RADAR Sessions: Nick Carrillo

Lydia Tsou/Highlander
Lydia Tsou/Highlander

For Nick Carrillo, it all began with a high school talent show. Guitar in hand and several years younger, Carrillo played a medley of popular songs on his guitar, featuring the likes of Taylor Swift and Ke$ha. Then, he won. He still sounded surprised regaling me with this story from his days as a sophomore in high school.

The training it took to get there wasn’t as much a hero origin story as it was a dalliance with guitar in eighth grade. Carrillo’s first guitar came with an instructional DVD that taught some basic chords. Carrillo stuck to it though, and it shows in his versatile playing style, blending unorthodox picking with simple melodies played across major chords. I’m sure many of you reading this have had similar experiences with instructional DVDs. I did, but I eventually microwaved the DVD and decided to learn the drums. Carrillo stuck with it, and continues to play to this day, bolstered by classical voice lessons and education in pursuing his music minor here at UCR.

Carrillo has put his training to good use. Besides being involved with ASUCR as a CHASS senator and Asian Pacific Student Programs as a student coordinator, Carrillo is involved with Rhythm and Brains, a music and community service group. “I like using music as a way for me to help people,” explained Carrillo. Carrillo has also been part of the ongoing effort to expand Riverside’s open mic scene to our campus, as he is going to be part of the “R’ Stars” event at the Glen Mor Starbucks Tuesday, March 1.

As for his influences, Carrillo draws from a wide well. Though his preferred guitar is an Ibanez Montage acoustic-electric, he takes inspiration from both John Mayer and Kanye West, hoping to give his pop-rock aesthetic some hip-hop sound. Raised on James Taylor and Carole King, Carrillo self-described his sound as “very Ed Sheeran-like.” This is fitting, as Carrillo explained his desire to keep his sound and lyrical content relevant. As for his current playlist, Carrillo explained that Kanye West’s most recent album, “The Life of Pablo,” is at the top. It’s joined by James Bay, Sia, Chvrches and Guns N’ Roses, as Carrillo is priming himself for a trip to Coachella.

Carrillo played two original songs after our interview: “BAE” and “Netflix and Chill.” “BAE” was a relatively straightforward love song. “Netflix and Chill,” however, is where Carrillo really hit his stride. His John Mayer influences were readily apparent, as it had picking and breaks reminiscent of some of Mayer’s work off of “Inside Wants Out.” His playing melded well with his crooning vocal style, with the sultry overtones of modern R-and-B.

Even if his musical career doesn’t take off, Carrillo seems to be doing alright for himself in his fourth year at UCR with his experience in both government and community activism. Still, he has recently released an EP titled “So You Can Hear Me” that is available at nickcarrillo.bandcamp.com. More of his music can be found on his YouTube channel at youtube.com/nickcmusic.

Though discussing music is good and all, the only way to fully understand is to listen. Get the full story by watching Carrillo’s performance on our YouTube Channel, youtube.com/ucrchannelh.

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