26 year old Bronx born and raised music artist, actor and Cardinal Hayes graduate, Christopher Estrada, is definitely starting off the year right and hit the ground running. Today he released his first single and music video and in early February will begin production on ‘Heartland’, an independent film written by Bronxite Orlando Reyes.
‘Music is My Only Love’, is written by Christopher Estrada with original music by Xavier Johnson/Iah Cranks. Vocal production was done by JR Abdelhamid, Founder and CEO of ATOF Studios.
JR Abdelhamid remembers watching Estrada performing at clubs in the NYC area and, “wanted to work with Christopher…I was looking for a talented artist prominent in the gay community to work with. We both value each other’s opinion and understand how important it is to be honest and comfortable with each other’s ideas and criticism.”
Abdelhamid went on to say, “The music industry is a tough business. Not everyone can do it! Its not just about having talent. I always tell Estrada from when we first started working together that I admired his work ethic and as an independent artist you must have the drive, work ethic, and talent to succeed and in my eyes, Estrada has what it takes.”
After the video below, make sure you read our interview with Christopher Estrada where he gets to the nitty-gritty of his journey, growing up in the Bronx, praises for Lehman College’s theatre program, and tough choices and sacrifices he had to make to get to this day. He also tells us about his role in the upcoming independent film, ‘Heartland’, by Bronxite Orlando Reyes, about a young girl who is bullied at school due to her life at home – so she takes matters into her own hands and the resulting action leaves her parents wondering what they can do to help their little girl.
Director: Todd Rocheford
Executive Producer: Christopher Estrada
Creative Director/Producer: JR Abdelhamid
Choreography: Harold David
Styling: Omar Alexander
Hair: Ray Negron
Make Up: James Carrera
How would you describe yourself as an artist?
I’m the type of artist that is constantly evolving. I never want to stick to just one genre of music, or one type of performance. I’m always changing in some way.
Who are your biggest influences?
Daft Punk, Depeche Mode, Stevie Nicks, Seal, Garbage, Sade, Madonna and Jennifer Lopez are some of my biggest musical influences. I’m also really into newer artists like Janelle Monae and Lana Del Rey.
When did you know that you wanted to pursue singing professionally?
I was 13 years old when Kylie Minogue came out with “Can’t Get You Out Of My Head.” I remember recording it off of the radio on a cassette, and playing it over and over until I wore out the tape. That song literally got stuck in my head, and after that, I was never able to shake that feeling of wanting to get stuck in people’s heads.
Tell us about Music is My Only Love.
Music Is My Only Love is my very first single, off of my upcoming album by the same name. It’s really an introduction to the album, and to my audience. It’s the very first thing anyone should know about me, that Music Is My Only Love. Out of all the distractions I’ve faced throughout my life, music has always been this driving force for me, it’s kept me sane and focused, so the single is really about me professing my devotion to my art.
Describe your album.
My album has a little bit of everything, it tells my story up until where I am in my life right now. It’s about this really interesting journey I’ve been on, going from darkness to light, finding myself and figuring out who I am as a person, as an artist and as a man. Each song flows into the next, and I think people are going to be really surprised with the material on this album. I’m exploring so many different genres and pushing myself vocally and lyrically. I feel more aware of myself and my thoughts, and I think this album reflects that. It’s really personal, and my audience is going to know so much more about who I am.
Who is your target audience?
Anyone and everyone who will listen. Anyone who wants to follow me can. Anyone can come to my shows, anyone can relate to my music. I’ll sing for anyone who wants to hear it. Some people might argue that’s too broad of a spectrum, but I’ve always been one to think on a grand-scale.
When can we expect another song to be released?
I already selected a second single, we shot the video just a few weeks ago so it’ll be out very, very soon!
How did you become involved in acting?
I started acting before I even knew what acting was. As a child I was always putting on shows for my family, and as a kid in school I was in every school play. The older I got, the more I wanted to study acting, and the more I fell in love with the craft.
What are some of the plays you were in, including role, and venue?
I did some great work while studying theatre at Lehman College, I played Palomo in Anna In The Tropics by Nilo Cruz, Rooftop in Our Lady of 121st Street by Stephen Adly Guirgis, and Peter Evans in BUG by Tracy Letts. After college I was accepted into the Glass Beads Theatre Ensemble in NYC, during my time with them I did my first Off-Broadway play Lily of the Conservative Ladies, at the June Havoc Theatre and written by Michael Locasio and directed by Mari Gorman, and we also debuted a play called Browsing at the NYC Fringe Festival in 2011 where I played about 5 completely different characters in one show.
What year did you graduate from Lehman College?
I never actually graduated from Lehman College. College is expensive. And after a few semesters studying theater I began to get increasingly restless in my courses. I was anxious about plunging myself further into debt all for a degree that could not guarantee my future. I went to Lehman because of their fantastic Theater program, I learned so much there, but I wanted to be out in the real world, so I broke away from school and I started performing my music in clubs in NYC. I was recommended to theater director Mari Gorman by Marilyn Sokol, who I studied acting with at Lehman, and after a 3-month audition/workshop with Glass Beads I was invited to become a member of the company. It wasn’t an easy decision to leave school, but it was the choice I knew I needed to make. I wanted real-life experience in my field, and I vowed that I would return to school as soon as I could afford to do so.
Tell us about Heartland and how you became involved in it and what role will be.
I did a photo-shoot a few months ago with photographer Christian Reyes, and he introduced me to his brother, Heartland director Orlando Reyes, whose work I had already seen. He told me about Heartland and I loved the concept, I asked him if I could audition for the film but it was already cast.
Then a few months later he reached out to me and said there was a part he thought I’d be great for and sent me the script. I immediately knew it was something I wanted to be a part of. I’ll be playing the role of Jonathan, he’s a father and a gay man, he’s navigating the complexities of parenthood and raising his 13 year old daughter who is at such a difficult time in her own life. His main concern is that his daughter is safe and loved, and he’s devoted to bringing his family together. I think it’s a great part, it’s a powerful story with a beautiful message, and it’s also a completely different character than I’ve ever played before.
What was it like to grow up gay in the Bronx?
I can’t lie, growing up was tough. Kids were cruel. I never felt like I fit in, Middle School was absolute torture. Didn’t have much friends, didn’t hang out with neighborhood kids. I was bullied ferociously, and I spent most of my time feeling like an outcast. I spent a lot of time alone, so I had nothing better to do than invent characters, write songs, and fantasize about a future where I would be loved by the world. I’ve been jumped a few times, I was followed home from school by bullies.
I didn’t know it then, but it was all preparation for my future. I’ve already been ridiculed, I’ve already been rejected, I’ve already been overlooked, I grew-up being the underdog. Now I’m hard as steel and tough as shit. I learned the hard way that I had to stand up for myself and what I believe in. Growing up in gay in The Bronx was a blessing. I have the cojones to go for what I want in life, and I’ll stop at nothing until I get it. I fear no one but myself.
Does your experience as an openly gay Latino from the Bronx influence your music?
My experience as a human influences my music. My music is about wanting love and wanting to be a better version of myself. It’s about learning to believe in myself and the power of my dreams, and that’s something that I think everyone wants. Yes, I am an openly gay Latino from The Bronx, so culturally there are many influences that pour into my music, but I would caution anyone from marginalizing me as an artist because of labels like “gay,” “latino,” or “from The Bronx.”
I have nothing to hide or be ashamed of, I’m very proud of who I am and where I come from, I cannot stress that pride enough, but there are so many more interesting things that make up who I am. My education, my talents, where I’ve traveled, relationships, family, heartbreaks, dead-end jobs, disappointments, loss and failure. I have a lifetime of experiences that influence my music, and I sing and write about things that everybody goes through. We’re all on this one planet together. All humans are 99.9% percent the same, genetically speaking, I’m influenced by all of humanity. It’s the spirit of unity that influences my music.
How has the Bronx influenced you?
The Bronx is tough, there’s no doubt about it. It can be gritty and dark, but pressure makes diamonds in the rough. Nothing is handed to us here in The Bronx, we have to work for it.
People here have to work hard for what they have, we’re self starters. We build ourselves up, that’s what we do. That’s what the bronx has taught me for sure.
What’s your favorite place in the Bronx and why?
Co-op City – I grew up here, it’s my home. It’s a little sanctuary from the rest of the city, plenty of green space, I live high up in the clouds, my home is an endless source of inspiration.
What have been the most difficult obstacles in getting to where you are today?
Myself. My own self-doubts. My biggest obstacle has been, very honestly, to get over myself. Get over all the fears and doubts, the voices in my head that tell me I’m not good enough. It’s all stupid. It’s all bullshit. It’s a lie. And once I finally got that through my head, things started to fall into place.
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Traveling the world, performing my music on stage for everyone and anyone who will listen. More music, more film, more stage. More everything. I want more.
Support local Bronx artists!
You can do so by purchasing ‘Music is My Only Love’ if you like it on iTunes, Amazon and many more.