You don't have to call him a musician – Carlo Aquino will keep singing anyway
MANILA, Philippines – “Kinakabahan nga ako (I’m nervous),” Carlo Aquino said after he stepped out of the recording studio, which he had been in for hours, working on a cover of the Rivermaya classic, “Balisong.”
It’s a song he admits makes him nervous to cover, “kasi siyempre si Rico Blanco yung unang gumawa (because of course Rico Blanco did the original).” Carlo’s version, which will be released in late August, promises to be different – arranged by The Voice Kids alum Zack Tabudlo, who is young enough to consider the 2003 hit an old song.
Zack’s take, plus the idea of Carlo on vocals makes the track intriguing enough, especially because people aren’t used to Carlo giving us music just yet.
He is, after all, known primarily as an actor – a label perhaps permanently sealed by the fact that he uttered the immortal line “Akala mo lang wala, pero meron, meron, meron!” in the 1998 film Bata, Bata Paano Ka Ginawa?
And yet, while Carlo’s fans swooned over all the characters he has played over the years – from Jun-Jun in G-mik to Nix in Exes Baggage – Carlo learned to play the guitar, and joined bands. While people dug into his intriguing love life, Carlo kept singing. Now, people are just starting to listen – which probably explains Carlo’s nerves. To make it even more nervewracking, it’s his first turn at music as a solo artist.
“Mas maano yung kaba siguro kasi ako lang yung nasa stage not unlike before na mga kaibigan ko yung kasama ko sa stage na naeenjoy ko. Ngayon, ako lang talaga,” he told Rappler on July 31, in an interview following his recording.
(It's more nervewracking maybe because I'm the only one on stage, unlike before, when I was with my friends on stage and I would enjoy. Now it's just me.)
Before his most recent venture into the music industry, Carlo had been part of the boy band JCS, along with his fellow 90s heartthrobs John Prats and Stefano Mori. Later on, he was the vocalist for another band, Kollide, which he formed with his friends.
He’s not closed off to forming a band again in the future, though at the moment, he’s been given the opportunity to perform solo. It’s an opportunity Carlo cherishes, one he doesn’t want to take for granted, because the way he puts it, he’s been given a chance to explore something he really loves.
“Basta pagakyat ko a sa entablado, mas ineenjoy ko, although kinakabahan ako, mas ineenjoy ko yung moment, (When I go on stage, even if I’m nervous, I just enjoy the moment)” he said.
Carlo recalled first falling in love with music when he was around 7 or 8 years old. His father and his relatives on his father side were all musically inclined, so he grew up listening to the same artists his father did: Matt Monro, the Beatles, and the BeeGees.
Later on, his brother taught him to play the guitar – which was a struggle, Carlo said, because he’s a lefty and his brother is right-handed. Still, he kept at it, until he got good enough to be signed by Ivory Music, his current label.
As difficult as it is to balance his duties as a recording artist with his crazy life as an actor, Carlo makes it happen. After all, his love for music is equal to his love for acting.
“Hindi mo ko mapapapili (you can’t make me choose),” he said, when asked about which craft he would choose if he had to.
“Hindi ko kaya. Hanggang kaya kong mapagsabay, gagawin ko (I can’t choose. As long as I can keep doing both, I will).”
He explained that music is a different outlet for him because he doesn’t have to play a character – he gets to be himself.
“Pag umaarte ako, hindi nila ako nakikita as Carlo. Yung character yung nakikita nila. Pero pag kumakanta ako, nasa stage ako, personal yun. Mas yung emotions ko, sakin mismo nanggagaling, hindi dun sa character, di katulad sa acting,” he explained.
(When I’m acting, they don’t see me as Carlo. They see the character. But when I’m singing, when I’m on stage, that’s personal. My emotions come from me, not from the character, unlike acting.)
Doing both allows him to have balance in his life.
Carlo released his debut single as a solo artist in April. The song is called “Komplikado,” and, as the title suggests, speaks of a complicated relationship. Carlo came up with the initial riff for the track, then Silent Sanctuary’s Sarkie Sarangay took it and turned it into what it is.
His cover of “Balisong” is set to be his follow up single. He shared that he chose from a list, and narrowed it down to two Rivermaya songs, the other being “Your Universe.”
Obviously, “Balisong” won out.
“Parang nung time na nirelease yung ‘Balisong,’ parang non-stop ko siyang pinakinggan, tsaka ang ganda kasi ng umpisa nun eh – parang lumang plaka tas ‘your face…’ ewan ko parang yun lang yung gusto kong gawin,” he explained.
(At the time that “Balisong” was released, I listened to it non-stop, and it starts of beautifully, like an old record and ‘your face…’ I don’t know, I just wanted to do that.)
Of course, as exciting as his “Balisong” cover is, fans will still probably want to hear originals. Anyway, it’s rare for a music career to thrive based on covers alone. Right now though, Carlo said he has too much going on in his life to write music.
“Ngayon kasi parang masyadong maraming nangyayari sa buhay ko para makapagsulat. Before, ganun, kung ano yung nangyayari sa paligid ko, kung ano nangyayari sa personal life ko, dun ako kumukuha,” he shared.
(Right now, there’s too much happening in my life for me to write. Before, I would write about whatever’s happening around me, whatever’s happening in my personal life. That’s where I would draw inspiration.)
Like many artists, Carlo is able to write better when he’s sad.
“Mahirap para sa kin [magsulat pag hindi malungkot]. Kahit naman sa acting eh ganun eh, kapag may mga eksenang mabibigat parang mas madaling pumasok sa character pag may pinagdadaanan ka. Ang sarap din sa pakiramdam pag nakakacreate ka ng something dahil sa nararamdaman mo,” he said.
(It’s hard for me [to write when I’m not sad]. Even with acting, if there are heavy scenes, it’s easier to get into character if you’re going through something. It feels great to create something from what you’re feeling.)
Just enjoying the ride
While fans may not be getting original music out of Carlo anytime soon, they do Carlo is currently gearing up for Liwanag in Concert – his first headlining solo concert, which is set to be held on August 31 just a few days before his 34th birthday.
The concert will be held at Music Museum. It’s a venue favored for its intimacy – even someone seated way back can feel connected to the performer on stage somehow – so if there’s anywhere one can see a different side of Carlo, it’s there.
After hitting the milestone that is headlining his first concert, what’s next for Carlo, music-wise?
He’s not quite sure yet. There are musicians that he wants to collaborate with (for instance, Unique), and gigs that he wants to play, but Carlo seemed a bit apprehensive at mapping out a plan for his music career.
He spoke about the difficulty of breaking into the music scene, even for someone who is already as famous and well-connected as he is.
“Alam mo yung feeling na…gustong gusto mag-gig pero yung pakiramdam mo parang hindi ka welcome? Kasi artista ako eh diba. Iba yung music scene eh,” he said.
(You know the feeling of…you really want to do gigs, but you feel like you’re not welcome? Cos I’m an actor. The music scene is different).
“Kasi kapag singer tas nagartista, parang mas madali yung transition. Diba pagka artista ka naman tas nagtry ka mag music ang hirap ipenetrate eh,” he said. “So sana, hopefully mabigyan ng chance na makapag-gig.”
(When you’re singer and you start acting, it seems like the transition is easier. But if you’re an actor who tries music, it’s hard to penetrate. Hopefully, I’ll be given a chance to play gigs.)
He showed the same apprehension when asked if he considers himself a musician.
“Ayoko sabihin eh,” he answered. “Gusto ko manggaling siguro sa ibang tao.”
(I don’t want to say it. I want it to come from other people.)
Whether he’s labelled a musician or not doesn’t seem to matter to Carlo anyway. He’s enjoying the experience, no matter what he’s considered to be.
“Basta ako, ineenjoy ko lang na nakakapagrelease ako ng single, nakakapagrecording ako, nakakacollab ko yan, sina Zack (For me, I’m just enjoying that I’m able to release a single, record, and collaborate with people like Zack),” he said.
“Diba ang sarap na ng pakiramdam na yun, meron kang, ‘halika subukan mo to, gawin natin to’? Sobrang nakakagaan na ng kalooban yun (It feels good, right, that you have something to experiment with, to try. It feels really good).”
The way he said it, Carlo seems to be taking his music career one day at a time. He's refreshingly modest about his music – and perhaps a tad bit uncomfortable still at breaking into a new industry?
At any rate, he is at least enjoying the experience – and fans at least get to hear him sing a classic OPM love song, which for now might be good enough. – Rappler.com
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