The local music industry right now is full of passionate and talented artists ready to take on the world, brimming with fresh ideas and distinct sound that elevate OPM to the next level.
But a few artists immediately pop up in our heads whenever the conversation veers towards who will, without a doubt, make it big abroad. Even before getting the chance to sit down and talk to him, Iñigo Pascual has been a sure contender for the trailblazers who can and will take Filipino music to the global stage, along with the likes of P-Pop kings SB19, James Reid, KZ Tandingan, Ben&Ben, and all the other greats of his generation.
But now, after we’ve been able to really deep dive with him on his dreams and aspirations for his own music and the collective Filipino industry, and after relishing on the straight-up bop-filled record that is “Options”, any ounce of doubt that perhaps have been there before is long gone.
Two years of meticulously going over every beat, texture, and lyric across the 12 tracks neatly laid out on the album, and “Options” is finally out for our enjoyment. What sets this apart, though, from Pascual’s previous work is its experimentation on island beats and reggae tones that is distinctly different from its predecessors on his pop-heavy discography. The young artist expressed how all this was made possible by his label, Tarsier Records, with the guidance of acclaimed producer Chris Lopez, more known to his peers as Moophs, and his team who incessantly gave him something to be excited about in terms of his craft amidst the pandemic.
Easily, one of the things that got him most amped up to work on album is the unexpected collaboration with Bernard “HARV” Harvey, the Los Angeles-based producer behind Justin Bieber’s global hit “Peaches”, among other successful tracks on his top-caliber body of work. While working on his supposed second local album two years ago, Tarsier Records approached him with the huge opportunity to fly out to L.A. and collaborate with the renowned producer.
“It came from nowhere,” he revealed. That was a major step in ABS-CBN and Tarsier Records’ efforts to bring OPM to the global stage, and Pascual reveled in taking the opportunity of a lifetime to have a “HARV” track on his repertoire, a milestone that’s a dream in everyone of his contemporaries’ bucket lists. This collaboration brought on the 2019 single “Options”, which kickstarted the two-year production for his first internationally-charged album with the same name.
Images courtesy of Ericka Jusayan, Tarsier Records and Dominic Bekaert, Zoopraxi Studio.
Given everything that happened (and is continuing to happen) due to the pandemic that halted the world’s regularities, it’s this so-called “time off” that brought Pascual into an odd place in terms of music and bettering his craft. While there were awful things that happened and brought on significant bouts of sadness to his life, such as the pandemic and the ABS-CBN shutdown to this very day, a lot of things were also made possible thanks to this strange period in his life as a performer.
“With the pandemic happening, there was a lot of things that definitely made me sad. But at the same time, there were still a lot of good things that happened. We were able to collaborate with a lot of artists because of Zoom, because of social media, and I felt like people were more open to reaching out to different parts of the world because of that,” he mused.
He furthered, “Being stuck at home, you want to do things. You want to make things happen for your career, and there’s a lot of things I was able to achieve through the pandemic. But at the same time, a lot of things we had to change and put on hold.” This includes his cancelled UK tour and all the live performances that would have typically been part of releasing a global album, but he tries hard to look towards the silver lining.
For the 23-year-old multi-faceted artist, this practice of staying optimistic and focused relies heavily on his tribe. His Tarsier team, family, and friends, who continued to inspire him amidst all the doubts of creating and releasing a full album in the middle of so much tension and uncertainty.
“It was always the people behind me that pushed me. There were times that I felt down and anxious about my album, and my career in general. But it was always important to keep myself surrounded by people who made me feel like there is hope. I think in any situation, not even with just the pandemic, if we feel like we’re stuck, it’s always good to surround yourself with people that will lift you up, and people that will make you feel inspired,” he opened up.
Even before the pandemic happened, the anxiety and uncertainty have already clouded Pascual’s psyche, asking where his career was going. This is especially heightened by the success of arguably his biggest hit yet, “Dahil Sa’Yo” back in 2015, which established his place in the local music scene, packaged as a pop scene newcomer. The massive support this track got from Filipino listeners also got him into some extra pressure on himself to do better with his tracks that followed. But in creating this record, he admitted to finally letting go of that insane amount of pressure, and just doing what he loves to do.
“I just wanted to create music not to overshadow or make my past work look small. I wanted to create music to inspire and connect with people,” he stressed. “Through this album, I was able to find my purpose and reason as an artist. Mas nakilala ko ang sarili ko, as an artist and as a person. I became more mature, and it made me be more comfortable to being vulnerable and being open.”
Vulnerability is definitely a big theme across all the songs in Pascual’s “Options”, which he revealed is all about allowing yourself to be in those situations in life where you have so many options and decisions to make: “I want people to not be scared to be vulnerable and human, and I want each track to represent each of those emotions.”
In talking with this young artist who have seen so much of the industry already with his early start and even earlier observations from watching his father take on the stage throughout his childhood, there’s unexpected depth and profoundness to his respect for Filipino music, artistry, and the industry as a whole. An appreciation and confidence of local creativity that someone of his age might not be as exposed to, or outspoken about.
But, with Pascual, it’s in everything he does.
In fact, he shared that with this album, he hopes that young Filipino artists can take it and make them feel inspired enough to surpass it with a better record. Even for himself, he wants to feel inspired for more because of this album.
Undeniably, the main thrust behind the “Options” album being released as a global record is to get Filipino music out there and into the global mainstream. Pascual’s passion with this advocacy shines through his body of work, and most especially with this recent project.
“That’s one of my dreams, to show what we have in the Philippines. Because I do believe that we have so much beautiful content, beautiful music, and super talented artists. I think now is the time to share that to the world. We have K-Pop, Reggaeton, and Western music. OPM should be up there too,” he mused.
As he put it, he wants to make OPM, our movies and other projects, a global stage regular–a norm that has penetrated global consciousness the way K-Dramas and K-Pop has been wholly embraced by different cultures across the globe. With diversity taking on such heavy support right now, he believes there’s no better time to seize this opportunity than right this moment. But as much as quality plays a huge part in this actually becoming a reality, Pascual also stressed his hopes that the arts would get the much-needed support from Filipino listeners and change-makers across the board to fully take on this endeavor.
And so, in answering the ever-pressing question “What’s next?”, the young dreamer, without hesitation or taking a few seconds to think, dared, “Let’s bring OPM to the Grammys!”
From here on out, carving a legacy that his remarkably his, Pascual wants to create more music and collaborate with more artists from different parts of the world. But he also truly dreams of seeing Original Pinoy Music receive the recognition and appreciation it deserves from the world.
“I wanna see OPM—I wanna see a Tagalog song—in the Grammys. It doesn’t have to be my song, but I want to be part of that generation that’s able to do that.”
Iñigo Pascual’s genuine adoration and admiration for Filipino music is clear to anyone who simply listens, and it’s a boost of confidence for us all that he is among the first line of artists making the leap towards international waters. With “Options” as his first record to pursue that, we trust that the collective OPM scene is in the good and capable hands of someone who understands, respects, and celebrates it to heart.
When the album breaches international markets, as we’re sure it will, we can be secure in our trust that this win will not just be for himself, but for the entire Filipino music industry. And it will just be a matter of time before Iñigo Pascual and his peers make headlines as a “Grammy-winning OPM Artist.”
Behind-the-scenes stills from:
Ericka Jusayan, Tarsier Records
Dominic Bekaert, Zoopraxi Studio