Staying safe at home is “the most sane” Cuco has felt in a while. The 22-year-old Latinx singer-songwriter, who was born Omar Banos, is relishing in the extra time with his loved ones and pets (shoutout to: his dog Leo and cat Benny). He’s also at a productivity high, coming to the realization that hunkering down has actually “improved” his songwriting process. You may be wondering how he’s managing to thrive in 2020? Well, for one thing, the Mexican-American artist makes mental health a priority.
Cuco took the time from his socially-distant schedule to chat with us about his latest collaboration, entering a “new era of growth” and staying creative and confident in these trying times.
HOLA! USA: Hey, Cuco! How are you and your family hanging in?
Cuco: We are just chilling, spending a lot of time at home. We feel blessed to be in a position where we can live comfortably. My parents are happy that I’m home. I also love being with my girl right now. We love spending time with our pets, we have a dog named Leo and a cat named Benny.
What’s bringing you joy these days?
Definitely being with my girl right now. She’s been keeping me happy and bringing me joy. I’ve also been making a lot of music too. Been having the most fun I’ve had in my whole life.
What are doing during this unsettling time to stay creative?
I’ve definitely been playing video games a lot. Also, watching anime which has been inspiring me to make music. We are also building out the in-house studio which is fun.
That sounds fun. Do you miss the electricity of being on tour and performing live?
I really do not miss tour at all. I definitely don‘t like touring, I’ve enjoyed the time being home. I think it’s the most sane I’ve felt in a while.
Are you able to find comfort in the fact that your music is currently a safe haven for many people?
I’m happy my music can make an impact. I‘ve always said it, and I’ll say it again, impact is always something that I’ve wanted to do. I’m just happy I can help people out. I feel like having a positive impact on people is how I know I’m doing my job right.
Do you find it hard to relax and play around until inspiration strikes now? Since the pandemic has thrown routines out the window, I‘m wondering if your writing process has been impacted at all.
I feel like after a couple drinks, it‘s easier for me to loosen up and be funny, be inspired, and write music. I feel more relaxed to create something. Having the right environment and being in a place to make music helps a lot. Being with my girl and having our pets around, I feel like it’s not hard for me to be funny. I like making my girl laugh and like messing around with our pets which makes me enjoy the time we have at home. The impact on the songwriting process has been improved.
With past music being heavily shaped by your parents’ immigration journey, do you have a sense of how this period in the world is shaping your new music?
I feel like right now since I‘m in a transitional period of my music I’m going back to doing the stuff that started me off with music. I don’t necessarily see myself regressing, but I feel like I’m progressing and trying to master something that I originally wanted to do. I got sucked into another world that I wasn’t really trying to be in.
I’m definitely trying to raise money for a good cause and help out the immigrants. If I do something like a clothing drop, I donate money to help out the immigrants. I know a lot of immigrants especially out in the fields aren‘t getting paid out well and they never really have been. Especially right now in these times when business isn’t that great, I feel like they are struggling a lot, so I want to help them out and give back to my own community. My parents showed me how immigrants struggle in the states and I want to give back. My parents looked out for me and I know a lot of those people are parents too, and they got kids to look out for so I kind of want to be a helping hand.
Your Skullcandy Mood Boost is definitely another way you’re a “helping hand”, specifically in the mental health crisis. Why was it important for you to be involved in that?
I‘m happy to be working on Skullcandy’s Mood Boost campaign because I think it’s important to highlight taking care of your mental health. I think with good mental health comes good physical health. I think Skullcandy promoting that and showing that other artists go through different feelings and instances, people can relate to that. Skullcandy doing the Mood Boost campaign can really inspire some people especially during these tough times.
What impact do you hope that collaboration has?
I hope it makes a positive impact and helps people be more expressive with themselves. I also hope it helps people to feel reassured that there is always someone you can talk to. Even artistically, there are ways you can express yourself. I think that freedom of expression can generally always create something positive because you are putting your true self into whatever you‘re saying or creating.
Of course, mental health can really affect a person‘s ability to be truly themselves. What gives you the confidence in yourself to explore your passions?
Getting where I’ve gotten definitely helps me out a lot because it says a lot about my music and the people that support me. It gives me the confidence to put out whatever and know people will support me. Another thing is wanting to help out my parents and to make them proud. I’m kind of an insecure person overall. I know I’m talented in some ways, but what’s been helping me is seeing what I’ve done, where I’ve gone and what I’ve accomplished.
In more recent times, really diving into this music that I‘m going into. I’ve gotten really inspired to not bring myself down or hold back from expressing it. My girl low-key listened to something I did a while back and told me to continue doing this type of music because she really liked it. So, I’m continuing doing all the rap stuff and now I have a whole rap tape ready because that’s what I really started doing in the first place. Basically I’m doing what I’ve been wanting to do for the longest because my girl inspired me to keep pursuing and have confidence in what I like to do.
Thank you for being so open about dealing with depression. What’s your advice for people struggling to even identify what they’re feeling and get help?
I feel like the people that go through depression, anxiety, and any type of mental issue, it’s a lot of battling with yourself. You gotta really realize when you need help, even when you don’t have any of that stuff. If you have the resources available it’s always good to look for therapy. Even my therapist has a therapist and he’s not depressed or anything. He just thinks it’s good to have a therapist, you get to talk about whatever you’re feeling. Sometimes you might be going through some shit and you don’t realize. A therapist might help you realize that there is something deeper.
One positive aspect of this time, is seeing walls come down between famous figures and their fans. The pandemic is shaping a new wave of art and connection. What’s your hope for the music industry going forward?
I think the livestreams are dope. Being able to have a free or charge a small amount for the livestream. Personally, I‘ve been more on the down low, keeping to myself a lot, and working on music so I have something to give to my fans by the end of the year. It’s a lot different, but I think the real fans just want to hear new music. So, I’m just excited to put all that out.
It‘s kind of like a time of solidarity with each other. As much as people wanna say artists have it perfect, there’s a lot of struggling artists right now. I feel like everybody lost a lot of work, I can’t say that I feel it entirely, because thankfully I’m blessed to be in a position to take care of my family right now. But it definitely still did impact me in some way, so I can’t even imagine how it’s impacting other artists and other people. Even essential workers and shit, constantly living with the fear of having to work their job and possibly contracting a disease to people not even working at all and struggling to pay their rent.
Everybody is going through one struggle or another, some people are finding themselves too and have the time to be creative. I feel like there is so much going on and people are trying to be there for each other. For the most part, I’ve seen a lot of positivity.
And we love seeing you actively support Black Lives Matter.
I think the movement is important. As a minority, there‘s a lot of anti-blackness in the latino community and I’ve seen a lot of family members be a part of that. Obviously you grow up having stereotypes of all kinds of people and races - you have to unlearn all of it. Being a minority and realizing minorities are targeted all over the U.S. and, not just police brutality, but even how money is distributed, how education is distributed and how wealth is distributed. A lot of us minorities are underrepresented and have less opportunities.
I think it’s something I naturally feel the need to support. It’s the right moral thing to look out for each other, because it’s also a lot of culture involved. A lot of music comes from black culture like Reggaeton, Dance, Rap, Blues and Jazz. It’s kind of a moral duty and like caring about the people you surround yourself with too and not being just a piece of shit in general.
What are your thoughts on Latinx representation in music?
I see a really big future for Latinx music and the way it‘s represented. I see there’s a community that people like to support each other in. I’ve always made it a point to support artists, especially in the Latinx community. I know I’m definitely a person that will help out the people around me, as long as the people that I help will continue to bring people up with them. I think there’s gonna be a very prosperous community of Latin artists, outside of making latin music, that are gonna be really successful. If the community isn’t there, then it’s kinda gonna be like going back to square one.
To some extent, 2020 has taught us that making plans can be difficult, but - dare I ask - what’s next for you?
Honestly, right now I’m enjoying my time home. I’m enjoying every little moment that I’m here because I know as soon it comes back to getting back on the road, even if it’s for a weekend, I’m gonna miss being home.
I miss enjoying putting out music and I also have a couple music videos lined up. Definitely a different era of the stuff I’m doing, but I think anybody that knows me knows this isn’t far off from what I’ve been doing. Especially the people I came up with from my city, they know what I started making. I feel like anybody that really knows me and f***s with me knows that what I’m doing isn’t really anything new. More so just another side of the talents that I’m able to project. It’s really just another era of growth for me and more self expression.