A Targa instead of a tart: Happy birthday, Alvaro Soler!
Creative Director: Michael Köckritz Head Image: Till Brönner
BTS: Benjamin Tafel Interview: Wiebke Brauer
Mr. Soler, you moved to Tokyo with your parents when you were ten, studied engineering in Barcelona, experienced a meteoric rise as a musician and performed on stage with Jennifer Lopez in Las Vegas. Let’s start with a simple question: What did you actually want to be when you were young?
When I was maybe eight years old, I wanted to be a video game designer. I had a Gameboy, played Pikachu or whatever we had back then. But there was always a limit, a boundary that someone had defined. Either you could only run up to a certain point or you could just keep dashing to the right. So I wanted to become a video game designer in order to change that.
"Yeah, at some point I decided to study engineering. Design was important to me, I wanted to work in a creative field because I’m a very curious person by nature and I always want to know exactly how something is made and how it works."
ABut things turned out differently, and we’re not even talking about your music career yet.
Yeah, at some point I decided to study engineering. Design was important to me, I wanted to work in a creative field because I’m a very curious person by nature and I always want to know exactly how something is made and how it works. I was interested in materials and wondered why people choose plastic or wood or whatever. So I ended up wanting to be a car designer. Though I also wanted to feel the wind in my face. That had something to do with speed – not with velocity per se, but with freedom.
Okay, but now let’s talk about music.
I love music, it’s in me and with me all the time. When I was little, I learned to play the piano and later took up the guitar. And I knew that music would always be a safe place for me to come back to. In case I was feeling down or needed some time out. But in Spain I didn’t know anyone who was making music. I also didn’t know that it was possible to make a living from it. Which was the reason why I first did something useful, as they say.
"In Spain I didn’t know anyone who was making music. I also didn’t know that it was possible to make a living from it. Which was the reason why I first did something useful, as they say."
Did your parents have a hand in that?
No, I actually chose what to study myself. But right after I graduated, the financial crisis hit Spain. No one in my graduating class could find a job. The internships I was offered paid incredibly poorly. So I decided to make music for a couple of years while keeping my head above water with some side jobs. I set myself two years as a limit. And things just worked out within that ultimatum. Which was totally crazy.
You achieved an incredible level of success in just a very short amount of time. How do you deal with that emotionally?
I’m not really sure. Maybe I’ve been able to process it all so well because, despite all the emotions, I’m actually a very quiet person. Of course, you experience so many things in such a short period of time. That starts with the moment someone recognizes you on the street for the first time. Or when people sing along to a song of yours. The moment you’re on stage with Jennifer Lopez. Then there are the ups and downs. Requests to do a song with someone. The cancellation the following week because of schedule conflicts. If you’re more laid-back as a person, you don’t let all that get to you so much. You can’t let this roller coaster ride affect your private life. That’s important.
You said earlier that music was your safe place. What is it now?
It still is. I notice that whenever I’m on the road and don’t have a guitar with me and I feel like I’m missing something. As soon as I’m back at the piano or have a guitar in my hand, I feel better. Family and friends also play an important role, of course. They are my anchor in this crazy world. And then there’s the normal, everyday things like cooking, going to the supermarket or doing my laundry.
You’re on TV, on Instagram, on the internet – and hopefully you’ll be back on stage again soon. Basically, you’re everywhere. How do you separate the artist Alvaro Soler from the private person?
I don’t think there’s that big of a difference. I’m always the same person, no matter if I’m here talking to you or if I’m up on stage. Though it can be strange at times when my friends hear a single of mine on the radio and the DJ talks about me being number one. For my friends I’m just Alvaro. The guy who used to be a bit nerdy, who they went to school with, who was always a bit shy.
"It can be strange at times when my friends hear a single of mine on the radio and the DJ talks about me being number one. For my friends I’m just Alvaro. The guy who used to be a bit nerdy."
I really used to be quite shy. Although I had no reason to be. But that’s where the music helped me. I’ve grown a lot personally. That’s something beautiful, the fact that music isn’t just a job, but that it also connects you with feelings that carry you away. And that you learn something through music and gain some life experience.
But where do you draw the line between your job as a musician and your private life?
Oh, that’s quite easy to do. Of course, you’ve always got to stay present on Instagram, and I do like to post things there. But the trick is to post things that are important and just not every stupid thing that pops into your head. [laughs]