EXCLUSIVE: Aquile’s First Casper Interview Since Making ‘The Voice’ [AUDIO]
Recently, we had a chance to catch up with Casper hometown favorite Aquile - fresh off his debut to America, on this season of NBC's The Voice - where he's now a member of Christina Aguilera's team. We talked about his time in Douglas, Casper - friends, family, and how those in Wyoming shaped the talent that you see today.
Here's part of our chat with Aquile, and a reminder that you can listen to audio of the entire conversation below:
Donovan Short: I gotta say, we are so proud of what you have accomplished so far - and I gotta imagine this has been a crazy time for you - what have these last few days been like?
Aquile: Oh man, it's been an overwhelming experience. It was such an amazing opportunity to get on The Voice stage - and watching it on TV the other night, it was overwhelming and surreal. Like a dream - I mean, literally a dream come true. I've been working for this for a really long time, so it finally seems to pay off. It's been amazing, it's been overwhelming - I've gotten so much great, positive feedback, and I just appreciate all the support.
Donovan: You talk about watching yourself on your episode there - I guess they don't realize sometimes that this stuff has been pre-recorded for awhile, so you know lots of these outcomes - you've had to sit there and kind of bite your lip, and not spoil any surprises, not let any secrets out - how has that been?
Aquile: Oh man, it's been so hard - like you said, we have some knowledge - quite a bit, ahead of time before it airs, and we definitely have to keep it a secret, and it's one of the hardest things to do. It's like waiting to graduate high school when you're a freshman. I thought the day would never come when I could finally tell people and it'd be on TV.
Donovan: A lot of people here in Casper already kinda know you pretty well, and they know your story, but for those that are unfamiliar - take me back through it. How did Douglas and Casper come into the equation with Aquile?
Aquile: Well, I moved to Douglas really young, about first or second grade - I left San Diego, and moved to Douglas with my mother, and I just was a normal kid going to school out there, and quickly started finding music through my church choir, and my mom is a musician, singer/songwriter - it just runs in the family, so I took a real quick interest in music and started performing all over the community - in church, in talent shows - got into junior high and started really doing junior high choir and really falling in love with music. I auditioned as a freshman for the choirs in high school in Douglas, and I made the senior choir as a freshman. That kind of threw me into the deep sea, and kind of developed me. Made me just fall in love even more with music, with singing. My choir director Mr. Anderson just really pushed me and brought me out of my shell, so I'm forever in debt and thankful than that. As a sophomore, choir program kinda fell off because my director passed away - that's when I relocated to Casper, in search of a better - another music program basically, and Kelly Walsh had a great music program. So, I headed there with my Mom - and under the direction of Marsha Patton, who everybody knows so well, I did as much as I could - all-state choirs, all-state jazz, just anything that had to do with music, I was doing it. I also, after high school, auditioned for Joseph And The Amazing Technicolor Dream Coat - that was at Casper College. They offered me a full-ride scholarship there and gave me the lead role in Joseph, and that was just another really amazing musical experience.
Donovan: So, who's still here? Still got a lot of friends and family in the area? Still get back on occasion to visit?
Aquile: I got a LOT of friends, definitely. Most friends I consider family out there anyway. My Mom's still out there, my Grandmother, and then a whole bunch of friends from high school.
Donovan: I noticed that on The Voice, they kind of touched lightly on the Douglas days, and they talked about the flip side of living in a small town, where maybe things are not as diverse musically, ethnically as a person like yourself certainly was, and how that was kind of a struggle - they even went through that incident where you got your jaw broken, had to have it wired shut - that kind of led you to the guitar. How was that?
Aquile: Well, just being different has been a part of my life since moving to Wyoming - I just always kinda stuck out. That just really helped develop me as a person, and as an artist. Moving to Casper was a great step for me, because it was like moving to a big city compared to Douglas, even though it's not a big city. (Laughs) So, it was cool to have a little more diversity in Casper - but still - still had people that were haters, so to speak, you know - and there was the one evening I got my jaw broken, and as a result, had my mouth wired shut for six weeks, and that really just took me to another level in music because it gave me the patience to sit down with the guitar that I had in my house and always wanted to learn and never did it until I was wired shut just hanging out at home. I always had a bunch of buddies around Casper and Douglas that played music - Adam Jackson, he's one guy that really helped me on the guitar - and I began to write music - like I said, it just took me to another level - becoming a musician and not just a singer. So that was one of the best bad experiences of my life. (Laughs)
Donovan: I know I've seen some videos on YouTube and some stuff from the old days here with our friend DJ Nyke, who works weekends here at KISS-FM - we were talking about some old videos of you rapping and beatboxing and singing - you've got such a diverse musical background. Who did you listen to? Who really kind of inspired you to do what you do?
Aquile: Oh, wow. Well, like you said, my music background's pretty diverse, I have a large variety of stuff I listen to. I started, basically grew up on church music, on gospel music, worship music and then kind of developed into jazz when I was in choir in Douglas - it went into jazz and gospel - that's all we sang was jazz and, so I have a love for both of those styles of music. Then, really got into hip-hop later in my life, honestly when I met DJ Nyke and some of the guys in the hip-hop scene in Casper when I really started getting into hip-hop. I listened to a lot of Rozelle, Rozelle was the beatboxer, so that's where I kinda picked up the whole beatboxing thing - but I had a lot of influence from my friends there in Casper to get into the hip-hop scene.
Donovan: So, we played this song the other day on KISS-FM called "Typical" - it's a very cool sound with your band there. Tell me a little bit about that and what you guys have been doing in San Diego.
Aquile: The band's called The Orbit Group, there's seven of us - trumpet, saxophone, rose player, bass guitar, electric guitar, drummer. They originate mostly out of Salt Lake City, more than half of us are now living in California together, we've been together for about the last two years, traveling and playing weddings and parties - we got to open for B.B. King last year in Salt Lake City. It's been just an amazing opportunity to work with these guys, they're all young - in their twenties - they're all just really amazing, seasoned musicians - super talented, most of them have degrees in jazz. Just an amazing group of guys, so it's been such a cool blessing to be a frontman of a group that's so talented.
Donovan: So, I gotta get back to The Voice here - you're on, and that's gotta be just a nerve-wracking moment when you get on, and you're trying to figure out the right song to pick, and the strategy you're going to use to turn those chairs. Is that just - amazing, to just be thinking about all that stuff while you're having to perform live, and hoping 'Oh my God, are they going to turn around, am I going to get their attention..."
Aquile: Oh man. The mental part of the game is probably the most challenging, it's not the singing - singing's something I've been doing my whole life so I'm super comfortable with it. It's the mental game - once you get around all those other contestants too that are just amazing, like - I've met some of the most amazing talent on this show, and once you get around them, they kinda give you a reason to second-guess and doubt yourself. It's just so nerve-wracking thinking like 'What if I'm not good enough, what if all these other contestants are way better, and what if I don't get a chair turned' - it's very, very, very nerve-wracking and it's an experience that I've never experienced before, a feeling that I've never had. I'll tell you, before I stepped on that stage - I had some kind of a peaceful calmness going on, I just prayed for my nerves to settle, and that's exactly what happened. I went out there and didn't feel nervous, I just felt confident and excited - it was a dream.
Donovan: Well, you did look calm, cool and collected - and of course you get through just a little bit of "Our Song" from Elton John and all of a sudden, almost at the same time, you spin the chairs of Christina and Adam Levine. Cee-Lo Green was a little bit of a holdout, he kind of waited towards the end - Blake Shelton, you couldn't convince him. Did you know going in, which coach you thought at least you preferred to work with, or was that a decision you made at the last minute?
Aquile: You know, I had a predetermined decision - I always knew that if I had an opportunity to work with Christina I would - that's kind of what I thought when I was going in. My main goal was to get Christina to turn around, but after Adam turned around, and Cee-Lo - and after Adam's sales pitch to me, I got kinda caught up and I didn't know what to do anymore, I thought I knew what I was going to do - but when he started pitching, you know, the whole 'come to my team' thing, I really started second-guessing my decision. It was really, really difficult. Even Cee-Lo - he was very convincing as well, all of them - it was one of the most difficult decisions I've ever made, because I knew I had to let somebody down. It's almost better to just get picked by one person so you don't have to be faced with that decision. It was just an honor to have not just one superstar, but multiple superstars turn around and want me on their side.
Donovan: I gotta ask, 'cause I know we definitely saw the ladies in the audience going crazy - and then, the big thing that was buzzing around here was everybody thought your coach, let's say, was perhaps a little over-the-top flirty with the whole thing. Did she ever get her private performance?
Aquile: (Laughs) Oh man. That, it blew me away - I was so surprised at her response, you know, and wanting the whole 'private show' thing. It was fun, it was just a really fun moment on TV, but no - nothing ever happened that wasn't supposed to happen anyway, as far as "performances". Every time I see her, it's with a bunch of cameras and all kinds of stuff, I didn't get a private show, unfortunately.
Donovan: Well, you know, there's always time. For the record, I talked to a lot of people you went to high school with and I still run into friends of yours around town and they tell me that that whole "problem with the ladies chasing you around" thing is something that you've been dealing with for quite some time. That's just awful.
Aquile: (Laughs) It's awful, isn't it? No, I've always had success with - definitely never had a problem talking to girls. I'm a very social person. And I grew up with all sisters and my Mom, I'm used to women, I guess.
Donovan: That seems to be one of the most popular questions we're getting on our Facebook, if you had to post the relationship status of Aquile, what would it be?
Aquile: The relationship status of Aquile right now is single.
Donovan: You are a father as well - you have a beautiful baby that I'm looking at on your Facebook page here - how has fatherhood been, because it looks like it's been a pretty recent experience for you.
Aquile: Oh, man. That in itself is such an overwhelming experience, it's like, a joy that I've never had before, and a love I've never felt. He's awesome, he's such a little blessing, his name's Nabile Abiah Gunby, and he's a sweet baby - he's very handsome, and he's very calm, very chill, doesn't cry much - it's just such a cool feeling to be a father, I'm loving it - loving every minute I get with him.
Donovan: You've got all these blessings coming around almost simultaneously here - that's gotta be overwhelming, right?
Aquile: It sure is. It is. I've never felt more blessed, though. I'm so thankful, I thank God for the gift that I've been given and the opportunities I've had - I thank everybody back in Wyoming and all my supporters and family and friends, I love everybody back there, because you guys have stuck by me through this whole journey of my life, so - I just feel very, very blessed, and I'm so excited for what's to come.
Hear the rest of our exclusive interview with Aquile, including some discussion on a possible visit back home: