Alaina Castillo might be your new favorite artist, and she’s only getting started. The Mexican-American songstress hails from Houston, Texas, with a contagious sound that reaches the masses all around the globe. With the ability to sing in both English and Spanish, she pays tribute to her Latin roots while creating original ballads inspired by real-life experiences.
Growing up singing in church choirs, a young Alaina was always bouncing back and forth between school and singing. As a senior in high school, she quickly built a name for herself online uploading ASMR cover videos on Youtube, offering her rendition of songs from artists like Billie Eilish and Ariana Grande. Through posting and talking to her fans, she realized her potential with her own artistry.
Describing herself, she states, “Alaina’s somebody who goes after what she wants. She doesn’t know what she’s getting into, but she goes after it. I want to be happy. I want to live a life I can be proud of.”
Fast forward to 2020, she’s honored to be selected as Spotify’s only US RADAR artist of 2020, a program that focuses on breaking rising artists. Accumulating over 40 million streams to date, she keeps her foot on the gas pedal with her new single “Tonight,” the anti-social party anthem in perfect timing as we’re all quarantined inside our homes.
Flaunt caught up with Alaina via Zoom, who was feeling emotional given the current state of the world. Read below as we discuss her upbringing in Houston, getting her Youtube following, new single “Tonight,” and a standout BTS cosign.
I was emotional yesterday! What’s got you feeling emotional?
I’m in an emotional state today, just life. Life is taking off. I’m missing people… feel out of control. Today I’m like “okay I’m going to clean. I’m going to get everything done, get back on a schedule.”
Being from Houston, what was the household like growing up?
We were south of Houston, closer to Galveston. My parents are very into Christian music, that’s a lot of what I listened to. I remember hearing Spanish guitar songs on the radio, that’s a lot of my music taste. My dad used to take me to these little rock festivals every once and awhile. I had a music upbringing, but I didn’t know until I had to start thinking about music and what I wanted to sing to.
Who were you listening to coming up?
A lot of different music: The Beach Boys, occasional rap when I’d be with friends because my parents were very based in the church. That gave me the love for classic music. I started listening to R&B and incorporated a lot of the cooler styles and sounds. It makes it feel more vibey. My style has a mix of the classic pop R&B, but within those things are a lot of dark sounds. A lot of things that make you feel like you’re in an ethereal setting.
Talk about your Latin roots, I love that you sing in Spanish as well.
My dad’s from Mexico but growing up, he never spoke in Spanish to us. We had to learn it on our own. He’d say he tried to, but nah we don’t know Spanish. I’d see my family in Houston, we’d always go and visit them. In high school when I started learning Spanish, it was something I really felt proud of because I had to go out of my way to learn more about my culture and where I came from. When we started making music for the first time, it was clear it’d be in the music because that’s a part of who I am. It’s a part of the things I think, I think in Spanish sometimes instead of English. We wanted to find our own way to create Latin music without going the reggaeton path.
Was there a turning point where you realized you could do music for a living?
It was on YouTube when I started thinking that. I was going to college for a year before I dropped out. Within my first semester of college, my producer reached out to me. I was already doing YouTube covers, talking to my brother about dropping out of college and pursuing a music career. I didn’t really know how to make it happen until my YouTube channel really started to blow up, I was getting 100K subscribers a month.
How? What was your secret?
I stuck to trends. I tried to do what other people were doing, but I’d make it my own. I’d throw in little vlogs. The thing that really helped was ASMR. I made a “sing you to sleep” ASMR. I wanted to find a way to make it my own and a lot of people really liked it. My channel started blowing up, I thought “oh shit, this could actually happen.”
You recently released “Tonight,” such a vibe. Bring us back to when you created the record.
We worked on that during quarantine, it was an upbeat disco vibe. The first lyric that came to mind was “tonight” for the chorus, but I don’t party or go out. We’re like “how can we change it so it’s more my style ?” That’s why it switched to staying and being antisocial, wanting to go home at the end of the day. “Tonight” is that quarantine vibe: stay in, eat food. Do whatever you want.
Are you still an introvert?
Oh yeah, definitely. Now I want to go out because we’ve been in so much. That’s me missing my family and friends. That’s the song for now because everyone’s staying in and having to find new things to do.
Any new hobbies or interests during quarantine?
Painting. We’ve done a lot of binge watching, going over all the old classic movies like Pride and Prejudice. I didn’t think I’d start painting, but that’s one of the things we picked up.
How are you dealing as you gain fame and attention?
Now, I have a barrier because of quarantine. I’m staying in my apartment and going to my producer’s house, that’s it. The stress has started to affect me a little bit because I’m not used to everything I’m having to do. It’s making sure I’m staying happy while staying super super busy. I like to be productive but sometimes when I feel out of control, I’ll start to shadow in and border myself off. It’s been learning how to accept everything that’s coming and take it as it is.
What can we expect for the visual for “Tonight”?
The whole concept of the visuals, I’m obsessed with. It’s a little space trip, an ethereal pinch of dust and iridescence. It’s a trippy visual, I’m really excited to see.
Favorite shows on Netflix?
Right now, my OG one might be Elite. I started watching Dark Desire but Elite is better than that for me. I’m watching Jurassic Park and The Office, hopefully they don’t take it off.
What’s your cat’s name?
Quill! She’s in my room right now because she’s really loud. She goes crazy sometimes. I don’t know if she’s going to ruin the back of the couch or start scratching on the windows. She likes to go outside. She’s crazy.
“Pass you by” visual hit over a million views, how’s that make you feel?
Because it’s so personal and close to me, I want it to be out there for other people. Now that it has that many views, it’s weird to think about. I hope they’re listening to it and liking it. I can’t believe any of the numbers I’m seeing.
How important is it to live in the moment?
Very important. I don’t want to get caught up in it, because you might start over thinking like I do. It’s very important to see everything happening around you, realize that everything happens for a reason. Everything happens to experience and to learn from, so live in the moment then let it go.
Do you miss performing?
I do. I always got so nervous before, but there’s something about performing. It’s that thing you can’t escape from, even if you’re super hella anxious before. That’s something I really want to do. I really want to get amazing visuals, make it a fun time.
What’s one thing that you want fans to get from the voicenotes?
Music helps fix whatever the hell’s going on. That EP for me is all my issues into 4 songs. It’s helping me talk about them and get it out there. I want them to be able to use it to help them move on from things they’re struggling with.
How would you describe your fashion sense?
I’m very picky, but I’m not. I like oversize things and darker colors. At the same time, I can switch it up and wear a skirt with a tight shirt. It really depends on my mood and what I’m trying to achieve with my outfit or my attitude that day, I’ll put it into my clothes. The pastel colors are more my vibe, with the darker colors too. Half to 75% of my closet is black.
3 things you need in the studio?
Tea, a blanket, and my phone. The tea and blanket are the most important part, because I like to feel comfy.
How’s it feel to have BTS member V cosign “just a boy”?
I still don’t know how to feel about that. When I saw the video, there’s no fucking way. 2 years before that, I started listening to BTS. To see a video of him listening to it, [laughs] no way! That was sick, it really helped with the song too. I don’t know what I’m more excited about: him listening to it or the fact it’s getting out to more people.