Little Miss Dynamite is Ready to Explode:
The Rise of April Mestiya
by: Jeff Hightower
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Back to the nest...
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The funny thing about an explosion is that it starts from one single spark. In this case that spark is 17 year old April Mestiya. Sheâ€™s not your everyday household pop star. She provides a positive role model to her fans by living life the smartest and best way possible. In order to chase her dream, she completed her education, mastered various foreign languages, and has a very firm foundation upon which to grow with her dreams. Diversity, Intelligence, Drive & Talent are good ways to describe April. With her cultural blends, she is able to broaden her horizons and have a better look and relationship with an extremely diverse and growing fan base, of which she is very thankful and proud to have. Just as her manager Fred Baugher says about her, â€œThe first time I heard April Mestiya sing I knew that she would be a huge star someday because she possesses the rare ability to musically connect with people on their deepest emotional levels with ease.â€� Manager/mother Debbie couldnâ€™t be more please with the level-headed growth and fierce determination that April has shown, adding â€œWhen the public gets to know Little Miss Dynamite, a nickname given to my daughter by Five Starâ€™s Doris Pearson, I am confident they will love her as much as I do.â€� Weâ€™ve only started to see the beginnings of what seems to be the rise of a new star, April sat down with HMM to talk and make it clear that she is not just another face in the crowd. She is an amazingly talented young singer who is preparing to take the world by storm. So please welcome to the â€œHornetâ€™s Nestâ€� the charismatic, talented, and lovely Ms. April Mestiyaâ€¦ ________________________________________________________________________ HM: Can you describe the April Mestiya brand of pop music in one sentence? A.M.: Thatâ€™s easy. My music is highly original; fun; edgy; relevant; heartfelt; smart; honest and a must-have for every pop fanâ€™s music collection. HM: In 2005, you began performing on the southern Texas underground hip hop circuit which runs from San Antonio to Brownsville and all points in between. Within a year you climbed your way to the top. You were headlining shows; in great demand; well paid; and everything seemed to be going your way. Then you surprised promoters and fans alike by walking away from it all. What happened? A.M.: Performing on the hip hop circuit was a great learning experience for me and lots of fun. The fans are awesome and I enjoyed performing for them. Every time I stepped out onto the stage I gave them my best effort. But the truth was I never saw myself as an authentic hip hop artist. I was a classically trained, award winning choral vocalist who wanted to sing pop music. I was working hip hop shows because there were simply no other opportunities available for me to perform in Corpus Christi, unless I wanted to sing Tejano music. In retrospect, I think the fact that I wasnâ€™t a true hip hop artist played a major role in my success on the circuit. I didnâ€™t look like the other acts that worked those shows, and I certainly didnâ€™t sound like anyone else, so I naturally stood out from the crowd and it got me noticed faster. After a great year of performing on the circuit, I had done it all. My mom, Debbie, and I felt like it was time to take the next big step in my career and we saw no real benefit in continuing on the circuit. Also, I was about to turn 16. If I was going to pursue my dream of being a pop recording artist, I needed to start making that happen as soon as possible. Thatâ€™s when we shifted our focus from performing to finding a world class producer or manager to work with me. HM: How did that go? A.M.: Not well, Iâ€™m afraid. Poor Mom. She spent six months talking to producers and managers from all over the country. The people who were eager to work with me lacked the resources and experience required to actually help me; and the people who could help me were either too busy or not interested due to the enormous cost/high failure rate of breaking new pop acts. Mom and I were pretty disheartened by the whole experience. It was looking like we were going to have to do the impossible and make things happen on our own. We began to read anything and everything on the subject of artist development. One of the articles I read was written by San Francisco record producer/recording engineer, Frederick Baugher. It was obvious from the article that Fred was really smart and knew what he was talking about. I showed the article to Mom and she was really impressed, too. She told me to send Fred an email with our telephone number and ask him to call us. I told her I had already done that. A few days later, Fred called. He was really nice. He told me that he thought I had a bright future in music, but it might be a few months before he could start working with me. Fred explained that two weeks prior to our conversation, he had agreed to work with an Australian Idol semi-finalist. Fred and his partner, legendary producer/engineer, Terry Manning, and Britney Spearsâ€™ former manager, Larry Rudolph, also had a huge deal in the works related to a major motion picture about Janis Joplinâ€™s life, starring Pink. My big break came when Fred and Terry decided to pass on the movie project. Fred suddenly had time to work with a new client. He had to choose between me and 20-year-old New Yorker, Parisa Montezarin. Fred picked me and I was a very happy girl. Things worked out well for Parisa, too. She auditioned for MTVâ€™s Real World â€“ Sydney and was cast on the show. Her beautiful voice was featured on the show many times and that exposure has created many exciting opportunities for Parisa in the music world. HM: When did you start working with Fred? A.M.: Almost two years ago, in June â€˜06. Itâ€™s amazing how much we have managed to accomplish in such a short amount of time. We worked with songwriters in the U.S., Canada, England, Wales, Denmark, Norway, Sweden and Australia to develop enough great material for a 13 song album. We recorded over 20 broadcast quality pre-production demos. My songs â€œCloser,â€� â€œMissing Me,â€� â€œYou Will Never Know,â€� â€œGonna Loveâ€� and â€œCanâ€™t Let Goâ€� have been broadcast on the radio in over 140 countries and 60 major U.S. radio markets. As if that wasnâ€™t enough, I also learned how to sing in the official language of The Philippines, Tagalog. HM: Where did you find the time and energy to do all of that highly creative work with your producer and attend high school? A.M.: I had just completed my sophomore year in high school when I met Fred. When he agreed to work with me, my mom enrolled me in an academically challenging home schooling program. The next eight months were a little crazy. I would spend 6 or 7 hours a day working on my music with Fred. When we were done I would take about an hour to eat and relax, then Iâ€™d grab my lesson plans and spend the next 6 or 7 hours working with my mom on my school work. It was a highly stressful experience, but worth it in the long run. Iâ€™m proud to say that I successfully completed the state curriculum for both the eleventh and twelfth grades in eight months and was awarded my high school diploma in January, 2007, at the age of 16 years and 5 months. HM: Didnâ€™t your story of juggling music and home schooling inspire a troubled teen to turn her life around? A.M.: Thatâ€™s correct. Dee Dee (not her real name) is a sweet girl who is my age. Iâ€™m not exactly sure why it happened but around the time of my home schooling experience Dee Deeâ€™s life had spun out of control. She dropped out of school; was doing drugs; and hooked up with a street gang. One day, she found my music on Myspace and it profoundly touched her heart. She read my bio and learned that I was just an ordinary girl like her. In some ways her life was more blessed than mine. She told herself that if a tiny girl like me could take on the music business by day and home schooling by night then she was certainly capable of creating a better life for herself. It wasnâ€™t easy but Dee Dee slowly got her life back on track and is doing well now. Whenever life stressed her out she listened to my music to calm herself. She will be graduating from high school in the spring and Iâ€™m really proud of her. HM: How does your Filipino heritage influence your music? A.M.: My Filipino heritage influences my music in many positive ways. Take â€œCanâ€™t Let Go â€“ Tagalogâ€� for example. Without my family ties to The Philippines that song would not exist. In response to my Filipino fans requests, Fred and I recorded a Tagalog version of my song â€œCanâ€™t Let Go.â€� It was a very special experience for me because I got to work with my grandmother on the project. She was born and raised in The Philippines and speaks fluent Tagalog. We worked on this project last summer, and at that time my grandma had her hands full looking after my grandpa, who had a disease called ALS [editorâ€™s note: Panfilo Martinez passed away on Christmas Day, 2007]. Somehow, she found the time and energy to translate the English lyrics into Tagalog and then helped me to work on my pronunciation and proper accent. I could tell that working with me on this project meant as much to her as it did to me, so I felt a lot of extra pressure to get it right for Grandma and my fans. When the song was finished, my mom and I drove to Grandmaâ€™s house so she could hear it. I was so nervous that I couldnâ€™t go in the house. I waited out by the car while Mom played the song for Grandma. After what seemed like an eternity, Mom finally came out to the car and told me that Grandma loved my performance. I was relieved and very happy. Six months later, Media Broadcast Network, producers of the internationally syndicated Kick Radio Show, announced that â€œCanâ€™t Let Go â€“ Tagalogâ€� was selected as one of the 50 best new songs of 2007 by an unsigned artist. The song was ranked #24. For a song in Tagalog to be ranked that high on an English language music show is pretty incredible. When my grandma heard how well our song had ranked, she was very happy that people of all nationalities were being exposed to Tagalog music for the first time and enjoying it. HM: Last summer you also participated in Clear Channel Radioâ€™s young artists program called â€œNew! Discover Musicâ€� and had a big hit with your song â€œCloser.â€� What was that experience like? A.M.: I wasnâ€™t surprised that Clear Channel listeners enjoyed â€œCloser.â€� Itâ€™s a great song, and Iâ€™m not just saying that because my mom and I created the story and wrote the first draft of the lyrics. Itâ€™s a fun song to listen to and even more fun to sing. When Fred submitted â€œCloserâ€� to Clear Channel, the possibility that it would reach the top of their New! charts someday never crossed my mind. On July 30, 2007, when the song reached the #1 position on the Latin chart and I was named the featured artist of the day on Clear Channelâ€™s website, I had what I can only describe as a nice â€œwow!â€� type feeling. Iâ€™m always happy when my songs do well. As a matter of fact, Fred checked and â€œCloserâ€� is currently ranked #22; itâ€™s been in the Top 25 now for over seven months! Thanks to the success of â€œCloser,â€� some of my other songs are now under consideration for use in Clear Channelâ€™s latest commercial venture called Format Lab. HM: Do you remember your first public performance? A.M.: I certainly do. Itâ€™s kind of a funny story. I was three-years-old and we were living on a U.S. military base in Germany at that time; my mom was an Army medic. I had just learned a new gospel song called â€œIn His Time.â€� The next time we went to church Mom took me up on the stage. I wasnâ€™t sure why she had done that or what I was supposed to do, so I just stood there waiting for instructions. Finally, Mom whispered to me, â€œSing, baby!â€� I sang my little song and the people seemed to really enjoy my performance. I canâ€™t tell you how many times Iâ€™ve performed at church services since that day in Germany but I know itâ€™s a lot. Iâ€™m hoping that Fred and I can find the time to record a gospel/contemporary Christian album someday. HM: What are your plans for 2008? A.M.: Iâ€™m going to be a very busy girl this year. Signing a record deal with a label that will enthusiastically support and promote my music is at the top of the list for 2008. Then weâ€™re off to the Bahamas to record my album at Terry Manningâ€™s studio. When the album is done, my musical director, Andy Crowley, and I will begin rehearsals for our stage show. Hopefully, weâ€™ll be ready to take our show on the road by the time the album is released. Weâ€™ll also be shooting a promotional video package in L.A. with film director, Stephen Savage, soon. Iâ€™ve never done anything like that before and Iâ€™m really looking forward to it. Beyond all of that, weâ€™ll just have to wait and see what God has planned for me. Whatever it is, Iâ€™m sure it will be great! Everyone at HMM is grateful to Ms. Mestiya for taking time out of a very rigourous schedule to give us an idea of what she is all about and what she stands for. We would like to thank Fred Baugher and Debbie Perez for helping put this interview together. From the nestâ€¦ Hornetman