GALE: “MUSIC IS A NECESSARY PART OF MY LIFE”
Name: Carolina Isabel Colón Juarbe, “GALE”
Profession: Singer and composer
Birthplace: Arecibo, Puerto Rico
Zodiac sign: Taurus
LATINNESS: Gale, how did you discover music?
GALE: Music has always been a part of my life. I wrote my first song at the age of seven and I thought I had super powers.
I grew up in quite a musical household. My dad is a musician. My grandfather played the cuatro. My life evolved in a space that was open to creativity.
I remember my father listening to boleros or songs from yesterday, like Pablo Milanés, Armando Manzanero… My mother was more into pop rock, especially from the eighties, and music in English. That was my influence and I loved it.
After my parents divorced, my mother and I moved to the capital, San Juan, where I studied. At the age of 16, I auditioned at the Escuela Libre de Música, a school specialized in classical music, and they selected me. I also took private singing lessons.
Ever since I wrote that first song, I kept doing it. I went to university, I did musical theater in Puerto Rico and right after Hurricane Maria, I moved to Miami in search of an opportunity to achieve my dream.
I started writing songs with other artists and building relationships. I wanted a publishing contract and I got it. I wrote songs with Christina Aguilera, Shakira and Juanes, who has been a key person in my career as an artist because he connected me with my manager, Rafa Restrepo. I was working on my musical project then with Dallas K and that’s when Sony signed me as an artist. This happened in January of last year and I’ve already released three songs.
LATINNESS: An impressive achievement in record time. What was the experience of moving to Miami like for you? Was it easy to enter the local music industry?
GALE: It’s been one of the most difficult things I’ve had to do because I’m very attached to my family and they’re all in Puerto Rico. I started working at Let It Beat, an academy founded by Guillermo Vadala and Nerina Nicotra, who are rockstar bassists, legends from Argentina. This experience really helped me.
It was part-time because I needed to have that, but I kept paving my path as a songwriter, as an artist. Little by little, I achieved it.
I started knocking on different publishers’ doors and they were interested in me. They put me in rooms with various artists. My first session was with Fanny Lu, and from there, it was a lot of word of mouth. The producers recommended me, the other songwriters, as well, and so I was able to build a reputation as a songwriter. A year and a half later, I got my deal.
LATINNESS: You have an innate talent for composing, whether for others or for yourself. Why do you write?
GALE: It feels like if I don’t, I’ll die. I always knew I wanted to be an artist, to write songs and to sing in front of an audience. The connection I had and still have with music is super strange, but beautiful and special because it’s a necessary part of my life. It’s the easiest way to express myself, to say what I feel.
I’ve been keeping a diary since I was six years old. Imagine a young girl so connected and dramatic! It’s impressive when I re-read those things.
When I write for myself it’s chaotic, vulnerable and beautiful. When I do it for other artists, I’m a little more detached because I know I’m writing for them. The process is different.
LATINNESS: Do you still keep a diary?
GALE: I’m running out of pages on the one I’m using! I have to find another notebook that gives me the same good energy and keep writing. I don’t do it every day, only when I need to express myself or remember something that happened or that I want. I like to relive and feel those things again when I go back to it.
LATINNESS: Some of your songs are about serious and vulnerable topics such as D-pic, which is inspired by a story that happened on the subway. Where do you draw inspiration from?
GALE: Definitely from experiences, things that’ve happened to me and to my friends or close people.
You always have a friend who is like a psychologist. I was that person for my circle of friends. I’ve never been one to say anything– I save that for songs. D-Pic, although it sounds super cool, pop, fun and grungy, it’s actually serious because it’s about consent, about unsolicited photos being sent to women, and that’s not right, especially in the digital age we live in.
I talk about it in my own way. I loved writing the song because I haven’t heard anything on this topic and I needed to say it. It’s happened to me and it’s very uncomfortable.
LATINNESS: Tell us about the inspiration behind your new single Nuestra Canción.
GALE: Nuestra Canción has another mood. It’s vulnerable in the sense that it’s about accepting that a relationship is over. It’s about a break up I went through. I broke up with this person because it was clear that he wasn’t good for me. Sometimes it happens, when you’re with someone that you have a thorn from the beginning, but you stay there because of the emotion.
When I began to feel I was losing myself in that relationship and ceasing to be me, I said: “Enough!” Nuestra Canción is more about the closure.
I got to the studio and said, “I want to write this song.” It’s really beautiful because it’s nostalgic and vulnerable, but empowering, as well. It’s like “I’m going to go out instead of staying here crying. I’m going to go out, I’m going to ask for our song and I’m going to dance to it. That’s how I’m going to let you go.” So that’s what Nuestra Canción means.
LATINNESS: You mentioned Juanes and the importance of that relationship in shaping your career. Is it important to have mentors in the music industry?
GALE: They are very important to me, especially Juan. The connection we had when we started writing was really beautiful.
He was looking for a girl to write some songs for his album. He contacted Warner Chappell, the publishing house I’m signed to, and they recommended me. We got together and it was very nice.
In that session he told me: “Gale, why aren’t you a star? What do you need? Why don’t you have your project? I told him: “I have these songs, I’m working on my project, I need a team. I’d like to have a team.” He gave me excellent advice. He still does. He helped me get my manager and start my team.
The management company with which I am signed, which is 1S, is with Rafa and with him. Then I got an opportunity with Sony, which came about in a session with Wisin y Yandel. Afo Verde, who is the president, told me: “Gale, come here. I know you’re a composer, but I didn’t know you had your musical project as an artist. May I have the honor of listening to these songs? Can you show me tomorrow because I’m leaving on a trip on Friday?
Thank God I had the songs, at least the demos. I showed him the songs, and Alex Gallardo, who is a key player in my project, was there. They believed in me, in what I do, and well, that’s how that opportunity happened.
Shakira is also another person with whom I connected very well. They’ve all been very beautiful and real. They’ve given me advice about moving forward and how difficult the industry is, but also on how to be strong and to believe in myself, in my gut. I appreciate it very much.
LATINNESS: You’re experiencing a moment of globalization of Latin American music. How does it feel?
GALE: I love it. It’s the best moment, and even more so with the genre that I’m doing and working on, which is what I identify with, what I am. It’s like this pop, but also rock grunge and urban because I’m from Puerto Rico and because I love the melodies, the conversational lyrics. My music is the combination of those three genres, it has that vibe.
Now, I feel like the challenge is to connect, because it’s not the mainstream sound. It’s not just reggaeton, it’s not what’s playing now. I love reggaeton, I just didn’t want to get into that space, I just wanted to do my thing.
I believe that the way to connect with people is by being faithful and honest with who I am and with my essence. I love the challenge.
LATINNESS: What is a day in the life of Gale like?
GALE: I exercise a lot because it helps me mentally and also on stage. I have to train to sing live, so I do it every day.
In the morning, I answer some emails, I connect with management to see what needs to be done or what they need from me. Usually, I go to the studio to write, to work on a song or to finish it.
Today I have therapy, which is important to me. I go once a week or else I’ll explode. Afterwards, I return to the studio to work or record.
LATINNESS: I always wonder how artists can sing and dance as well as remember the lyrics and movements all at once. What is the training like for that?
GALE: It’s crazy. I forget the lyrics to my songs, but it fascinates me. Exercise helps me a lot, especially with being present and in control of my body, of my heart rate, of my performance, to be able to let go, dance and connect with music.
That’s what I want to achieve in the end– to get into the songs and transmit. To do that I need to have stamina because it gets complicated.
LATINNESS: Also the idea of having so many people in the audience and the energy that one must feel…
GALE: Sure, and there are more elements too. I’m just starting, however, other things can be added. For example, there are many artists who have monitors with the lyrics of songs they’ve sung their entire lives and they know them, but what happens? They forget because of those other things. If they don’t remember a part, they just need to look and it keeps running.
They’re important elements that are added when one has money to invest in them. Also, to continue growing the team, because it’s a lot of work. Right now I’m with my band and with some super cool visuals that represent the mood of each song, because I wanted that. I didn’t want dancers on the stage; this Beyoncé style formation that I love, it’s not my vibe so much. I like Freddie Mercury’s or Shakira’s better. Just connect and that’s it.
LATINNESS: What do you love most about your culture?
GALE: The people. If I speak specifically of myself, of Puerto Rico, I love the people of Puerto Rico. I love our warmth, the affection, how dear they are and how they receive you.
Also the food. I’m a foodie. I love food; it’s my passion. I also love life; I’m a person that’s very connected with everything, with the moment.
Every time I sit down to eat, I savor every bite and I can be present. I love Creole food: white rice with red beans, steak with onion and amarillitos, which are sweet plantains. My mouth is watering and I just ate.
I also love Latin music; it’s top.