When GALE wrote her first song at age seven, she thought she could be a superhero.
Titled “Amor Sincero”, the salsa track was dedicated to a boy who didn’t love him back. “When I finished writing it, I was like, ‘Wait, did I just create something that didn’t exist just using a melody and chords?'” she recalls. “I thought I had a super power. Since then I just kept going.”
Expressing herself through music came easily to the Puerto Rican singer-songwriter, who grew up surrounded by artistic spirits. Her father is also a musician – who, along with his band, performs at local events. His grandfather was a professional cuatro player. During this time, her mother was an actress who did theater. “I’ve always been 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 her debut album.
Even before she learned to play professionally at the Escuela Libre de Música, her father had been grooming her for the big stage since she was a little girl. “He used to play me at every family gathering,” GALE explains. “He said to me, ‘If this is what you want to do all your life, you have to practice.’ I was like, ‘I just want to go play hide and seek with my cousins!’ But then I was singing 10 songs and enjoying it.
Now, GALE has become a go-to songwriter for a handful of artists — and on November 17, she won her first Latin Grammy, thanks to songwriting credits over Christina Aguilera. Aguilera, which scored Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album, and is also nominated for Best Latin Pop Album at the February Grammys. “If you work hard and show it, it happens. It is grounding.
Creating a path for herself is what GALE – who grew up listening to Shakira, Avril Lavigne and Selena Quintanilla – have focused on since moving to Miami from Puerto Rico after Hurricane Maria. “First, I knew that I had to struggle to make things happen,” she explains. “What I always wanted was to have my own project as an artist and that’s what I was going to do no matter what. But how would I get there? I thought I would start writing with other artists and build those relationships. Then get a publishing deal and get signed to a label.
So she started going door to door and visiting publishing houses to show them the catalog of songs she had recorded in her closet. Her first big breakthrough came in 2019, when peermusic invited her to a session with Colombian artist Fanny Lu, at which time they co-wrote “En Mis Tacones”. Since then, she says, the doors have opened thanks to “word of mouth because the producers began to recommend me, Fanny Lu wanted to work with me again”.
She eventually landed a publishing deal with Warner Chappell Music and a recording deal with Sony Music Latin. Then she 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 down next to me and said, ‘Do you sing [on the demo]?’ I was like, ‘Yeah,’ and she said, ‘What a beautiful voice.’ In my head I was like ‘Oh my God, I practiced singing Mi Reflejo every day, I know the album inside and out. I practiced singing all your songs…’ But what I really said was, ‘Thank you, you have a great voice too.’ It was a moment,” she laughs.
Grateful that writing songs for other artists has opened doors, she is now also focusing on her own project, with plans to release her debut album in 2023 – which would include her three singles, ‘Inmadura’, ‘Prolemas ” and “D-Pic”. Describing her style as “Bad Bunny meets Dua Lipa meets Avril Lavigne”, her early songs showcase her raw, edgy songwriting skills and her pop-punk and rock influences. And, instead of going down the collaboration route, she decided that her early songs wouldn’t feature other artists. “It’s me saying, ‘This is who I am and that’s it, I hope you like it,'” she says. for now, it’s just me.”
Below, learn more about this month’s hottest Latin artist, in his own words:
Last name: Caroline Isabel Colon Juarbe
Recommended song: Oh crap, that’s hard. Because my three singles are all different, but they’re similar in that they’re raw and honest. I guess if someone is more into the romantic and nostalgic vibe, then give “Inmadura” a listen. But if someone is like their badass days, then they have to listen to “D-Pic”. And “Problemas” is like the perfect musical mix 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 will have a real representation of who I am as an artist.
Greatest accomplishment: Starting to take my songs that originate from a vulnerable and intimate place and perform in front of a live audience. One of my favorite performances is the one I did at Latin Music Week in September. It was magical. The connection with people was amazing. I thought, “Dn, I’m ready for this.” I’ll share this before I got on stage, I called my dad and he said, “My love, don’t worry, from the stage you can’t see anyone because of the spotlights. You just do your thing. As soon as I go on stage, I see everyone’s faces.
And after: I’m working on my first album, which is almost finished. It’s very special, because it was born after a breakup, the exact moment when I decided to end this person who I knew, from the very beginning, that this person was not my the person. But I wanted it to work. When I broke up with them, all these songs started coming to mind and they represent different stages. Because it hurts to hurt someone, it’s a roller coaster of feelings.
I’m very excited for the album. It’s coming early to mid next year. And I will definitely do more shows next year. I’m actually playing at the Fiestas de la Calle San Sebastián in Puerto Rico in January, which is a huge event. It’s legendary in my country.