Increasingly, though, musicians are making those connection online, where they can gain both and immediacy and intimacy. Solo artist A-Wall understands this well, having racked up nearly 200 million Spotify streams of his TikTok-fueled hit single, “Loverboy.”
That intimacy seems like an appropriate fit for the El Paso-born singer-songwriter, given his propensity to wear his heart on his sleeve — whether talking about strong emotions or mental health challenges.
The 23-year-old North Texas resident will bring his beat-driven blend of blurry bedroom pop and hip-hop to the Paper Tiger on Saturday, Nov. 5. Multi-instrumentalist Zebra Troop and DJ K SCOTT will provide the backing, while Texas hip-hop outfit Chroma will open.
We talked 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 conversation has been edited for length and clarity.
How would you describe your music for someone that hasn’t heard it?
That is a question I always struggle with.
Perfect, those are the best kind!
I feel like my discography ranges a lot. When I’m making a song, I just go with it, try to make something I like hearing that day. It could be dance-y, it could be sing-y, it could be something 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 listen to, I look up to it and say, “I’d like to be an artist like that one day.”
Name three artists that are influences that would surprise people.
I’ll go with 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-y stuff. For the last one, I’ll go with Foo Fighters.
What is it about them that inspires you? The Foo Fighters are a less obvious choice.
It’s [Dave Grohl’s] story from the era of music [in which he debuted], being the drummer for Nirvana and then starting his own band. I was watching the memorial service they did recently [for drummer Taylor Hawkins]. I listened to all the music and realized how much I really like them. My parents played that music all the time when I was growing up. I didn’t realize how much Foo Fighters I had listened to and that I really, really like them. And their old videos are amazing.
One of the things that is interesting about you is that you talk openly about mental health challenges. Why do you think it’s important to talk about those challenges that people face?
One of the main reasons that I did it on this was everything that went on with the success of “Loverboy.” Even before that, I felt like people didn’t know anything about me. I feel like I have to tell my story a bit, in order to get people to connect with me a bit more. I’m not the best content creator for putting my personality out there outside of my music. I’m an artist that’s concerned about a lot of things, and I felt lost before I had success. I wanted to inspire and, hopefully, motivate someone going through something similar.
How does that work with your lyric writing? You have struggles or challenges that you want to get into your lyrics.
It’s definitely gibberish and melodies at first. That’s how it always starts. (Hums melody.) After 30 minutes or an hour, I’ll have what I want to say on the song, and I’ll fit the words in. But, by that time, the melody is the priority. If I can’t fit the words into the melody, I end up scrapping the whole thing. There’s a couple of songs that didn’t make it for that exact reason. There’s one or two words left and I’m like “nah.”
Part of what you’re wanting to do is connect. You put your heart out there and you want people to respond, right? But then you’re also connecting with people literally. For instance, you actually respond to commenters on YouTube. What’s important about that connection with fans?
That’s very important. It’s new to me just how many fans came from the whole “Loverboy” thing. It’s been a learning process, too. You can’t really reply to everybody. I make sure to reply to some. That goes a long way. Sometimes I reply to someone and they’re like, “Holy cow, you actually comment back?” Well, yeah. I could read through all of it. I care what people think about the music. That’s how I’ve been going about it. Of course, when I’m doing anything live, I stay back and talk to the fans. During the last tour — that I opened up for — we would stand by the door and just wait for people to leave. They’re like, “Oh hey, there’s that guy that played earlier.”
Your identity as a Latinx performer feels like it’s an important part of who you are.
Definitely. My grandparents moved here from Mexico. They came here, of course, because there were more opportunities here. That plays into a lot of the stuff I’m talking about on this album. I’m the first-born grandson. And here I am deciding to do music and dropping out of college!
Making the family proud.
Exactly! And in a traditional Mexican household, I carry a lot of that. I don’t want to let them down.
How does being Latinx impact your art and your performances? With the state of the world and politics, being proud of your origins is almost an act of defiance.
As far as art, there was more of that on the project before this, called Primavera. I did that because I was collaborating with a local rap group from Dallas, called Chroma. That’s where I felt like I grew away from the older stuff I did, the indie pop. They pushed me out of my box. They told me, “Don’t be afraid to say what you want to say on a song. If there’s a beat you don’t think you would’ve hopped on, don’t be afraid of it.” Moving forward, I want to use more of my identity and push out messages I believe in.
You’ve mentioned in other interviews that you’re a Call of Duty fan. I’m too terrible at video games to play anything but Nintendo, but I hear there’s a lot of racist shit-talking. How do you deal with racism, whether it’s in a video game or a comment section?
I have pretty thick skin from growing up in public school, stuff like that. And people didn’t always love my music. When I was in high school, people would straight up tell me, “Your shit’s trash.” Hearing stuff like that, in-person, face-to-face, gave me tough skin. Seeing messages online, I’m like, “whatever.” I’ve heard it all at this point. I just think, “They’ve got a bunch of issues they aren’t dealing with to get this angry with a blue-haired kid on the internet.”
$15, 8 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5, Paper Tiger, 2410 N. St. Mary’s St., (210) 310-5047, papertigersatx.com.
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