The dictionary defines the word timeless as an adjective meaning “infinite, ageless, existing unaltered by time.” For Miguel, timeless is synonymous with a diverse line up of singers – The Police, Michael Jackson, The Rolling Stones, Stevie Wonder – all timeless for a 19-year-old singer/songwriter who belted his first song at a kindergarten talent show.
The product of a Latin father and African-American mother, word spread quickly about the talented San Pedro, California native as he found a recording home with Black Ice Records. With a new album, Young and Free, dropping in 2007, Miguel is poised to introduce his brand of music to the masses. The singer wrote about 90 percent of the songs on his first release. Miguel took a moment to chat with us about his experience being featured on the reality-show Fatty Koo and the keys to musical longevity.
AllHipHop.com Alternatives: Youve mention that at one point you didnt even want to sing. For someone who knew early on that he would become a singer, what motivated you to say this?
Miguel: What I meant to say was, I didnt start out singing. I started out dancing. Singing wasnt my interest definitely. My mom suggested that I sing for my very first talent show in elementary school, so I did a song with one of the teachers who was really nice. He played the guitar and I sang for the talent show, and it just turned out great. Ever since then I love to sing. Thats pretty much where it began.
AHHA: Youre parents divorced when you were pretty young. How did that affect you, and was it a catalyst in you becoming a songwriter?
Miguel: The funny thing about my parents divorce is I was about eight-years-old and my father told me basically I was the man of the house, and he wanted me to take care of my brother and my mom for him. So at that point, I kind of took that really seriously. Not to the point where I was like a super control freak, but to the point where emotionally I felt like I couldnt really express myself. I felt like I had to be kind of strong for everybody. So in, I guess, holding a lot of feelings in, writing happened to be my outlet – and thats when I kind of got everything out. I was real quiet around that time between the age of eight, and probably like 13 or something like that. I was just kind of trying to be the strong silent type I guess.
As far as musically, it was a real big challenge as far as my writing. And that definitely impacted my music because that helped develop my writing skills and helped me get to the point where I can actually write my own records and do records on my own album, completely written by myself. Yeah man. Crazy. Whatever doesn’t kill you will make you stronger. Its pretty crazy. That was pretty much the catalyst for making me write.
AHHA: Youve described your sound as “rhythm and rhyme,” which I thought was interesting. What exactly is “rhythm and rhyme”?
Miguel: Its a developing style. Basically I think, of course, at this point in music, Hip-Hop has affected so many forms of music. I cant think of any form of music that Hip-Hop hasnt touched. Its crossed so many lines and touched so many different people and cultures, its hard to escape its effect. In pop culture, who wouldve thought that it wouldve become popular music. So its apparently affecting R&B music. Now, Ill be classified as an R&B artist, but I dont consider myself to be an R&B artist at all.
That being said, because Hip-Hop has played such a big role in my life – and not to say that it hasnt in other peoples life because it has. In most peoples life, Hip-Hop has played a huge part in their life. As far as music goes, as the cadence concept delivery of an emcee with the melody and soul of those singers and crooners, you know, the greatest crooners, the greatest singers, soul singers of our time and the greatest emcees, lyricists of our time. I think I try and take that and match those two styles. Thats what rhythm and rhyme is. Its trying to fuse those two elements.
AHHA: In the last few years, R&B has been invaded by a string of male R&B singers. Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Trey Songz, Mario. How will people be able to separate you from this pack of talented guys?
Miguel: Its even an honor to be put in that same group, to even be considered in the same vein. Those are all incredibly talented people. Theres a few things that separate me from great artists such as Ne-Yo, Chris Brown. Even the Ushers and Marios – I think the biggest and just the naturalest separation is the fact that Im Mexican. I mean really, it really is because Im not a regional artist. Im an international artist. But people automatically… I mean Miguel. What does that sound even like? Chris Brown, Ne-Yo, Usher. Miguel doesn’t even sound like it goes in that bunch. Thats totally left.
But barring my heritage and my ethnicity, what separates me is that I really endeavor to make timeless music. Thats my endeavor. Im not a here and now artists. Im not trying to gimmick anything. Im not saying that other artists are doing that because theyre not. Theyre definitely doing a great job at taking, you know, old styles and making it their own, which is what Im trying to do as well. But I think at the forefront of my goal is to really make timeless music. Music is what fuels me. I can dance. I can obviously sing because thats what I do. I write. I produce. My endeavor at the very front is to make timeless music. Thats really what it is. I want to make music that moves people. Whatever happened to real music? Im not saying that my music has to be all big, weighty subjects. Im not trying to save the world necessarily, but I really want people to feel it. And I think you get that when you hear my music. You feel something. It pulls some kind of emotion from you.
AHHA: The title song of your album is a track called Young and Free. In this day and age with everything going on in the world, how does someone maintain that outlook?
Miguel: Staying young and free, thats hard to do. In living your life that way, kind of happy go lucky, for lack of a better term, going like theres no consequence to what youre doing youre in for a rude awakening, because youre gonna find that there are definitely consequences for your actions and that doesn’t say that I was doing anything incredibly wrong, but you obviously find out that there are limits to things that you cant have. And if you do that, youre gonna possibly harm yourself, be it emotionally, be it physically. All those things come into play so being young and free really is that in between point of your life when nothing matters. When youre just happy because you can be.
I say that because to a certain extent I still am young and free, but its hard not to grow when you have so much in front of you in your life. How do you not grow when everythings a new experience? You are learning things mentally and that in turn affects your decision process, how you look at things in perspective.
AHHA: I understand you were a member of the group Fatty Koo. What was that experience like? Has the group officially split?
Miguel: I was on the show, but I was never a member of the group. I can still tell you how it was. I spent three days with them. They filmed in a spot up in New Jersey across the water from New York. It was such an incredible experience because I got to be around people of my same age who were very, very talented. As dedicated as I am. So it was a really good learning experience and a cool atmosphere on that end.
The way I was brought in kind of gave it a little bit of tension, but all of that was quickly, quickly put to rest. It was cool after a while. After I explained my intentions even being there was cool…And if nothing else it really was good exposure, because theres still people like you that still ask me about Fatty Koo. So it cool. It was a really good experience.
AHHA: So would it be safe to say that you were sort of a member of the group, or was it a brief stint?
Miguel: I was being considered to be in the group.
AHHA: You have some diverse influences. How did you draw from these to create your own special sound?
Miguel: Let me say this. The only sure thing that they all have in common, they all made timeless music, to me. Theyre music is all timeless. Even the ones that you may not recognize. I dont know if youre familiar with Dwele, but Tribe Called Quest did. They all made timeless music.
As far as my music and how its affected my music, I think because thats what they represent to me is timelessness, I think that thats what can be related to my music is Im trying to make timeless music…As I learn more about myself, my music will be a better representation of me and more timeless because it will be more real.
AHHA: I noticed that you used to mimic Michael Jackson, one of the most enduring and successful artists to ever come out. What are the keys to longevity, in your opinion?
Miguel: One being a solid team. To think of any team who has multiple titles in any sport, they had solid coaches. They had a solid roster. They had solid backing behind them and thats what pushed them. And the icing on the cake was the talent. So a solid team definitely helps sustain longevity.
The ability to adapt I think is a big factor because times change and as people grow. So as an artist, you have to learn how to make your music grow but still be relatable to people who are growing with you, you know. I think that will help with longevity, and most definitely passion, because the only reason why anybody for years upon years tours the world continuously for years despite having a relationship and children, a family to take care of.
Where are those things? I havent even toured, but Ive heard enough stories and I can understand a little bit because Ive been put in small controlled instances that might resemble touring to know that its a very hard lifestyle. Being able to maintain your passion for music or for whatever youre doing is one way to help sustain longevity, because at the end of the day only youre the person who can say you want to do something. When thats done, its a wrap.