/Latinas. Eight tracks, and I’m about to drop this video with cap G in a week or two.
What’s next for you?
Do or Die is more to dip my foot in the water. It’s my first ever released project with more than one song at a time; other than that, it's all been singles. It’s actually done really well; there’s a real demand for me to drop music. The project that I'm really going to focus on next will be an album with a video for every song, and that’ll have 11 tracks on it. It’s already fully done, fully mixed, fully mastered. All I need to do is just shoot the videos, and start the sequencing. I’m going to direct it with two well-known videographers from back home; fly home every month, and just get a video done.
After that I’m just going to drop more, non-stop, go the Russ route and just do one every week if I have to. I was already bootcamped in the studio to knock out four to five songs daily, I have probably anywhere from 100 to 200 unreleased songs that I could take concepts, lyrics, hooks from that are all mine. I’m on that Pac mentality; if I died now, my family could release three or four albums and eat off of that.
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Matt Villanueva is an artist, writer, producer, and engineer living in Los Angeles. Between mixing at Parachute Recordings and working on his own brand of melancholy rock, he enjoys spending time with his bombshell girlfriend and heart-melting Chihuahua, Paco.