After scouting the U.S. to find the most promising unsigned bands, Billboard found three of the west's best and your votes picked a finalist: AJ Rafael! He and his band hit the road headed for Las Vegas in a car provided by Chevy to compete at our May 18 Battle of the Bands concert against the finalists from the other five regions. Read about who won and watch the whole Battle of the Bands live showdown here. Scroll down to read a Battle of the Bands Q&A with AJ Rafael, hear some music and more.
Scan the code above with your smartphone to watch a short video from our Battle of the Bands finalists and find out if you've won a trip to the 2012 Billboard Music Awards!
Moreno Valley, California crooner AJ Rafael's a rock'n'roller in singer-songwriter's clothing.
Describe your sound and your audience in your own words.
I put my music in a pop/rock category -- with a huge acoustic singer/songwriter influence. My audience did start out as just Filipinos and Asians but now it has expanded thanks to the power of the Internet. They interact with me a lot, which helps me get to know them better.
Tell us about your first gig ever -- just how awkward was it? And how has your live show evolved since then?
My first gig was just me and my keyboard at my friend's church. I played originals, which I was really nervous about. But it was also mostly my friends so it wasn't as awkward as I thought it would be. My live show has evolved so much since I met my band (Andrew, Noah, and Danny). They bring my music to a whole different level.
What's the strangest thing anyone has ever said about your band?
The strangest thing anyone has ever said about my band was that we didn't look like a band. We're all human beings, and we all play music, I don't get it -- I was like, 'Uh, thanks?' Two Asians and two white guys? Come on, that's completely normal!
Why should you win this competition?
Winning this would validate my music career to not only me and my band, but to my family. I know my mom's proud of me, but I want to really show her that I can make music my career and do what I love.
What's your next project?
Releasing my album, which comes out June 7th! We are currently in the middle of recording and finishing up by the end of April, so we're pretty swamped.
If your band had to come up with a plan for total world domination in the next 10 seconds, what would it be?
I'm almost positive we wouldn't come up with a plan in 10 seconds. There would be too much arguing; we would fail, sadly.
Interview by Dan Weiss
*Click a region to to see the other finalists in the competition.