Meet Precious Perez. A 22-year-old Puerto Rican singer-songwriter with an amazing voice and endless love for music.
Her debut album, Hummingbird, was released November 1, 2016, just after she started at The Berklee College of Music. Like many artists, she says that she was surrounded by music since her childhood, but at the beginning, she was very shy when it came to sharing her talent with the world. She says that even at that point when her debut album was about to be released, she was still reluctant to open her heart to the masses. But she knows the power of being vulnerable. Especially when it comes to art.
"A friend of my mother gave me a Barbie karaoke machine", she says when she tells us how her journey got started. She recorded cassette tapes while singing along with the radio. "I was singing when no one was around."
But it didn't take long for her to get recognized. Her voice got noticed by her first-grade music teacher during a type of classroom singing-greeting, where the teacher sings, and the students sing back to her. Then suddenly she found herself in her school's chorus, and by the time she was in middle school, she was doing talent shows. So long to shyness!
In fourth grade, she wrote her first song about a baby boy, Julian, who was the son of a good family friend of hers. Her second song was about her being lost in her mind. She gets embarrassed when she recalls the song's lyrics: "Oh, it was lyrically terrible. The melody was cool, though. Maybe I'll make something good out of it someday."
Her moment came during her senior year of high school when she was taking a music production class. And one day, her instructor, Pete Pappavaselio, came to her and said, "Precious, I think you have a gift." Later in that year, he introduced her to one of his friends, a professional producer named Doug Batchelder. That meeting changed her life for the better. Together, they initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund her first album. And it worked. By 2016, she was a high school graduate with a debut album in her hands.
"I didn't know any theory. I didn't know how to put a piece of music together. I didn't know how to manage musicians or money. But I learned a lot," says the now-senior at Berklee.
"When we were recording Hummingbird, I wasn't comfortable accompanying myself on an instrument. Now I go into the studio with nearly full arrangements in my head. I went from voice memos with the lyrics and melodies of entire songs to full demos with instrumentation."
She writes whenever the inspiration hits. She says that she gets ideas all the time, and keeps those ideas ready for the next message she needs to send to the world.
Her first album was a combination of the best songs she had written since her childhood. Hummingbird, the title track, was based on a sad breakup and also a coming of age story. She says that she was trying to navigate through life and relearn how to trust people and let them in again. "It took some time, but I realized I was worthy on my own. I can flourish on my own." And she adds, "Hummingbirds are powerful creatures. They are small, but they are faster than people think. They know how to survive." So, Hummingbird, a touching pop ballad, emerged from a journey of pain, resilience and finding inner power.
She began writing for her second release in late 2017, when she was studying abroad in Valencia, Spain for a semester. She recalls her time in Valencia as incredible. "Meeting and having a chance to work with a lot of different musicians in this incredible culture made my music flourish and helped me so much to grow as a musician and performer." She tells us how her growth came to fruition. "I was bringing together musicians, coordinating with the producer, and started a full band. It was unbelievable that I managed to do all of that arranging solo. It was inconceivable during my Hummingbird days." The album came out in July of 2019, and a year later she collaborated with Ari Eschtruth to make a music video for the title track, Agua de Valencia. You can find the video, with or without audio description, on her YouTube Channel. She describes her process as educational: "I wanted to show that I can do these things just like a sighted musician would do and give a voice to every community I represent. I want to break down stereotypes, and that is always an ongoing process."
Even at the heart of a global pandemic, she never ceases to work. She's got a couple of projects coming up in the Autumn of 2020. She is preparing an EP for children, tentatively titled "Chummers." We should also note that her Berklee recital, which is also available on her YouTube channel, features a fantastic setlist including Killing Me Softly and I Will Survive.
Even though she had to study online due to quarantine, she never lost her optimism: "I was so prepared. I was going to sing live with my band in front of a crowd. But then the pandemic happened. It was sort of disappointing at first. But now I feel better. It is kinda memorable in its own way: singing to a screen when my parents are in the next room listening to the whole thing online."
Apart from music, Precious volunteers with The National Federation of The Blind, a nation-wide organization that is dedicated to improving the lives of blind people and helping them live fully and independently. There, she serves on the board of the performing arts division, as well as being the president of the Massachusetts division of blind students. She is also a musician for the Amazon Aid Foundation, dedicated to living a green lifestyle and promoting the health of our planet.
Still not tired, she runs The Berklee Disabilities Club, a space for students with disabilities to meet and connect. She describes the club as "a space that we can go when nobody else understands." Additionally, she hosts a radio show called Pioneros on Venom.fm, where she features musicians from the Latin music world and presents their work to a wide variety of audiences who like to know more about Latin music.
Precious was born and raised in Chelsea, Massachusetts, where there is a vibrant and diverse community. She is very proud of her Puerto-Rican roots, cares deeply about the community she was born into, and she wants to be able to give back to them. She describes herself as independent, sensitive, and self-sufficient. I am blind," she adds, "but my blindness does not define me; it is just a part of me. I am very open about my blindness, my depression and my anxiety. I think it is important for what I represent. Because there is not enough authenticity and vulnerability out in the world these days. Everyone is trying to fit in, to make their way in this society we're living in. Sometimes, we forget to be ourselves and stand for what matters to us. That's what I strive to do."
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