Student releases album

Gustavo Lopez

The light start of the song “Stranger” is a dreamy contrast to the opening lyric, “Yes, you made me hate myself, that’s why I miss you all of the time,” in Gemma Castro’s five-song “Gemma EP” released on Aug. 16.

She explained that the opening song represented her, “It was kind of a ballad time daydream, I feel like I’m always super imaginative, always in my head, sometimes not in a good way.”

She is taking a semester off from her music major, and is looking to work more on her music projects.

Castro showcased her talent along with Zineb Fikri, another vocalist student in the campus’ 60th Anniversary celebration on Sept. 17, 2015. The duo sang with Grammy-award winning Latin jazz artist and Cerritos College alumnus Poncho Sanchez.

“I’ve been singing since I was a little girl, I was always in love with the idea of singing,” she said. Castro sang in elementary school, choir, and is studying jazz voice. She said she has only been composing and using her voice for her own music in the last two years.

The end of “Stranger” concludes with the phone ringing and Castro’s mom asking her to pick up the phone.

She said that the album is a sort of loose narrative, one that was ever-evolving depending on the situations in her life.

“The narrative changes meaning to me the more the situations in my life change, but it’s mostly about relationships and liking people and all the nonsense that goes with all the romance, not all the songs are romantic in context. It’s also how I feel about people,” Castro added.

The album shifts gears on the fourth track, an ephemeral melody cut by sirens, and Castro’s voice, reciting a spoken word dialogue of indigenous roots, colonization and rebirth.

The fifth track of the album is sung in Spanish, in the fifth track, “Tu Me Acostumbraste,” a melancholy song of remembering and longing. Castro described herself as a very sensitive person, who loves making sounds and music.

“I think that’s the best thing I got out of this, of course music is made to share.

I felt like there are things I had to get out of my system and this album helped me get that out,” she said.

She started writing the album in May, after leaving the project for another.

“If I were to count in hours, it would be for sure more than a hundred. It’s what I really love to do, it’s definitely a lot of work and the weeks leading up to it I was barely getting any sleep but I enjoyed,” Castro said.

She described the experience as cathartic, like a weight had been lifted off her shoulders.

“It’s a big deal. For so long, I was intimidated by the idea of it, but just to get the first [song] out of the way was a great relief.”

For Castro, the songs started out as medleys in her head, followed by piano and her voice. She laid the bare bones of the song, going back to it and constantly adding new layers of sound and instruments. The last three weeks of making the album, she had friends come in and play instruments to add.

According to Castro her roots and inspirations for singing are jazz. She was also inspired by film scores or composers like Ennio Morricone, adding natural sounds and dialogue to tell a story.

This is the reason she made the decision to add natural sounds to the EP.

“I just kind of wanted to stay true to life and who I am. I wanted to be authentic,” Castro said.

She’s grateful for the positive feedback she’s gotten from its release and is positive about the future.

“The feedback has been really beautiful I’m super grateful that people listened to it, it’s a great feeling,” she said.

She joked that her family was a bit confused by the nature sounds and the voices, but were very supportive. It amazed her that people she didn’t know had heard her album. “I‘m grateful that it’s a super positive for someone, but personally having theses songs exist helps me.”

Castro also said she didn’t think about how to promote the album until it was done. When the album was just done, she just started sharing it on her social media accounts.

She plans to change and plan before releasing another album.

“I want to start playing these songs live, do videos, and definitely make more songs, because of time, for sure next year it’ll be a longer album. The songs on this EP were chill and nice, relaxing, maybe for next time I want something a bit more complex,” Castro said.

She remembers the project as daunting but something she had to get done regardless. After its release, Castro encourages other artists to push through and create.

“Do it because you’ll enjoy it, because you’re capable and the only way for it to happen is if you do it. No one is going to change the situation for you,” she said.

She added that we’re suffocated by music, and that it’s intimidating to create something new.

“At some point you have to say I want to make this music, but not because I have to prove anything, but because the songs you make no one’s going to make but you,” she said.

She described it as wanting to hear something that didn’t exist yet. It got to the point where the act of not doing it was more suffocating than avoiding it.

“I feel like a lot of people wait around for someone to tell them ‘now’s the time,’” she added.