singers

The makings of rising OPM artist Paolo Sandejas

Juno Reyes

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The makings of rising OPM artist Paolo Sandejas

Paolo Sandejas' Instagram page

There’s more to this indie pop artist than getting recognized by BTS' V – we learned more about his inspirations, interests, and future plans!

MANILA, Philippines – By now, you’ve probably already heard of Paolo Sandejas, the OPM artist whose song “Sorry” BTS’ V sang in his vlog. While the 21-year-old Computer Science major initially dubbed “Sorry” as the anthem for his biggest heartbreak, the track has breathed new life into his music career two years after its release. 

“​​It was a tough heartbreak in the sense that I had a lot of things I never got to tell that person. And then [the song] was my way of getting closure for that relationship and just putting out all my regrets and my feelings into the universe,” Paolo told Rappler in an interview.

His romantic woes unexpectedly translated into a rapid outpour of success. From V’s vlog alone, Paolo quickly gained traction among local and international BTS fans – otherwise known as ARMYs – and began to see his music steadily climb the charts. It wasn’t long before his monthly listener count on Spotify shot up to over 350,000.  

But beyond his getting featured in the BTS member’s YouTube video, Paolo has already proven to be on his way to “making himself at home” as one of the most well-loved local artists in the Philippines. 

Swaying with the odds

Growing up listening to mellow rock-pop blues artists like John Mayer, Paolo had known early on about music’s magical ability to leave a lasting impact on listeners given the right blend of notes. Eventually, Paolo tried his hand at composing his own songs in his early teenage years. 

“I wrote a couple [of songs] and they were really bad to begin with. I was maybe 13 or 14,” the now-21-year-old shared. “It was always just a happy place for me to express myself and process the things I was going through as a young teen and now [as a] young adult.” 

Despite this, becoming a recording artist had never really been an immediate dream for Paolo; all he knew was that music moved him. But his affinity for music only solidified by the day – so much so that in 2018, he decided to perform at another high school’s Battle of the Best competition. 

Paolo emerged victorious twice that day. Other than bagging the top prize, he went on to get scouted by the record label Universal Records, which he remains signed under today. Since then, his newfound career as a recording OPM artist has been nothing short of fruitful. With 10 singles and one EP, Paolo is just getting started. 

Playing hide and seek

Fueled by the mundane, Paolo takes his creative inspiration from the seemingly ordinary. Listening to his favorite playlist and enjoying the different sounds he hears on the radio may seem like totally normal things to do, but that’s when his songwriting prowess really reaches its peak. 

“Let’s say I’m in the car and I hear a song on the radio, and I like what [the artist] did with the chord progression or the way they sang the melody. I think, ‘Maybe I can incorporate it into my own sound,’” shared Paolo, who described his music as a continuous process of exploring and experimenting. 

But like any creative out there, he’s bound to encounter a few things that will hamper his progress as a rising musician. Paolo’s most resounding struggle – other than the occasional writer’s block – is finding an audience to appreciate his craft. 

“It’s really tough to find people [who will listen], especially when people don’t know you,” he said. 

But with his ability to cut across different genres and take on different musical personas, it looks like this won’t be a problem for Paolo anymore in the near future. Though he found himself racing to fit his music into just one genre, this dilemma of his actually ended up working out well for him. 

On the days when he’s feeling upbeat, jazzy, and carefree, he appeals to a specific set of listeners. Meanwhile on the days when his lyrics foster a sense of melancholy, a totally different audience swoops in – showing that his difficult quest to find a single distinct audience to share his music with was something he didn’t need to worry about all along. 

As Paolo continues to reel in new listeners, there’s a noteworthy legacy he hopes to leave behind – one of positivity, growth, and encouragement. 

“I want to make people feel good – help them calm down, relax, and help them find comfort and reassurance if they’re going through something like a heartbreak,” he said. 

Even after he finally completes his Computer Science degree in December, Paolo will always be here to stay. His music will remain one of the best mediums for people to find the closure and peace of mind they deserve. 

Paolo is just beginning to enter the new era of his music. With a new exciting EP and a few other singles coming along, he’s already on the road to turning his dream of establishing himself as one of Asia’s go-to indie-pop acts into reality. As Paolo proudly graces the world with more of his musical ingenuity, he’ll show everybody that he’s definitely not just the guy whose song BTS’ V sang along to. – Rappler.com

Juno Reyes is a Rappler intern.

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