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Artist of the Week: Rocky Sandoval

Rocky Sandoval is an R&B singer and songwriter from Tacoma, Washington.

Seattle Refined: How long have you been writing/performing?
Rocky Sandoval: TBH, I wrote my first song when I was 12 years old when I attempted to write lyrics to Kenny G's 'Songbird' album back in the day. But my resume of creating music and performing on all stages stems over 20 years. In my very first performance, I took 2nd place at my elementary school K-6 talent show as a kindergartener!

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Tell us about the artistic process and the different stages that work into it.
Each individual record has had a different type of process. For example, throughout my career, various experiences and real-life situations would dictate how I would create a record at that moment. I tried my best to be as authentic as possible and put myself in my listener's shoes. Honestly, it took a really long time to feel comfortable in my own skin because when I was a younger artist, I wanted to sound like whomever or whatever was hot at the time. It wasn't until I matured later on in my career that I realized that I am a storyteller and that I should also create the music that I wanted to create. I will say this, though, 90% of my records were written inside of my small office or bedroom. I would then take those same records into the bigger studio and work with the top engineers to make sure my vision and sound were brought to life correctly.

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Where does your inspiration come from? What artists have influenced you?
When I tell you that the driving force behind my entire being is my family, it starts with my parents. They are my idols and my mentors. They have inspired me in ways that I never thought possible. I have a huge family on both my Sandoval (father's) and Carino (mother's) side, so each member has been vital to me, and I have a special connection and relationship with all of them. I am particularly close to my brother and cousins. I hold the value of family very, very high. When no one was paying attention or listening yet, it was them who made me feel like a star and made me feel worthy, so seeing their excitement every time I climbed higher up the ladder drove me even more. My die-hard fans also play a major role in my inspiration. Musically, I grew up listening to everything, but I got my start in Jazz and R&B. My grandmother bought me my first saxophone, with the little money she had left, (when I was) in 5th grade, and I took that thing all the way to college. My dad put me on all the Soul and Motown records as a kid, so I think my love for R&B started there. There are too many artists and musicians who have influenced me. It would take me all night to list them!

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What kind of genre is your music? What kinds of things do you write about?
I really don't want to box myself in, but I grew up on old-school 90s R&B; I started studying the greats prior to that era as well. But I had a huge fascination with hip-hop and rap. My mother wouldn't let me listen to those types of records as a kid, but I somehow was able to sneak the new 2Pac and Biggie CD into my boombox while she was at work! In 2022, the sound of R&B has definitely changed, but I would like to think I stay current or even ahead of the trend at times. I have often been called versatile by my peers because I am not afraid to try new sounds. But the constant in all of the music I've written was that it was based on either real-life situations I have seen or have been in or on pure emotion. Writing another love song is one thing, but how can you say 'I love you' in a song in a different way? That's the beauty and the challenge in writing songs and creating records. I used to think there was some kind of formula to writing a great song; there isn't. If it's real and coming from an authentic place, your audience will feel it.

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Do you have one song that means more to you or is extremely special to you?
I have always said that my favorite Rocky Sandoval record is the one that I am about to create. My catalog spans as far back as 2004. I will always remember the very first record I actually recorded that was good (I'm Ready 2004) and (Alligator Skin 2009), which was my first local radio play, but if there was a record that was the epitome of my career, it would be (Mamba Mentality 2020). I was the biggest Kobe Bryant fan not only because of his skill, accolades and impact on the game but because of his work ethic to be the greatest version of himself. His mentality is unmatched. His death impacted me greatly; I was actually in LA attending the Grammys the same day he was killed. But if you listen to the lyrics of that record, it symbolizes my journey and my story to an absolute tee. And I did my best to write references of how Kobe's mentality translated to the way I felt about my career up to that point. I've also done records with some of the biggest producers in music ('Still In Love' prod by The Stereotypes, who cleaned house at the Grammys for their work on Bruno Mars 24K Magic) and (All Night Long prod. by Tha Bizness who scored multiple Grammys for their work with Chris Brown).

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What experiences in your life have shaped your music?
A lot of heartbreak, lol. And I am not talking about relationships. I have been told 'no' a million more times than I have been told 'yes.’ I have failed over and over and over again. But it did something amazing to me; it made me fearless. I think that those lessons from my past failures truly have shaped the person and the musician I am today. I am a better son, brother, cousin, friend, partner and most importantly, person because I have failed so many times. It has helped my artistry greatly because failure takes all the gimmick out of your creation process. When you start creating records freely, and without limitations or fear, you become powerful. I am the ultimate underdog story who never gave up, and I hope that my story can inspire the next person.

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If we want to hear more of your work, where should we go to find it? What about upcoming shows (virtual or in-person)?
You can get all things Rocky Sandoval at www.rockysandoval.com. While I don't have 100,000 followers yet, my fanbase currently is avid and organic. Those few thousand true supporters are the reason that I am able to sell out my local shows consistently. They are the reason I can keep dropping music and keep trying to be the best Rocky Sandoval I can be. I have been so fortunate and blessed to have so many people help me get this far. I am a firm believer in God, and it's really His plan that I am following. This summer 2022 is filled with numerous performances, music festivals and special events, which can be found on my website and all my social media platforms. I believe there are about 12 different opportunities to catch me LIVE from July 2022 - Nov. 2022.

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What is next for you? Anything you're working on right now that you're really excited about?
While the pandemic had all musicians scrambling and in a panic, I still managed to release 14 quality records in that two-year span which ultimately caught the eye of some industry A&Rs. I moved 520 tickets to nearly sell out a local hometown show last October and continued to ride that momentum leading into 2022. By April of this year, I was signed to Warner Music Philippines, and they put out my first single 'Deadstock' which is slowly approaching 100K in just six weeks. The second single through Warner is entitled 'Belly Full Of Lies,' and that is set to release on my birthday, Friday, July 22. What I am most excited about is that the label has green-lighted my Warner debut album for November 2022. It is my best work to date, and I am anxious and ecstatic to release the project to my fans. I am hoping to continue to stay active in the PNW and to continue my Grammy U mentorship for a 4th and 5th term. I have found a new responsibility in being able to be one of those mentors that the younger generation of musicians can reach out to easily!

Lastly, how do you take your coffee? We ask everyone!
Double shot espresso! Or coffee black!

About 'Artist of the Week': Seattle might be notorious for niche coffee shops and scenic waterways, but locals know it's also home to an array of people who love to create. This city is chock-full of artists who we love to feature weekly on Seattle Refined! If you have a local artist in mind that you would like to see featured, let us know at hello@seattlerefined.com. And if you're wondering just what constitutes art, that's the beauty of it; it's up to you! See all of our past Artists of the Week in our dedicated section.

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