When shared, the musings of an introvert boast a special sort of levity. Rising R&B artist Alaina Castillo possesses this quality, soft-spoken and gentle, when she speaks, you lean in to listen. And you aren’t the only one listening, over the past several years Castillo has steadily built her creative kingdom, first on YouTube and eventually moving to the global viral charts.
Castillo turned to YouTube to kick start her career out of necessity. Never explicitly encouraged to pursue music as a full time profession, she turned to medicine instead, studying Biology at the University of Texas in Austin. Yet, instead of cramming for exams, she was drawn to her microphone and camera, creating exquisite lullabies for the YouTube community. Though she wasn’t fully cognizant of it at the time, these were the quintessential first steps she needed to take in order to mold the beautiful career she revels in today.
That career has exploded in the past few years. Upon leaving Biology and moving to Los Angeles, she partnered with primary collaborator and producer, RØMANS (Lewis Capaldi, Ella Mai, Demi Lovato), and together, the pair began to morph the young artist’s sound. That sound is best described as euphonious: soft, pleasant and honeyed, Castillo’s R&B infused pop music is nothing short of a sonic treat. Having released two EPs to date including ‘antisocial butterfly’ (2019) and ’the voicenotes’ (2020), she was named Spotify’s sole United States RADAR artist of 2020, proving that Castillo is poised for a breakthrough even your grandparents will hear about.
We had the chance to catch up with Castillo on everything from her proudest to most embarrassing moments, her secret hobby, and a bit of real-world advice for fellow introverts.
Favorite quarantine activity?
I think the studio time. I’m co-quaranting with my producer, so everyday I get to go the studio.
Favorite TV show as a middle schooler?
‘Jessie’ from Disney Channel.
Most underrated artist?
I love SG Lewis. I don’t think he’s underrated, but he’s awesome.
Favorite song that your parents’ played when you were a kid?
There’s this song by the Beach Boys called “Kokomo” and they always played that song whenever we were out by the pool.
Most embarrassing moment?
I always used to tell stories with no ending… I remember being really uncomfortable in a friend group I had in middle school… I was telling a joke or something and we all sat at this big round table and I laughed and spit out my water everywhere. And I was just like “Woah okay, this is great. I love my life.”
What initially drew you to make covers on YouTube?
A big reason was that I just wanted it to happen and I didn’t know how everything was gonna happen, but I was like “Okay, I want to sing for a living. How do I make that possible with the supplies I have now?”
What social stigma does society need to get over?
Mmm. I feel like when someone who has a lot of eyes on them makes a mistake, everyone really really hates on them and it’s as if nobody else makes mistakes in their life… So I think that everyone needs to get over that and expect that people are going to learn from their mistakes and eventually grow and change.
Best piece of advice you’ve ever received?
I think to define myself as a person before I let other people define me…
What is an unusual hobby of yours?
Cleaning! I love cleaning. If I’m having a busy week and Saturday is coming, I’m so excited to clean… because it’s just nice little relaxing thing for me to do.
Favorite cleaning supplies?
I love Lysol and Windex is amazing!
Which of your bad habits would be the hardest to give up?
Yikes, I think sleeping in. I know I will eventually have to start waking up early, but I just love sleep so much.
What is your spirit animal?
I think a black panther and I just decided this like two years ago, but just because they are very dark and mysterious and kind of do their own thing.
What did you google last?
I was actually practicing my Spanish so I was on the google Spanish to English translator.
As a self proclaimed introvert, do you have advice for overcoming social anxiety?
Stick with the shy people so you can blossom together and create meaningful friendships with them.
How has your career changed since being named Spotify’s sole United States RADAR artist of 2020?
So much because it gave me the opportunity to share my music with more people. I talk to my fans a lot so that has increased a lot, I’m finding out more and more that they relate to it and they love it…
How do your Mexican roots influence your music?
Even though my dad didn’t really speak Spanish to us growing up as kids, he would listen to music… the more classical kind of music. So when I found my own Latin music, I think it was more of the vibe of it or the attitude of the song… There’s a bad bitch energy going on, so I like to take aspects of that and apply it to my songs.
What’s the most beautiful place you’ve ever seen?
I have two places. I went snowboarding with my family in Colorado a couple of years ago and we went to the top of this mountain and it was snowing… so it was fresh snow and you couldn’t see that far ahead of you… we were at the top of this huge mountain and the world just looked endless.
Another one is by my house around my lake, my dad is very big on running, so whenever I used to go on runs and the sun would be setting or something like that, the pictures that I would take looked so amazing… there were purple pictures and dark orange pictures, so definitely the view from my lake.
If you had to pick a new name for yourself, what name would you pick?
I’ve thought about this so many times… I think I would change it to Athena…
What movie or book do you know the most quotes from?
‘Twilight’ probably (laughs).
Proudest moment in your career thus far?
When I saw that ‘just a boy’ was on the U.S. Viral Chart and then the Global Viral Chart on Spotify. That really hit me, I was like “Oooh shoot, that’s what people are listening to,” so that was a very happy moment for me.
CONNECT WITH ALAINA CASTILLO
photos / Chris Shelley
story / Jessica Thomas