Aquiles cried as he prepared to record the song “Burning It All,” so much so that the producer gave him a few minutes to let the tears flow. This was not unusual for the Broomfield artist, known across northern Colorado by one name, just like Shakira or Beyonce.
“Sometimes I listen to a song and think, ‘Wow, I was in a dark place,’” Aquiles said. “But that song helped me get out of it.”
This is why Aquiles decided to start writing songs on his own after a successful career playing covers in tribute bands since he moved here in 2007. He made good money in bands such as the Manabi Latin Band (now Aquiles and the Latin Groove), Maiden Denver, an Iron Maiden tribute, and perhaps his most famous, Blood Pollution, when he began to question his role in life.
Songwriting as Therapy
He is now 39, a time when many of us do that, and the pandemic helped spur the internal searching, as it did for many of us as well. But as Aquiles began writing songs during the shut-in, as a way to week out spiritual growth, he found an answer: If his own songs could make him cry even as they helped him through bad times, just imagine what they could do for others.
“Some want to get the girl or get power or be respected,” he said. “But if I touch people’s heart, that’s my purpose in music. If they say they care about what I wrote about, that’s what success looks like to me.
“Songwriting is a conversation with myself. It’s my therapy. Every time I went to therapy it made it worse. But music is a therapy, and it resonates with others as well as myself.” Aquiles, who calls himself “a messenger for emotions,” says songwriting is now his purpose in life, so much so that he no longer plays in Blood Pollution or any other band for that matter.
He still has a job, his main gig as an interpreter for medical offices, so he won’t go broke, but gigs have been harder to come by, and he’s OK with that. “I don’t want to be trapped in a box,” Aquiles said. “I don’t want to play by anyone’s rules.”
Aquiles refers to that statement both to talk about how his songwriting has freed him as an artist, but it also refers to the type of music he plays. Aquiles loves hard rock and metal — his life changed, he said, the first time he heard Guns and Roses’ “Appetite for Destruction” — and his music reflects that. But he’s also a Latin artist.
Latino music is a part of his heritage. He grew up in Ecuador, and his love of music was burnished by the dances his parents took him to as a child. His parents would sway to the music, and he would watch the cumbia bands play.
“I do embrace my American background,” Aquiles said, “but I am 120 percent Latino, bro.”
Bringing Two Worlds Together
He is a Latin musician, and he is a metal musician. He recently played one gig in December at the Moxi, with Los Mocochetes, a Chicano Funk band; but he also will open for the hard-rock band Hinder, known for “Lips of an Angel” among others, on Jan. 23 at the Aggie in Fort Collins.
Sometimes he brings his two sides together and many other times he doesn’t. He did for a single he released last month, a harder version of Brenda Lee’s “Rockin Around the Christmas Tree” that he sings in Spanish. He recorded it after deciding to embrace Christmas because he didn’t want his two daughters, aged 8 and 12, to suffer over his bitterness.
“I had issues with Christmas my whole life,” Aquiles said. “Not getting presents and seeing the secure lives other kids had. The season was just a reminder of that. This song is my way of healing that. I hope this song brings people together.”
His latest single, “The Devil Comes At Night,” like many of the singles he plans to release soon, also show his harder side. The song comes from a riff he wrote that his grandfather encouraged him to finish. He wrote the song using the folklore his grandfather used in stories as a way to honor him.
He hopes to record Latin music later this year and produce it. He also hopes to play more gigs with his original material mixed in with some covers. Maybe he can make you cry too.