Only two studio albums into a promising career, Peruvian R&B singer-songwriter and producer A.CHAL is already somewhat dissuaded with the advertised lifestyle and the artistic motivations glorified in much of modern music. Instead, he has chosen to center his mindset (and material) around the theme of GAZI, which, he says, symbolizes “love equals freedom.”
“I could die good right now, I feel like I made it,” he explains. “Got all the people I love around me, turning goals into a reality. It’s fire. Everything else is just a matter of how much.”
That’s not to say the recent Epic Records signee lacks ambition, though. Less than an hour before our scheduled interview, A.CHAL took the stage at The Smokers Club Festival in Long Beach, California, his second major North America festival performance in April. Two weeks prior, he performed for a crowd of thousands at Festival Ceremonia in Mexico, his first opportunity to see how his music was being received outside of America.
“People dance differently,” he says with a laugh. “But they smile harder. It was like over 4,000 people, and a lot of them knew the songs. It let me know that my music is reaching Latin America heavy.”
While A.CHAL is currently hard at work on the follow-up to his well-received 2017 album, ON GAZ, the memories he's making on stage are having an undeniable influence on the direction of his latest material.
“I want bigger shows, I want bigger moments,” he says. “The moments that I get now, I grab those and now I want to put out an album where I can do a big moment show, all the time, nonstop.”
By putting so much of his time and attention into his live show, A.CHAL admits to having taken a more complementary role when it comes to production, allowing others to work the boards while he guides the sound with his ears rather than his hands.
Though relying on outsiders to build a project is mostly foreign to him, A.CHAL considers himself fortunate to have plenty of trusted individuals in his circle to assist with the creation process. One such creative is GRAMMY-nominated producer Count Justice, who crafted A.CHAL’s breakout hit “GAZI” as well as ON GAZ standout “No Service.”
“I only work with people that I know, I’m just a private person,” A.CHAL says. “If you’re in my realm, then we’ll make something. I feel I’m more private than most artists.”
Graduating from the role of a hands-on producer isn’t the only significant change A.CHAL has had to make since he put the finishing touches on his 2013 debut EP, Ballroom Riots. As he’s maneuvered and grown as an artist and a person over the past five years, his main focus has been on becoming less self-destructive, which, he says, is still a work in progress.
“Artists are emotional creatures, they do dumb shit all the time,” A.CHAL says. “But I feel like I’m getting better, just wiser and more mature.”
His goals have also crystallized along the way, such as creating the ideal environment for his live shows. The spitting image of what that concert would look like is already recorded in the annals of music history: Bob Marley’s legendary Uprising tour, the last of the reggae singer’s accomplished career.
“He brought people together in a new way; what he was talking about had nothing to do with trends or what’s cool at the moment, it had to do with living,” he says. “You could tell there were no walls at his shows—everybody was there because they loved his message.”
A.CHAL understands how challenging it is to cut through these boundaries and unify an audience in 2018. Still, the GAZI movement is akin to the preachings of Marley, giving the modern-day artist plenty of reason to pursue that state of nirvana despite the difficulties. To complement his spiritual pursuit, A.CHAL has sought contentment through meditation, as well as a trip to the Amazon rainforest.
“I feel like we’re slowly tapping into it,” he says. “It’s a process. Given the circumstances of the era we live in, where robots are taking over, it’s definitely harder, but it’s about cracking the code to doing what you love.”