Music has always been about making connections between people, whether it’s taking place in an intimate club, a mid-sized theater or a crowded stadium.
However, musicians are increasingly making this connection online, where they can gain both immediacy and intimacy. Solo artist A-Wall understands this well, having amassed nearly 200 million Spotify streams of his TikTok hit single “Loverboy.”
That intimacy seems appropriate for the El Paso-born singer-songwriter, as he tends to wear his heart on his sleeve — whether it’s discussing strong emotions or mental health issues.
The 23-year-old North Texas resident will bring his beat-driven mix of slurred bedroom pop and hip-hop to the Paper Tiger on Saturday, November 5th. Multi-instrumentalist Zebra Troop and DJ K SCOTT will provide support as Texas hip-hop outfit Chroma opens.
We spoke to A-Wall on Zoom about his music, interacting with fans and why he thinks it’s important to be open about mental health. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
How would you describe your music to someone who hasn’t heard it yet?
That’s a question I always struggle with.
Perfect, these are the best!
I feel like my discography is very broad. When I make a song, I just go along with it, try to make something that I enjoy listening to that day. It could be dance-y, it could be sing-y, it could be a little more rap-y. I did a lot more rap stuff on this album. I take a lot of influence and inspiration from the artist I look up to and I think that’s where my sound comes from. Everything I hear makes me look up to it and say, “I want to be that artist someday.”
Name three artists who would surprise people.
I’m going to vote for Tyler, The Creator for the rap stuff and his way of playing with a million genres himself. I’ll go with deadmau5 for the dance stuff. For the last one, I’ll go with Foo Fighters.
What inspires you about them? The Foo Fighters are a less obvious choice.
It is [Dave Grohl’s] History of the Music Era [in which he debuted]to be a drummer in Nirvana and then start his own band. I checked out the memorial service they held recently [for drummer Taylor Hawkins]. I listened to all the music and realized how much I really like it. My parents played this music all the time I was growing up. I didn’t realize how much Foo Fighters I had heard and that I really, Yes, really as. And their old videos are amazing.
One of the interesting things about you is that you are open about mental health issues. Why do you think it’s important to talk about the challenges people face?
One of the main reasons I did this was everything that happened with the success of Loverboy. Even before that, I felt like people didn’t know anything about me. I feel like I need to tell my story a little bit in order for people to connect with me a little bit more. I’m not the best content creator to show my personality Outside my music. I’m an artist who worries about many things and I felt lost before I found success. I wanted to inspire and hopefully motivate someone going through something similar.
How does that work with your lyrics? You have problems or challenges that you want to include in your texts.
At first it’s definitely gibberish and tunes. That’s how it always starts. (Buzzing melody.) After 30 minutes or an hour I have what I want to say about the song and I adjust the words. But at this point, the priority is the melody. If I can’t fit the words into the melody, I scrap the whole thing. There are a couple of songs that didn’t make it for exactly that reason. There’s a word or two left and I say “nah.”
Part of what you want to do is connect. You put your heart out there and you want people to react, right? But then you also literally connect with people. For example, you actually reply to comments on YouTube. What is important about this connection to the fans?
This is very important. It’s news to me how many fans the whole “Loverboy” thing has. It was also a learning process. You can’t really answer that Everyone. I’ll be sure to answer some. That goes far. Sometimes I reply to someone and they’re like, “Holy cow, are you actually commenting back?” Well, yes. I could read everything. It’s important to me what people think about the music. That’s how I did it. When I do something live, of course I stay behind and talk to the fans. During the last tour – which I opened up to – we stood at the door and just waited for people to leave. They’re like, “Oh hey, there’s that guy who was playing earlier.”
Your identity as a Latinx performer seems to be an important part of who you are.
Definitive. My grandparents moved here from Mexico. They came here, of course, because there were more opportunities here. That plays into a lot of the things I talk about on this album. I am the first born grandson. And this is where I decide to make music and drop out of college!
Make the family proud.
Exactly! And in a traditional Mexican household, I wear a lot of it. I don’t want to let her down.
How does Latinx affect your art and performances? Given the state of the world and politics, it is almost an act of defiance to be proud of where you come from.
As far as art goes, the project before that had more of that called Primavera. I did this because I was associated with a local Dallas rap group called Chroma. I felt like I’d grown away from the older stuff I was doing, indie pop. They pushed me out of my box. They told me, “Don’t be afraid to say what you want to say in a song. If there’s a beat you think you haven’t jumped on, don’t be afraid.” Going forward, I want to use more of my identity and spread messages that I believe in.
You have mentioned in other interviews that you are a call of Duty Fan. I’m too bad at video games to play anything but Nintendo, but I’ve heard there’s a lot of racist shit out there. How do you deal with racism, whether in a video game or in a comment column?
I’ve got pretty thick skin from growing up in public school, stuff like that. And people didn’t always like my music. When I was in high school, people would tell me straight out, “Your shit is trash.” Hearing stuff like that in person, face to face, hardened my skin. When I see news online, I think, “Whatever”. I’ve heard everything at this point. I’m just thinking, “They have a lot of issues they don’t deal with to get so mad at a blue-haired kid on the internet.”
$15, 8 p.m., Saturday, November 5, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 310-5047, papertigersatx.com.
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