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New Dream Label Group artist, Samuel Jacob Lopez Jr. - AKA Coqui - is releasing his label debut single, "Today." We caught up with Samuel to talk about how he got started in music, where the name "Coqui" came from, and how he started touring with the likes of 30 Seconds to Mars and Blink 182...
This interview took place April 23, 2024

Click here for Coqui's Artist Profile page.

  • JFH (John DiBiase): So, first off, let's talk about the name. Tell us about "Coqui" and why you chose it?

    Coqui: Haha, well it's not a word you hear everyday. It's actually the name of the world's smallest singing frog from Puerto Rico. Funny enough, it was a nickname my grandfather had given to my mom when she was a kid because she was the youngest of 5 siblings. My dad also owned a Puerto Rican clothing line in the early 2000's called Coqui City Designs. So it's always been a word that reminded me of my family in some way or another. When I started writing for this project, it just seemed like the perfect word to repurpose.

  • JFH (John): How did you get started in making music? What sparked your passion for it?

    Coqui: Well when I was about nine or ten, my dad, who was a DJ, showed me how to mix tracks on his old vinyl turntables. I got the hang of it pretty fast, and soon, we were jamming out in the living room every weekend while my mom whipped up breakfast. I'm pretty sure that same summer, I stayed with my Uncle Rob in Burbank for a couple of weeks. He was well known in the Latin music scene as a pro percussionist, and he brought me along to all his rehearsals and gigs around Los Angeles. I'll never forget that moment when I realized I wanted to be a musician. Maybe a couple of years later, I met some older skater kids at a church youth group who were all about punk rock. They showed me how to play a Blink-182 song on guitar, and just like that, I was hooked.

  • JFH (John): How did you get connected with touring with mainstream artists like 30 Seconds To Mars and Blink 182? What role did you play on those tours and what would you say are your takeaways from it?

    Coqui: My first opportunity to tour with a professional act sort of came by accident. In 2015, I had a friend named Jordan who I would sometimes write and record music with at his studio in North Hollywood. It just so happened that he was also a recording engineer for 30 Seconds to Mars and would run their playback on tour. One day, he asked if I'd be interested in helping him set up his playback rig for a local gig the band was having in Malibu. That one time gig turned into a full-on North America tour. After a couple years, Jordan decided to call it quits, so the band offered me the playback engineer position. When the pandemic hit, all touring had stopped. I honestly wasn't sure if I'd ever tour again. But eventually everything opened back up and one day I got a call to go back out with Machine Gun Kelly. Wasn't my first pick to be honest, but I'm glad I took it. Touring with them taught me a lot about patience, humility and self control. It showed me that I could be in the world but not of it. It tested my faith on the daily, pushing me closer and closer to God in prayer. And with each day, my faith became a little stronger. I eventually left that camp, and in 2023 was offered the playback position with Blink182. It's been a little over a year now, and I can confidently say all my years of experience have definitely prepared me for this one. Their crew is as professional as it gets.

  • JFH (John): Who are your biggest influences musically/stylistically?

    Coqui: Musically, the first artist that always comes to mind is Radiohead. Their albums blew my mind the first time I ever listened to them. With each record of their career, you can hear how they were so ahead of their time and would push the limits of what you could make alternative rock music sound like. Whenever I'm having a creative block, I usually refer to one of their records for musical inspiration. Stylistically, I've always liked the Strokes. Their minimalistic approach always intrigued me. From their vintage rock aesthetic, to their simplistic songwriting and minimal production. They are actually the complete opposite of Radiohead, but I feel like they've helped me find a perfect middle ground for my sense of style and direction.

  • JFH (John): Since it's your newest one, tell us a little bit about your single, "Today."

    Coqui: This song is all about finding your way out of worry and darkness by leaning on faith and patience. Not to hurry through life, but to believe that everything will work out when it's meant to. It's about the journey of feeling trapped and held down by stress & anxiety to finally feeling joyful and eager to face what comes next, all by letting go & trusting in something bigger than ourselves to lead the way.

  • JFH (John): What is next on your plate? More singles? An EP? Perhaps a full-length album?

    Coqui: Definitely more singles. I'm also working on a few collabs with some really incredible artists in the Christian indie scene. You might even see a live performance of "Today" dropping soon. As for any albums, there's definitely plans for an EP. When will that drop? I'm not entirely sure yet, but it's definitely in the works.

  • JFH (John): How did you get connected with the fine folks at Dream Label Group?

    Coqui: Lance from Dream reached out to me about a year ago after seeing a viral post of mine on Instagram. We had a great conversation about punk rock music, the state of Christian rock, finding our way back to faith, and ultimately what we could accomplish working together. It just seemed like a perfect fit. Shortly after, I signed an awesome deal with them and the rest is history. I'm grateful for the opportunity and really stoked on the partnership.

  • JFH (John): How do you approach the creative process when writing lyrics for your songs?

    Coqui: With most of my songs, I usually start with the music first, followed by a rough past of mumbling melodies over the instrumental on my iPhone. I usually like to play the instrument out loud in my living room or car and imagine I'm performing it live. This usually helps me sing out melodies that feel most natural and exciting. Once I have a general idea of what the melody is, then i'll sit down with my notepad and start writing out ideas for lyrics. I keep a list of song titles and lyric ideas in my notes app that I can pull from when it comes time to writing songs. I usually listen to the voice recordings and any mumbles that might sound like actual words or phrases i'll turn into lyrics and then try to create a solid verse or hook from there. That's my usual process. But sometimes there's the rare occasion that I'm sitting on my piano or playing my acoustic guitar and a chord progression I stumble upon inspires me to write something in that moment. Those usually turn out to be the best songs because they come so naturally and in the moment. But those are a little more rare to come by.

  • JFH (John): Let's talk about the current state of Christian music. One might argue that there's a deep sea of "sameness" in Christian music today - especially what's heard on the radio. Where does Coqui's music fit in and how - if at all - might you like to see the industry change?

    Coqui: Honestly, I never consciously tried to make music specifically for the Christian music industry. It just so happens that the majority of my audience shares the same Christian values as I do. My approach has always been to make music that helps direct those who are lost towards the truth. Whether that be finding their way back to faith, or discovering the gospel for the first time. I want to make music for those who need healing, guidance, or direction. I want my music to appeal to those who might only listen to secular music but through listening to my lyrics might start questioning the ways of the world. I also want my music to appeal to those who have faith in Christ but are so tired of the same old generic CCM type music that's in every Christian playlist and want something that reminds them of the secular bands they used to listen to without all the worldly, sinful lyrics. I don't necessarily think my music is going to change the industry, but I definitely hope to pave a new lane for whatever genre it is I'm creating and I hope it'll inspire others to do the same.

  • JFH (John): What has God been teaching you lately?

    Coqui: Patience with others for sure. Especially when crammed into a tour bus with 12 others. It's like living with 12 co-workers in a studio apartment for months at a time. After a while, it really tests your patience and tolerance. The hardest part is not letting the negativity and attitudes of others rub off on you. My biggest challenge has been learning how to consistently be a light in the darkness. Not everyone shares the same faith as I do, and that can be challenging at times. But I've found that the only way to overcome this is by simply living by example in every moment possible. When the tour gets tough, double down on positivity. When others give you attitude, don't take it personally and instead pray that God lifts them up. Never assume anything. You never know what that person is going through and it might not even be about you, they might just be having a really hard day and don't have the Lord to lean on. Take every opportunity to show God's love through your actions. You never know what kind of opportunity it might turn into. I've definitely had many occasions of tour mates coming to me with questions they had about the bible or how to overcome certain struggles. Sometimes they joke about me being "Jesus's homeboy," but I'm more than happy to be known as that guy because it means I'm doing something right.

  • JFH (John): Any last comments?

    Coqui: Read the bible! If there's anything to take away from this interview, it's that all the answers to life are in the Word, so if you haven't already, go get one now!

    Coqui's debut single on DREAM Label Group, Today, is available May 3, 2024


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