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How did you come by your stage name?
I saw this painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat entitled “Santo v. Second Ave,” and at the time it resonated with me so strongly. It depicts a figure peeking out at Second Avenue, looking frightened, overwhelmed, or anxious, and another figure with arms outstretched and raised, wearing an almost-naive grin, looking kinda goofy, seeming to embrace the chaos and madness on Second Avenue.
The name Santo is scribbled between the two. It’s not clear who’s who or which one is Santo and there’s so much going on in the painting. But what stuck with me was the duality, the dichotomy, and universality of those two experiences, how human it is to feel afraid and infatuated, anxious and joyous, scared and in-love… how human it is to fluctuate between states, to be unsure which is which, to change.
At the time I had recently experienced so much loss and personal challenge and had only begun rediscovering and reinventing the joy in my daily life and creative endeavors, and the painting hit me so hard. I decided to move forward as the Santo versus Second Avenue that embraces the madness with a goofy grin, not the Santo versus Second Ave that felt he had to fight the world because he was so hurt by it or scared and scarred by it.
I decided to be SANTO + the PPL to live with people, with others, with myself and with the world, not against it.
When did you discover your love for your craft and what made you realize you wanted to pursue a career in it?
Growing up with parents who are music lovers, who’d sing in the car and in the kitchen and who’d graciously put me in music lessons, I discovered that I loved playing and making music of any kind, in any way, with any instruments or tools I could get my hands on.
Through a variety of experiences and relationships, I also discovered I love images and art and making videos, pictures, and designs. I love the colors. I love collaborating and producing things and I love telling stories. I think most, if not all, of human life as we now know it consists of stories being told in some way.
It’s become more and more clear to me that there are so many ways to learn how to wield that power of storytelling, through any and all forms of art or media and beyond, and that’s what I wish to continue to exploring and growing.
To what or whom do you accredit your sense of style?
I think of all the great, flawed beings that came before us, in any field or craft, who’ve blazed trails and showed courage and leadership and vulnerability, those who’ve innovated and been unapologetically themselves.
To wear your heart on your sleeve and be totally comfortable with who you are and yet humble and open, always… That’s a style I like and aspire to every day. Hunter Thompson, Jack Kerouac, and Allen Ginsberg, Kurt Cobain and Amy Winehouse, Frank Ocean, Alexander McQueen, Kanye and Cudi, and Basquiat, Frida Kahlo, David Bowie all have great style.
There are so many and I am so grateful for those mentors, leaders, and teachers who’ve taught me what style can be. That’s one answer that comes to mind.
On your current project, how did you come up with the concept?
This latest song, “New Ride,” is a collaboration with my brother Julian who sings the chorus and raps the second verse. And we’re basically talking about how we’ve changed… how we’ve changed and grown and overcome for the better, and how sometimes there are experiences that harden us or challenge us in ways that take us away from our true selves.
Those experiences can show us how or who we do not want to be, and/or how or who we do want to be. It can become clear in so many different ways that it’s time to make a change. When those experiences and opportunities show up, begging us to reassess or change something, we either decide to ignore them and continue at our own peril, or we finally make a change. “New Ride,” is when you realize it’s time for that change.
What are some of your greatest challenges, and what is your greatest attribute when it comes to your work ethic?
Whenever I’m doing something that I love, I focus on nothing else, before, during, and after, for a while.
Are you the best at what you do in your opinion?
I am the only one who can do and will ever do what I do.
What are your plans for the near future?
As they say, men make plans and god laughs. Something like that. Memento mori. Tomorrow is not guaranteed. But given the gift of more days on earth, I do wish to use them to continue learning, growing, feeling, loving, and creating, with loved ones and strangers alike.
I wish to make as much music and art as possible that’s uplifting, inspiring, challenging and engaging, and to reach out to and connect with as many beings as is possible in this gift of a lifetime on earth… As well as to connect further and more thoroughly with those already in my life, to be grateful and humble and open in that way. To use my work and my platform for unconditional love, and to continue exploring the myriad ways that that can be done.
Is there anyone you’d like to thank, any shout outs?
I’ve been blessed with so many supportive, patient, thoughtful teachers, mentors, friends, and family who’ve been particularly supportive and compassionate along this journey, and everyone I’ve interacted with has acted as a teacher or lesson in some way. I’m so grateful for everyone and I hope to pass along what’s been given to me in that way.
How can fans find you?
Find me on Instagram, Spotify, Apple Music, Facebook, etc. I love directly interacting with people over Instagram — @santoandtheppl — and e-mail — firstname.lastname@example.org — and you can find my music on all streaming platforms if you type SANTO + THE PPL, or SANTO and then the song title it should show up!!! www.santoandtheppl.com has some one-of-a-kind merch and art and more ways to contact me and to find music and videos. Add me to your playlists!! Follow me and add me and like me on your favorite socials!! Send me a message, ask me a question!! I’ll make you your own custom SANTO merch!! Let’s vibe!!
What suggestions do you have for other artists like yourself?
What I try to remind myself of every day, is that one of our greatest powers is our attitude — our choice in how we see any moment, event, situation. I remind myself to just have fun and love what I’m doing whether it’s music and art or working another job or sitting in traffic or finding myself in a challenging situation.
I remind myself to be unapologetically myself and yet to remain open and humble and to always be learning. I’ve recently learned that it’s incredibly beneficial to have a complimentary and completely different form of expression, apart from your main craft. Keep it light and keep it moving. See this world as a playground where we’re all stumbling around and learning together. Keep your circle full of people who bring out your best and challenge you and motivate you. Eat well. Sleep well. Read. Learn about the history of your craft and learn all the rules.
Break them. Ask for help. Find teachers and mentors. Forget everything you’ve learned and be the curious kid just having fun with your tools and toys. See every moment and person and situation as an opportunity to learn and be your best self. If you feel bad about the way something happened, use that awareness and that feeling as a guide to inform your way forward the next time something like that happens, and not as a vehicle for self-punishment.
Enjoy and appreciate each and every breath and each and every moment more deeply than the last — we will never have them again. I try to remember that every moment in the history of existence has conspired to produce the moment we’re living right now.
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