I have had the fortune of interviewing some really cool influencers, all doing their own thing and making big waves in the world. My interview this week with Anthony Rodriguez, the entertainer, pianist, salsa musician, marketer, and influencer, is quite special. During the interview he gets deep about family, real-life fears, humankind, helping others on a basic human level, and balancing it all while managing a successful music business and twins on the way. If you want a feel-good story, some wholesome inspiration, and to walk away with great advice from a person who has been very successful in life as a whole, read on.
ZJ: Anthony – my first question for you is personal. I read that you are expecting twin girls in May. How are you feeling about the big new additions to your family?
AR: Honestly, my wife Denise and I were planning for one as most do, and when we went to our first ultrasound we were in for a huge surprise. When our Doctor started the ultrasound, we saw two black holes. At first, I told myself, Well that second black hole must be the baby’s placenta. I mean I don’t know how to read those things, but I had a gut feeling that might be Baby “B”. It was mentally difficult at first because, I began to think of extra things we would need, finances, and so on. It took a good one to two weeks for my wife and I to get the good news into our system. Many people told us, “Where one mouth eats, three can eat.” My wife is pretty good with subscriptions on Amazon, so we’ve been receiving Diapers, and Wipes for preparations for the Twin girls. Plus, just last weekend we had our baby shower and we were blessed beyond our expectations. With all the mix emotions and fear of “How the heck are we going to do this?” in the beginning, we now look back at that moment of fear and say, “Wow, we are pretty blessed.”
ZJ: I listened to your new release on iTunes, Shackles Salsa. I was blown away and a lot of questions and emotions rushed over me. First, I would love to know how you got into playing salsa music? Has it always been a part of your life?
AR: Salsa music is my #1 genre of music. Since the age of 15, I started to recognize my passion for Latin music. I would spend hours practicing salsa piano in my room on my cheap keyboard. At the age of 18 I met my mentor Juan Gonzalez, pianist for superstar Marc Anthony, and I was taught more piano and music production. I was privileged to be in recording sessions that involved high profiled musicians that worked with Marc Anthony — and I learned ALOT! In the music production part of my career, I worked with lots of independent artists, and I’ve noticed after working with a majority of them that they lacked — marketing.
When you lack marketing, you are not able to expose your talent in the masses. I’ve been paid money to produce and record, but beyond that, it was frustrating for me as a music producer.
So, last April 2015, I hired myself to produce grammy-winning gospel artist Mary Mary’s Shackles song into Salsa. I called up my buddy Jessie Caraballo, current percussion and drummer for Marc Anthony, and I called a very talented singer that goes by the name, Marissa Belle. With the release I was able to market and push this record to where I needed it to go. Of course, there’s more and more work to be done. August 2015, Shackles Salsa made #1 Latin Christian on Amazon Music. From there we used momentum to push forward. Just recently we placed Shackles Salsa in a music award competition called, “Unsigned Only,” an independent music award program for artists that aren’t sign to a major label.
ZJ: Would you mind please elaborating for our readers what is your part in your new release? Producer, artist, musician, all three?
AR: My newest release is Shackles Salsa. I arranged it at my production set up at home. My instrument is piano so I arranged this record to be “urban”, meaning having a street feel – like “Ha!” This permits me to play the Cuban-Puerto Rican style piano that I love. I am the main artist on Shackles Salsa, featuring Jessie Caraballo on percussion and singer Marissa Belle.
ZJ: You were a self-taught musician. What age did you begin teaching yourself music, and can you paint us a picture for how that began and why – what instrument(s), what inspired you, how you began to learn, what kept you going, etc.?
AR: Wow! Let me try to keep this one short! Well! I was born into a church. My parents at that time were involved in music. My mom sang, and my dad rocked the bass-guitar and guitar. With that influence I was pretty much given all the elements and potential to become a successful musician. I was first into drums and percussion at the age of nine, playing in church.
This led me to experience rhythm, and I started mixing in the piano in afterwards. My Dad showed me some elements from the guitar into piano, but that was enough. Luckily, I had a good ear and I used it to figure things out. At the age of 13, my Dad placed me to play the piano at our church, and I remember it like it was yesterday — I messed up with flying colors. I was hitting wrong notes and at the end of the church service I wanted to quit. However, some old ladies came up to me and told me that I did great! But, those old ladies were 99% deaf and tone-deaf at that! I used that as motivation to go back home and practice more.
My love for music always kept me going. After time, I improved and began playing in different churches and special activities. At the age of 18 I started getting paid for shows and from there, I toured, recorded, and soon after, I did my own thing and wanted to brand Anthony Rodriguez. And here I am today!
ZJ: It’s clear you’ve been in the music industry for a really long time. Was the soundtrack you produced for BET’s Telly Award winning movie, Isaiah’s Touch one of the first for you to be involved (directly or peripherally) in winning an award? If not, what do you consider your first big “win” in the music industry?
AR: Isaiah’s Touch won a Bronze Telly Award in 2005 and I didn’t even know it! I was actually so focused on doing other projects and I lost contact with the production team that I worked with to make this happen. This album was to me, just walking into the studio doing my friend, Marvin Major a soundtrack for this film. I was paid with Chinese food, and it was more of a favor than anything. Years after this album was out, I then learned that it won an award! And I was happy!
You never know the things you do could be an achievement and this was one of them. Materialistically as an award this is the best one. Although my second Latin Jazz album “Keys to the Kingdom” was a #1 Jazz record on Amazon music, and my motivational entrepreneurial book, “The Musician” began a bestseller on Amazon, and Shackles Salsa being a #1 Latin Christian record on Amazon Music; I look at the Telly Award as one of my best achievements. I’ve been honored to experience different achievements with my music. But! My biggest achievement is being able to provide for my family doing what I love. I have one of the best private piano workshops in New Jersey, AR Piano Workshop since 2008. In between all my work, I have done lots of projects for people and performed with known Christian and Secular figures.
ZJ: Who has been your favorite musical artist to collaborate with, thus far?
AR: My favorite artist to collaborate with is my friend from Puerto Rico, Mikey Perfecto. This artist and writer have a great feel and touch to his voice. He’s a killer performer and I’ve been dying to work with him, and we are now good friends and just the ideas that come from me to him are amazing. I am hoping to soon release something to the world that has his voice! Mikey Perfecto is a popular figure in the Latin Music. We were currently writing music for potential artist to interpret in their albums.
ZJ: When did you begin parlaying your musical career into a social media presence – why, and what was that like for you?
AR: My social media world began with Myspace. It was 2006 when I was first working on my first solo album called “Poetology.” Myspace was a great source to communicate with venues and people. I remembered the bulletin posts, where you can post something important and everyone will see. I’ve met many people there and three years later, Facebook came and I slowly came into the Facebook world with a personal profile. Then business pages were created and I created my first to promote my “Poetology” project.
I was always marketing myself even before Facebook. Google was my best friend at night. I can’t even tell you how many emails to venues, and people I wrote to every night. Facebook was a ladder up because it was easier to communicate with people. So I always had the persona of using my life into social media. I learned more about marketing and targeting in Facebook. I’ve became reputable in Facebook to Facebook, my family, friends, in-person fans, and online fans. With that, I started to motivate others to be their best and just using my figure on Facebook to reach to as many of my fans as I can.
ZJ: I see you are also involved with non-profits and it seems important as part of your career and work that you give back. Can you please share more about your work in this sector, what it means to you, how you got involved, and anything else you would like to say?
AR: I’ve been part of a lot of charitable events. My biggest one was running 13.1 for Michelob Ultra last March 2015 in Queens, NY. This event was for LIFETIME, a healthy way of life. I also endorse the Charity Miles app that lets you run for the organizations you love, and I always pick Autism Speaks.
I started my own foundation, the Anthony Rodriguez Foundation to do my own good work for children. Our first project #HiddenTalents is to help less-fortunate children in the Dominican Republic with musical supplies. We are still working on meeting the deadline of $1000.00. I have a heart for people and giving back is something that is part of life. I also work with a latino non-profit called Hispa.org where I go into schools to speak to the students about achieving their goals and how life is precious. I love it!
ZJ: Your website is extensive and it appears you do everything from making music and producing to speaking and writing. Is there any one area or talent that you are most proud? And can you please share with us how you manage all of these moving parts?
AR: Yes! My goal everyday is “What can I do to expand with what I have right now?” Music is obviously my main thing, and doing what I love gives me the opportunity to share my story to people that they too can do what they love. And writing the book, gives me an opportunity to show the readers that life isn’t perfect and that Doing What You Love requires HARD WORK! Everything I do always falls back to my music. And that is how I can expand my abilities. At the end I’m most proud of releasing a Book! Not everyone can do that.
ZJ: Let’s talk social media. At what point did you become so popular on Facebook that they verified your page, and what did that mean to you?
AR: Oh yes! Facebook is my primary social media platform. My music game was years of work and accumulation of information the internet has recorded about me. And also going corporate with my name, Anthony Rodriguez LLC. I received an email about my Facebook page being verified and an invite to use the verified users only, Facebook Mentions app. Having my page verified meant taking my social media game up a notch. I evaluate super star Facebook pages and how they interact and what they post. I just learn and apply it to my style.
ZJ: I can imagine at times in your long career in the music industry and as an artist you have encountered some funny or ironic situations. Can you share a couple of funny stories from your career in the industry (or in your personal life, as related to the music)?
AR: I always tell this story and it’s also in my book. In my younger years in the music, I always carpooled to shows. One day I had $500.00 dollars in my pocket and my mom found me a car that the owner was willing to take my $500.00 for the 89 Toyota Corolla. So, I called the artist that I was playing for at that time and I told him, “I got a car!” The artist replied, “You should have brought a piano amp since you don’t have one.” Really? So if I had to choose a car or a piano amp, you think I would choose a piano amp. I can borrow a piano amp from friends, but you can’t borrow a car!
ZJ: What is your favorite part about doing what you do?
AR: It’s wonderful to be able to wake up and do what I love. Going to bed knowing I did my best during the day. Also, sharing my gift with my clients. I always give more than what I am paid for.
ZJ: Do you see yourself as a marketer?
AR: I see myself endorsing brands that I can relate to. Marketing things I can use in my everyday tasks or at a one-time event. I am sponsored by Mixcder Headphones and part of our deal is for me to market their product on my Facebook page.
ZJ: Do you see yourself as an “influencer”, and if so, what does that mean to you? Who have you influenced, and in what ways (consumer driven buying experiences, personally, musically, etc.)?
AR: Being an influencer to me, is getting peoples attention. My music made #1 because of my influence and push to getting the record out there! My book reached bestseller because of my influence and push from the first day it was released on Amazon. My motivational videos influence people because I speak from the heart and with experience. I have influenced people through my contents on Facebook.
ZJ: Do you work for brands? Can you give us an example of sponsored posts you have done as an influencer (that we can share in the interview)?
ZJ: If you were to give someone advice who is thinking about getting into the social media side of music and the world of influencing, what would it be?
AR: Advice would be to be patient and never stop posting on social media. Always keep a balance between contents being videos and pictures about music, personal, funny, anything entertaining. Mix it up with inspiration and lots of questions, and advertise directly with Facebook.
ZJ: General words of wisdom you live by?
AR: “Remember to pray.” That’s my thing.
ZJ: Favorite quote?
AR: One of my faves from the top of my head. “Tough times don’t last, but you do.”
ZJ: Why do you think people find you and follow you?
AR: In my social media people find me through shares of my veteran followers. I meet new people on my Facebook page a few times a day. At times I post something that goes viral and get a load of new followers from the content. People also follow me from shows, and events. Or even from a simple conversation somewhere and I’ll invite them to LIKE my page. Honestly, be an independent musician requires you to go out there and find them. Not like iconic people, they don’t need to do nothing but just look cute! But I aim at targeting the right people. Social media is a tough game and it’s all about being consistent.
ZJ: What is your favorite thing to do outside of your life in music and social media?
AR: I love watching my New England Patriots football – I love football. I like to run, golf, and watch TV (Netflix). Go Pats!
ZJ: Tell me about a time when you really impacted someone’s life with your music / social media content. What was the result?
AR: There was a time last year 2015 that I was driving home from my office in Jersey City, NJ. And at a red light someone was in the intersection begging for food. I rolled my window down and told the young man to meet me down the street at the Checkers fast food spot. When I walked inside the store to order the staff was rude and obnoxious to the young man and me. I was upset, and I said,” I want to buy food, why are you rejecting business?” They didn’t want to serve me because of the young man behind me, so I took him across the street to a Chinese Restaurant and there I brought him a hot meal and a drink and told him to sit there at the table and eat calmly. It was raining outside.
At last, when I got home I was compelled to make a video encouraging people in Jersey City to not eat at that Checkers because the staff rejected the hungry man and myself. I explained how important it was to have compassion and love people, to help people in need. The video went viral. So viral that the own of that franchise called my office the next morning, and people were expressing themselves and it was a bittersweet feeling. Here’s the video on Facebook.
ZJ: What is your biggest dream in life?
AR: My biggest dream in life is to be successful in my journey. I think that being able to keep your what you love alive, your life will lead to bigger opportunities. As long as your keep forward and are able to sustain your love for your craft. It started very small for me and I’ve been at it all my life. I can see the increases from day one. It’s a slow progress, but it’s going.
ZJ: Do you have any upcoming events or announcements you wish to share?
AR: On Easter Sunday I will be giving a Passion speech on Facebook Live on my Facebook Page at 8am ext. April 8th, 2016 I will be having a RnB Piano Clinic at AR Music Group in Jersey City NJ from 8:30pm-11:30 pm. There are more events happening that you can find at my Facebook Page: AnthonyRodriguezOnline.