When Sebastian Javier moved to Canada at age 12 after growing up in Argentina, he didn’t speak English and struggled to feel accepted. So he turned to YouTube, where he would post song covers and original music for viewers around the world under the handle @ThatSpanishBoy. Hoping to build a following and spread positivity, he would look at the video camera and “talk to it like it was a person.”
“I was such a shy kid, but the camera was the only place where I felt like I could be myself,” the 21-year-old tells Billboard. “I think people saw that and maybe saw a part of themselves in me.”
The covers helped him amass more than 113,000 YouTube subscribers, and he started working with a manager, Kris Christie. And in March 2019, when Elektra Music Group A&R manager Caterina Nasr was passed along one of Javier’s early songs, she saw herself in the young artist, too.
“I immediately heard something special in his voice and tone that I knew could resonate with a lot of different people and places,” she says. “His fluency in both Spanish and English and cultural understanding of both sides of himself — Canadian and Argentinian — was something I related to right away as a first-generation American and a Latina myself.”
Javier, who says he has “always wanted to work with a label and have a team,” has now signed to Elektra, the label announces today (May 7), making him the label’s first Latin pop signee. Now, he and Nasr are focused on bringing his bilingual pop music to the masses, with Javier inspired by stars like J Balvin and Rosalía.
“Both Sebastian and I are passionate about redefining and pushing Latin music further in the popular culture,” Nasr says. “We want to tell the story of kids like us who have roots and backgrounds in other cultures, but grew up here in North America listening to pop radio and loving pop culture.”
Javier had turned to YouTube because he was inspired by Justin Bieber, who was discovered on the platform. “But Spanish wasn’t a language he spoke,” Javier said. “Pop music was always performed in English, and I always asked why?”
Javier knew it was important that his music be bilingual, like he is, but finding his own sound wasn’t easy. “Before signing my record deal, my music was all over the place,” he says. So after signing with Elektra, he and Nasr took trips to Los Angeles and Miami to meet producers and writers, who gave him the confidence to “trust my gut.”
It was during one of those L.A. sessions where he came up with the tune for his major-label debut single and music video, “Bad For Me,” out today. Created with the help of artist and songwriter Maye and producer Josh Murty, the song explores why people stay in toxic relationships. “I hope that this can be a wake-up call for everyone to stand up and question, ‘How can I be happier? Do I deserve better?'” Javier says. “That’s why I wanted this song to be the debut single.”
At Elektra Records, Javier joins a roster that includes Alec Benjamin, Brandi Carlile, Masked Wolf and Young the Giant. To Nasr, his signing reflects a wider mission at Elektra to support a diverse range of artists and sounds.
“From the beginning, one of the hallmarks of Elektra has been real artist development across a range of genres. It’s more important than ever that we continue to diversify the kinds of artists and genres we are championing, signing, and working with,” Nasr says. “Sebastian is an excellent example of just that, and it is an honor to get to work him and continue to widen the breadth of what we are aiming to do at Elektra.”