Gustavo Galindo, who resembles John Mayer both in voice and physical appearance, has been writing since he was 12-years-old about what he knows best — life on both sides of the border and nostalgia. With an American mother and Mexican father, he has always been traveling back and forth. He was born in Mexico City and moved to the U.S. at age 5, where he spent the majority of his life in northern California and then Los Angeles. Lately, he’s been spending more time in Mexico again — to promote his album and write music for well-known Mexican singers like Alejandro Fernandez.
“It’s a big part of my life,” says Galindo, 30, about songwriting. “It’s a way for me to express what I am going through inside. Sometimes things that are hard to express with words have more power through music.”
Although his two diverse cultures sometimes makes him feel like he belongs neither here nor there, he says having different perspectives have helped him in writing his music.
“Being Mexican-American, you’re able to see things you wouldn’t otherwise see,” says Galindo. “The things I go through personally…things that make me think and ponder are things I like to write about.”
He says his last album, “Entre la Ciudad y el Mar” (“Between the City and the Sea”), which dropped in 2011 and was nominated for a Grammy in February alongside two of his favorite bands, Mana and Calle 13, is about his journey growing up between Mexico and the U.S. and finding out who he was as a person.
“You write it, because you need to write it,” says Galindo about how he feels about writing songs. “A Grammy nomination was a prize for years of hard work for my band, my producers — it was a real rewarding experience, and I’m really thankful that it was recognized.”
Right now, he’s back in the U.S. doing one of the other things he loves most — giving back. He says he will be going to seven different cities around the country to spread the message of safe driving to teens — a campaign through State Farm.
“I am really interested in this, because in high school I lost two friends in driving accidents,” says Galindo. “I talk to them about songwriting and using your imagination. I play songs for them. I talk to them about how I got started in music.”
Galindo, who got his start playing in indie bands in L.A., says he learned how to promote himself.
“In the end, if you don’t do it, no one is going to do it for you,” says Galindo who believes in taking initiative in everything, and wants to teach that lesson to youth. “You can do something really well, but if you don’t know how to talk about it, you might not get people to listen to you…I don’t want to be preaching things and not do them myself.”
It was in L.A. he says where he sent a demo of songs in Spanish to the producer of his dreams — multi-Grammy and Oscar-winning legend Gustavo Santaolalla of the Surco label. He was signed to Universal Latino/Surco in 2009 — the producers behind inspirations for Galindo, such as Julieta Venegas, and Juanes.
“Now it’s been three years, and a lot of things have happened,” says Galindo who studied Spanish literature and government at Claremont McKenna College, and thinks more in English but writes songs in Spanish. “It doesn’t matter if it’s English or Spanish as long as it moves you…As long as I can keep making music that’s honest and true, I’d like to continue to make music for the rest of my life.”
He says his next album will be a statement of where he’ll be going musically.
“It’ll be an interesting challenge,” says Galindo. “My last album was full of really great songs, but it might have lacked a little edge…I think it has to come from an extreme standpoint and push the envelope a little bit more…I think that’s what I want to do – push buttons like Calle 13. The other goal is to continue to be a person who does good for the community. It’s important to always give back and not to forget where you came from, because it’s easy to get lost.”