It’s a weekday afternoon in downtown LA, and Jay Ulloa sits at a popular Italian eatery pondering two things most recording artists don’t often combine: dropping his latest single and wondering what his SAT scores will look like when they arrive in a matter of days.
Then he switches to talking about his favorite singers.
“I like Camila Cabello, Shawn Mendes and Luis Fonsi,” says Ulloa, 16, whose “Lastimarte” single was released Friday (April 20). “What they all have in common is that they started young in the business and they never gave up.”
Two years after appearing on Univision’s La Banda, where contestants compete for a spot in a boy band, Ulloa saw that experience as empowering and continued working on his music when he returned home. While he was on the show, he received advice from some of Latin music’s biggest names, including Laura Pausini and Mario Domm.
After his television debut, Ulloa and his family returned to their Sacramento, California, home. He focused on getting good grades, making music and participating in high school sports and eventually found managers who located him after seeing his performances of cover songs online.
“Not many managers in the business believe in what you’re doing,” says Ulloa, who is bilingual and proud of his Mexican-American roots. “Many managers want you to be someone you don’t really want to be.”
Alvina Roman, who co-manages Ulloa with Ale Alberti as part of Roman Empire Management based in Los Angeles, says they are continually making sure that their teen client stays focused on school, while staying creative with his music projects.
“I think our biggest goal as a team is to create something that hasn’t been done before,” says Roman, who added that Ulloa is still independent but that they may consider their options with the right label partner. “We’re not trying to make him urban or reggaeton or trap. We’re just trying to keep him [centered] as an artist and true to himself.”
Late last year, Ulloa released his first single, “El No Te Conoce Como Yo,” which was written by him and “Despacito” producer Andres Torres. Ulloa also co-wrote “Lastimarte.”
Check out the song here:
Ulloa co-wrote the romantic “Lastimarte” pop song and he also enjoys creating EDM projects that often blast on the speakers at home, drawsing a reaction from his family.
At school, he’s on the varsity soccer team, captain of the varsity swim team and works on robotics projects, as the 4.4 GPA student considers MIT after graduation from high school next year.
“I love music,” Ulloa says. “If for some reason it doesn’t work out, then I will continue with my education and it’s about MIT, for sure. I love robotics engineering.”