Hate him or love him, Canadian superstar Drake has had a knack for bringing little-known artists to the forefront of mainstream attention throughout his career. Some like Migos or The Weeknd were truly diamonds in the rough. Others struck viral gold, and even platinum, only to disappear as quickly as they had come. And when multi-talented singer-songwriter, Gabriel Garzón-Montano collaborated with Drake on 2015’s "Jungle,” Garzón-Montano questioned which category he’d fall into.
“That process was interesting because at first, just because of how much the word Drake arose in conversation every day, he occupied a certain space in my mind, and just the notion of mainstream music verses what I was doing came into mind,” Garzón-Montano says of his post-Drake bump in notoriety.
His 2014 EP, Bishouné: Alma del Huila, was his life’s work up to that point, Garzón-Montano says. A project he slaved over, playing each and every note on his own, with the intent of creating something he felt he could stand by for life. There were no press photos, music videos or media attention. But after Drake laid his hands on Garzón-Montano’s track “6 8,” suddenly there were budgets, infrastructure and a team behind him.
“Basically I was able to create my album in a calm way,” he says. “The exposure definitely just got me more opportunities and I was able to live off what I did truly and really focus on music all the time for the first time in my life.”
That freedom has translated to critical praise for Garzón-Montano, who will open for up-and-coming neo-soul artist, Kali Uchis on Sept. 25 at The Bomb Factory. His debut album, Jardín, was again largely recorded by Garzón-Montano himself, and epitomizes the artist’s unique perspective on music — one he gained at a young age.
His mother, a freelance musician and former member of the Philip Glass Ensemble, had her son pick his first instrument at age 6. Garzón-Montano started with the violin and says he made first chair before he could even read music.
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“I’m a stubborn little fuck. I have to learn things my way, even if it’s going to be the long way,” Garzón-Montano says of his upbringing as a musician. “You grow up with a different relationship to music and it's one that is more, for better or worse, cerebral or theoretical. But it’s also very felt.”
Three years after a near-overnight success story, Garzón-Montano says his second album is already in the works and scheduled to release in early 2019. The learning curve has been rough, he says, but the rooms he’s been playing have been full. And while his collaboration with Drake may have come with the risk of being type-cast as “the guy Drake sampled that one time,” Garzón-Montano has stayed true to himself. Instead, he opted to sacrifice some of the fame, for more of the freedom.
“I think had I been a different type of artist, I could’ve done more with [it]. I think there was a lot of potential crossover that didn’t happen because the style of music I make, and that’s all good,” he says. “I wanted to keep perusing something different. And you know what? Nothing’s really changed. I’m just still doing exactly what I would be doing if there was no Drake and no money.”