When CRAZY wrote her first song at the age of seven, she thought she could be a superhero.
The salsa track titled “Amor Sincero” was dedicated to a boy who didn’t like her back. “When I finished writing it, I was like, ‘Wait, did I just create something that didn’t exist just by using a melody and chords?'” she recalls. “I thought I had a superpower. Since then, I’ve just kept going.”
Expressing himself through music came easily to the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter, who grew up surrounded by artistic minds. Her father is also a musician – who together with his band performs at local events. Her grandfather was a professional cuatro player. Meanwhile, her mother was an actress who performed theater. “I was always free to experiment,” says the 29-year-old, who has written songs for artists such as Fanny Lu, Juanes and Manuel Turizo, and is currently working on his first album.
Even before she learned to perform professionally at the Escuela Libre de Música, her father had been preparing her for the big stage since she was a little girl. “He used to make me perform every single time at every family gathering,” says GALE. “He would tell me, ‘If this is what you want to do your whole life, you have to practice.’ I thought, ‘I just want to go and play hide and seek with my cousins!’ But then I would sing 10 songs and I would enjoy it.”
Now GALE has become a go-to songwriter for a handful of artists – and the Nov. At 17, she won her first Latin Grammy thanks to songwriting credits on Christina Aguilera’s Aguilera, which scored Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album and is also nominated for Best Latin Pop Album at February’s Grammys. “If you work hard and you manifest it, it happens. It’s grounding.”
Making a path for herself is what GALE — who grew up listening to Shakira, Avril Lavigne and Selena Quintanilla — focused on since moving to Miami from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. “First, I knew I had to work hard to make things happen,” she explains. “What I always wanted was to have my own project as an artist, and that’s what I wanted to do no matter what. But how was I going to get there? I figured I’d start writing with other artists and build those relationships. So get a publishing deal and get signed to a label.”
So she started knocking on doors and visiting publishers to show them the catalog of songs she had recorded in her closet. Her first big break came in 2019 when peermusic invited her to a session with Colombian artist Fanny Lu, who was when they wrote “En Mis Tacones.” Since then, she says, the doors have opened thanks to “word of mouth, because the producers started recommending me, Fanny Lu wanted to work with me again.”
She eventually landed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and a record deal with Sony Music Latin. She then landed on Aguilera’s project – co-writing (with DallasK and Josh Berrios) the Ozuna-assisted “Santo”, which peaked at No. 12 on Billboard‘s Latin Airplay chart in February.
She remembers meeting Aguilera during a writing session for “Brujería”. “She sat next to me and asked, ‘Is that you singing [on the demo]?’ I thought, ‘Yes,’ and she said, ‘What a beautiful voice.’ In my mind I thought, ‘Oh my God, I’ve been practicing singing Mi Reflejo every single day I know the album from cover to cover. I’ve been practicing performing all your songs…’ But what I really said was: ‘Thank you, you have a beautiful voice too.’ It was a moment,’ she says, laughing.
Grateful that songwriting for other artists has opened doors, she has now also focused on her own project with plans to drop her debut album in 2023 – which will include her three singles, “Inmadura”, “Prolemas” and “D-Pic .” Her first songs describe her style as “Bad Bunny meets Dua Lipa meets Avril Lavigne”, showcasing her raw, edgy songwriting skills and her pop-punk and rock influences. And instead of going the collaboration route, she decided that her first would not have other artists. “This is me saying, ‘This is who I am and this is what I hope you like,'” she says. “Collaborations will come because they are also important and valuable. But for now, it’s just me.”
Below, learn more about this month’s Latin Artist on the Rise, in her own words:
Name: Carolina Isabel Colón Juarbe
Recommended song: Oh snap, it’s hard. Because my three singles are all different, but they are similar in that they are raw and honest. I think if someone is more into the romantic, nostalgic vibe, listen to “Inmadura.” But if anyone is like in their bad era, then they need to listen to “D-Pic.” And “Problemas” is like the perfect mix musically of what I do: pop, rock and urban. But if I had to choose, I’d say “D-Pic” because it’s a statement. You get a real representation of who I am as an artist.
Biggest Achievement: Starting to take my songs born from a vulnerable and intimate place and perform in front of a live audience. One of my favorite performances was the one I did for Latin Music Week in September. It felt magical. The connection with the people was fantastic. I was like, “D–n, I’m ready for this.” I want to share that before I went on stage I called my dad and he said:My Beloved, don’t worry, from the stage you can’t see anyone because of the spotlight. You just do your thing.” The first thing when I go on stage, I see everyone’s faces.
What’s next: I am working on my debut album which is almost finished. It is very special because it was born after a breakup, the exact moment when I decided to end things with this person that I knew from the very beginning that this person was not mine person. But I wanted it to work. When I broke up with them, all these songs started coming to me and they represent different stages. Because hurting someone hurts, it’s a roller coaster of emotions.
I am very excited about the album. It will arrive early to mid next year. And I’ll definitely be doing more shows next year. In fact, I’m performing at the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián in Puerto Rico in January, which is a huge event. It is legendary in my country.