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Adam Martinez & Abel See Music As A Collaborative Art

Written by on October 6, 2021

Adam Martinez and Abel, two Chicago artists from Mexican-American families, are rising stars in the city’s Latin music scene.

Chicago-based friends and collaborators Adam Martinez and Abel blend elements of reggaeton, trap, R&B and pop music to create an energetic fusion of Latin dance music. Buzzing with passion and energy, the duo is constantly pushing one another to learn and grow in their musical prowess.

We caught up with Abel and Adam Martinez after their Aug. 25 collaboration “Peligrosa” was featured on Vocalo’s In Rotation playlist for September 2021. The pair chatted about the beginning of their friendship, performing at festivals, dream collaborations and more.

Abel and Adam Martinez by Luis Ortiz

How long have you two known each other? How did you meet? Give us a rundown of your friendship’s origin story.

Adam Martinez: Abel and I have actually known each other since high school, but funny enough we never spoke to one another! He was a grade above me and so I never really had the chance to interact with him. A few years after we graduated, Abel released his first song, “Quiero Decir,” and I was mind-blown because I had no idea he was even into making music. We officially met for the first time after both unknowingly being in the same songwriting camp for a weekend. It was a brief moment, but enough to plant the seeds for what is now an ongoing collaboration and, more importantly, friendship.

How did your musical collaboration come about? Can we expect more from you both as a pair in the future?

AM: At that songwriting camp, Abel was not the only artist I met. I also met Johnny Carter, an incredible producer, writer and engineer who has played such an important role in all of Abel and I’s collaborations. His name might sound familiar to those who have listened to our song “Peligrosa.” If you hear “Johnny Carter con el fuego” at the end of any song, it’s because he helped create it! The three of us had our first music session together on Jan. 2 of this year, which is when we actually made “Peligrosa” in its entirety. It’s safe to say that one session cemented our friendship and partnership. It’s not often you create an entire song from start to finish the first time in the studio together, but we did. I think I can speak for both Abel and Johnny when I say we all felt we had something special on our hands that night, not only in the song we created, but in the bond and partnership that was born. With that said, you can absolutely expect more from us in the future … something very special is in the works is all I will say for now.

Abel — we saw you recently performed at Chicago’s first Michelada Festival. Tell us about that experience. How did performing at a festival compare to other concerts you’ve performed?

Abel: Michelada Fest was extremely special to me for many reasons. This was actually the third Michelada Fest ever, and I remember being at the first one back in 2018 when it was on Cermak Ave. and it was free to the public. That same day of the first Michelada Fest was the day that I bought my first microphone and interface. I remember I wanted to take music seriously that summer, so after the festival I remember going home to unbox and set up my first studio ever — which was just a desk in my closet. So when they reached out to me earlier this summer about performing this year, my emotions got the best of me. I’m so grateful for M-Dok, an amazing DJ and Pilsen legend, for giving me the opportunity. I was extremely excited and I found out two months before the official announcement, so it was killing me not being able to talk about it with friends whenever they brought up the festival. I don’t ever share news until it’s official.

Another reason it was so special was because the headliners were artists that I listened to as a kid. They helped shape my music taste and have reggaeton classics that will live on forever. Looking back and being able to say that I was on the same bill as Rakim Y Ken-Y is an absolute blessing!   

The show itself had one of the biggest stages that I’ve ever seen in my life. It was so professional and they did everything to let the artists feel like superstars. They made me feel like a star and gave me a night to remember for the rest of my life.

Adam Martinez and Abel by Eddie Rodriguez

Similarly, Adam, we saw you recently played the Sonido 18 fest at the National Museum of Mexican Art. Tell us about your experience — how did it feel being asked to perform by that institution?

AM: I had an amazing time performing at Sonido 18 fest. The crew and workers were very helpful in ensuring every artist had what they needed to succeed and it just felt great to be back on stage. I felt especially honored to perform for this institution in particular because of the history my family has here in Chicago. My grandfather was part of one of the very first Mariachi groups to ever come to this beautiful city, and my father was the lead singer of a group called “Los Aristocratas de Chicago,” which was very famous here in the ’70s. To not only continue the legacy that they started, but to also perform for a museum that honors Mexican art in general inspires me to no end. Neither my grandfather or father are with us today, so it meant the world to me to be on that stage as I know they would be so proud. I owe a great deal of gratitude to Jorge Valdivia, who asked me to perform.

Abel, in addition to music, soccer seems to play an important role in your life. What is your history with the sport and why is it special to you?

Abel: Without it, I wouldn’t be who I am today. My whole life I’ve dreamt of becoming a professional soccer player, and I achieved so much throughout my life thanks to the sport. The mental and physical strength that I gained as an athlete is something I’ll carry with me forever and it always translates well to any scenario. It’s a different mentality. I was fortunate enough to get recruited on a scholarship to play D1 at UIC, and my time as a student athlete was incredible. I joined the team as a walk-on and left as the team captain. We had an amazing team and I played in two NCAA tournaments. It feels like a lifetime ago. Unfortunately, playing at a high level, you’re at risk of some injuries, and by the time I graduated I had undergone three knee surgeries due to a reoccurring meniscus tear. I was UIC’s Derrick Rose. So no matter how badly I wanted that, once I graduated I had to put that dream aside and think about my health. So that’s where music came into my life. What started as a hobby now brings me joy and opportunities that I couldn’t even dream of years ago. 

Adam Martinez by Luis Ortiz

What has been keeping you busy over the past year and a half during the pandemic? Any new hobbies? Anything people would be surprised to know about?

AM: I know this is a boring answer, but I honestly don’t do a whole lot outside of making music! Being an artist is interesting because it’s both my hobby and my career, and being an up and coming artist means you really have to be at it. It’s what I think about every second of every day, which can honestly be a bit bothersome at times.. There are moments where I’d love to catch a movie or go out drinking with friends but the thought of “… I should be making music right now” never fails to enter my head. But — for the rare occasion that I do muster up the energy to fight those thoughts away — I love to play video games, I love to work out and, more importantly, catch a few drinks with friends or family. I love conversations and there’s nothing better than laughing and taking it easy with the people you love. It’s the little things for me.

Abel: I spent most of my quarantine at YouTube University. It was around the beginning of my music career when the pandemic hit, so I took the time to lock in and learn a lot about producing. I can’t say I know as much as Johnny Carter, but watching him work always inspires me to want to learn as much as I can. So when I’m not writing or recording vocals I’m studying and working on my production. 

Besides the music, I’m a soccer coach. I have groups of individual kids that I train to help them improve on their technical skills and I also have a team of kids that I coach in the South Side. It’s one of the most rewarding things that I do. I dedicated a huge chunk of my life to the sport, it’s only right that I give back and pass down some knowledge. 

“Let go of that ego and pride and collaborate with other musicians. Your music will be better because of it, you learn new things and you make great friends along the way.”

Adam Martinez

Adam, you play multiple instruments, sing and produce music. How did you pick up all these skills? Do you have a favorite instrument, or one that you’re most comfortable with? Are there any other instruments you dream of learning?

AM: Music runs in my family, so I grew up with music in my ears at all times. Whether it was Mariachi being at family parties, my tio pulling out his guitar at birthday parties or watching my older brother make music in his bedroom, it was something I always aspired to do. I took my first guitar class in high school and continued in college where I also took vocal lessons. Production was a special case, in that I was lucky enough to have my older brother Marcos show me the ropes. He had years of experience being both an artist and producer, which I was privileged to have access to growing up — and to this day!

One instrument that I always wish I had learned was piano. I’m good enough that I can play it piece by piece while producing, but never in a live setting like I can with guitar, which is the instrument I’m most comfortable with. One day I’ll set aside the time to properly learn it!

Abel, tell us about your dog, Chico.

Abel: Anyone who knows me knows Chico. My dog is my best friend and he’s an absolute savage. I do anything to give him the best life he could possibly have. I love him so much.

Which artist do each of you most dream of collaborating with, and why? 

Abel: Top three — Omar Apollo, Reik and Tainy. Not in any specific order, but Tainy is a legend. He’s done and is still doing so much for the Latino community and for the community of producers. He’s breaking so many barriers as a producer, and to me he’s going down as the best Latino producer of all time. Look up his credits!

Reik is very important to my childhood, and also some legends to the Mexican culture. Leyendas. Last but not least, Omar Apollo because he’s dope af. Some of my favorite songs are Apollo songs, and he brings a different mood into my life. He’s an inspiration. This man was born and raised in Indiana, so anything is possible. I have a feeling I’m gonna meet him somehow.

AM: I can sit here all day and name far too many artists, but the one that especially comes to mind is Juanes. Whether it’s “La Camisa Negra,” “Es Por Ti,” or “Para Tu Amor,” his music never fails to inspire me. As much as I love — and have taken part of — the heavily-produced reggaeton and dancehall vibes that are taking over today’s Latin music industry, Juanes offers a more live-sounding vibe with organic instrumentation that I think is sort of missing right now. Plus, my oldest brother, Raul, used to play his music all the time growing up, so to collaborate with him would be this full-circle moment that I hope will come true one day.

Abel by Luis Ortiz

What’s one lesson you have learned from experiences as musicians that you wish you knew when you first started out? 

Abel: I don’t have a definite answer to this one because I’m always thinking, “I should have done that,” or, “I should do this instead.” But that’s okay, because I’m learning new things everyday and that just lets me know in which ways I’m improving.

AM: I used to want to do everything by myself. From the production, writing, recording — all of it. Let go of that ego and pride and collaborate with other musicians. Your music will be better because of it, you learn new things and you make great friends along the way. There are of course moments where you will make a song on your own, and that’s okay! But I truly believe music was meant to be a collaborative art, and it’s when I do it that I create the best music and have the most fun.

What should your fans expect from each of you in the future?

AM: 2021 felt to me like the music industry was dipping its toe back into the water after the lockdown that happened in 2020. As much as I did release music and perform at several shows this year, I really want next year to be more about engaging with our audience in a more personal way. The easy answer is you can expect for us to drop more music, but that’s just the first step in what should be a more fun and engaging celebration.

I want to release projects, have release and listening parties for said projects, create merch, throw our own shows and so much more. I really feel a sense of community being created here in Chicago in regard to the music scene, and I want to contribute in more ways than just releasing music. I’m very excited for what’s to come!

Abel: Always new music. That’s something you should always expect from us. One thing that I’m really excited about is for people to listen to the different genres I’ve been experimenting with. I’ve been asked so many times, “Why did you choose to be a reggaetonero?” That question always gets me because I don’t only make reggaeton. Reggaeton comes very natural to me, and it’s my comfort zone, and I’ve only released reggaeton songs, but I’ve got so much other stuff that I’m ready to put out. As of lately, experimenting with other genres is what’s been making me happy, and it’s turning out to be some of my favorite work. So I’m excited for you all to hear what’s next. 

Stream “Peligrosa” on Spotify, Apple Music or Tidal, and follow Abel and Adam Martinez on Instagram.

Edited for length and clarity by Erik Anderson

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