Meet our Alumni: Bruno ‘Rex’ Paulo Cerecero.
Talking to songwriter and producer Bruno Paulo Cerecero (a.k.a. Bruno Rex) is always a pleasure. His love for writing songs and his capabilities of bringing a sense of joy to his music makes him an inspiring person to talk to. Besides that, his taste for fashion creates a great deal of positive energy too.
Mexican-born Bruno Paulo Cerecero graduated from Abbey Road Institute Amsterdam in 2019, top of his class. Having worked on over 300 tracks so-far, you can say he’s been quite busy. Officially released songs include productions for Oceana, MVRT and Chelsea DiBlasi and songs for Kenya Saíz, which he recorded at Abbey Road Institute as his final assignment. And this soon to be commercial release will be delivered in 5.1 and Dolby Atmos too!
Bruno aims to be a ‘prolific’ producer, as he likes to call it, writing as much as he can. However, recent events made him decide to take a slightly different approach on songwriting and producing; Bruno Rex is now aiming for the driver seat… as an artist!
We caught up with Bruno to check out what he’s up to and learn more about his latest projects. Furthermore, we’re also curious to know how he is doing during these challenging lockdown times, because he used to travel quite frequently, attending songwriting camps all over the world.
Hi Bruno! What have you been up to lately?
It was an interesting time for me to say the least. I went through a transition phase for myself, reconsidering a lot of my work. I travelled three times this year during the first two months, which is not that much considering all the things I did before that. With the extra time in hand, I started working on my music by exploring different ideas and trying to stay active. And not being on the road all the time can be quite liberating in that sense. I mean, attending all these writing camps can be overwhelming sometimes.
You work with many different artists. How do you find the right people?
I like to meet and work with new people, and that happens during these camps. But it can also be challenging, because not many people are willing to work on something from scratch. I did it a couple of times, working with new people, but often this happens through a third-party introduction. So, the things I worked on [mostly] online during the last period was with people that I knew and met before. And that’s nice because we know each other, know what we like and what space we need. It was also essential to keep on going with work and making music. We helped each other, creating a bit of pressure to finish things and solving the frustration of not doing anything while sitting at home.
But let’s start at the beginning. When did your love for music start for you?
I started playing music at a very early age. In my family, they tried all kinds of activities like sports and gymnastics and different types of arts, like dancing. But the only thing that I could think of was music.
“I started playing the piano when I was six. And when I was 12, I was the youngest student to get into the Conservatorium as a concert pianist. By the age of 15, I played the piano in an orchestra and trombone and tuba in a marching band. Soon after that, I started joining some bands playing with my friends on the keyboards. When I turned 18, I started DJ’ing. I remember the first day I was allowed to go to clubs; I started working instead”, he explains with a big laugh.
So that’s when you started your music career?
Not really. I started with traditional career paths. The city where I come from is known in Mexico for being industrial and business-oriented. So, you were supposed to serve those industries in whatever sense you could. I mean, most of the things and ideas we embrace come from our families, right? In my case, the thoughts and beliefs were based around Capitalism coming to Mexico and the idea that you will work for a company. And especially in those days, the idea of becoming an accountant meant you will always have work.
And at the time, I didn’t know that you could become someone with a full focus on music production. So, I followed the traditional path, because that’s what I knew. I tried three different careers; two different engineering paths in computer systems and information systems and accounting. So, I got a degree in something, and then I started working. But always kept writing songs in the background and ‘being around’ in music.
What do you mean with ‘being around’?
I never quit on music. When I started working in clubs as a DJ, I also had a large sound system that I rented out on the weekends for parties and events. And when I became a consultant, and started getting more money, I came up with the idea and plan to buy a studio and put up rehearsal rooms and everything. I remember buying like tons of gear and isolation and building the studio together with a friend, who worked on the thing, and I was funding it. And then we had some bands that started rehearsing there, and I started producing, mainly arranging. We would do shows on the weekend, or we rented places to organise our own gigs. We lost a lot of money, though, because we didn’t know how it all worked. But we just did it and learned a lot!
It sounds like you were already in business.
Well, yeah. The thing is, at some point, I tried anything related to music, just to be there. Then I switched jobs, started playing in a wedding band and became the music director. We were doing big shows, around 70 gigs a year, with a 13-piece band, playing any kind of style. I think that’s the reason why I have a broad taste of music. Because during that time, either I was DJ’ing, or I was playing at weddings, or I was organising rock concerts or the trombone player in a Ska band. So, at a certain point, you get the flavour of everything.
What made music so crucial for you?
It’s me! And it’s about enjoying yourself. I mean, it’s this thing where I just enjoy the sound and the feeling of how the combination of different elements can make people react.
And for me, it’s always been related to bringing joy to people. We all know that time is the most important thing you can give to any person, right? But then, for me, it was always about trying to bring joy and observe the reactions of people to the music. And when that happens you just want to play, right? I never really thought about it until recently, but I believe that when you’re willing to invest your time and your energy and go through all the frustration and everything into doing one thing, then you know it will help to make the world a better place. I’ve been making music since forever and whatever it takes.
When did you decide to go for a music career?
When I was playing in the wedding bands, I was working as a general manager in a company. And the company got into a crisis, which had quite an impact on the staff, including me. I got into depression feeling awful, like the type you only want to sleep, you know? I remember only waking up to go to weddings, while still working seven days a week, making long days. And it became an overload. So, at that point, I made the decision to quit everything and moved to Mexico City to do a songwriting school and dedicated myself to writing and making demos. I was also doing Berkeley online at the same time. But I knew I needed to be around in Mexico City.
Did it feel that you made the right decision?
Yes, it did. I remember, when I got into college, like 1999-2000, I had my first laptop, and it was like a huge thing. And the first thing I did was getting the software to make music. We didn’t know anything about interfaces, plugins like nothing. So, the only thing I could do is try things out. And I was not scared at all, I just tried anything, spending most of my time writing scores and making music, instead of doing the things I was supposed to do like programming Java and C++ and all those languages.
So, when I decided to make the switch to music, I knew how to arrange and stuff, and it felt like a familiar place. Then I started recording and getting compliments on the things I was doing. It made me more prolific as a writer also because I had the chance to do more and try more things. And I still do that.
What makes you prolific?
I sometimes hear about people that write one song per month, and that’s it. And they might write one song, and it becomes a hit. But that’s not my style. I mean, I need to write every day! I like to write and experiment as much as possible. And it’s not about the difference between quality and quantity. It’s about the idea that if you want to improve, then try doing lots of different things and at some point, you will get there.
How did you end up in Amsterdam?
I moved to Amsterdam to follow my wife’s career path at Heineken. And from that point, I had to start again. I mean, I was doing okay in Mexico. I started getting into something. But when I moved here, I noticed a difference; the level over here is much higher! So, before I started at the Institute, I went to some writing camps here in Europe, and it was a completely different thing. I mean, I did some sessions and writing camps in Mexico before, but the way they do it there simply doesn’t work here. It took me some time to adapt to this. I also started playing live in a jazz band, again just to be around, playing covers in hotels.
You started the conservatory at a young age, but eventually, you started learning everything yourself?
Yeah. With the conservatory everything was quite strict, playing classical music. But I learned the most, actually everything I know, through the wedding band because you need to play anything, from Frank Sinatra to the Beatles to all the 70s ballads. Those songs are very rich in harmonies and textures, instruments, arrangements and backing vocals. And since I was the musical director, I needed to know everything. I had to split the vocals, because there were seven singers in the band, making the backing tracks, etc. And then the instruments, basically sequencing everything and doing some essential recordings. But it had nothing to do with sound design or mixing, the things I learned at the Institute.
When did you decide to go to Abbey Road Institute?
That was an interesting thing. So, there was this Mexican friend of mine [musician and visual artist] who came to visit me here in Amsterdam. And he told me he had a surprise for me. It turned out he had booked a day at Abbey Road Studios in London because he wanted to record one of his songs. So, we went to London and had a session in studio 3. And during a break, I spoke to the engineer and asked him how it all works and how he got there. He told me he had done an intensive course in London and that Abbey Road Studios would start a programme where you have the chance to learn everything you need to know to start working right away. And I got really excited about that idea. So, based on that conversation, when I came back to Amsterdam, I applied the next day immediately.
Looking back at your time at Abbey Road Institute, how was it for you being in that environment?
At first, I realised that there’s a proper way of doing things. And of course, it’s like self-exploration. Experimentation is good, once you know what you are doing or what you’re after. Otherwise, it’s super hard! And of course, you become part of a community that tries to make it work in music. And all the students have different backgrounds, and they have different goals. That’s super nice. I always felt it was the right environment.
Did it change your perspective on producing and making and writing music?
Yes, of course, completely. Having a competitive set of skills and knowledge about sound is the backbone of everything in music. When you can stop doubting about that part, it helps you to go after your own signature or vision, your voice, whatever you want to call it. I mean, if you’re constantly struggling to know if what you’re doing is okay or good enough, you don’t get anywhere. I see quite a lot of people trying to replicate something successful at first. And then they might nail it at some point because they’re into that particular thing, and they become of a copy.
But as soon as you know what you’re doing and when you can appreciate different kinds of things or genres or styles, like all the things we learned at the Institute, you can focus on doing whatever you want, and you will know if what you are doing is coherent and in order. You have all these different teachers with different backgrounds and experience, and they all make it in their own way and stick to their path. So, you’ll learn there are different ways of doing things and different approaches and everything.
I think that’s an important thing I got out of the Institute, you know, knowing different ways of doing things. And now we all have the right skills to start thinking about ‘how do I want to be perceived as a producer?’
How do you see yourself now? As an engineer, producer, songwriter? Or all of them?
I moved from songwriter to producer. But I see myself as a producer-artist now. That’s the thing I’m currently working on. My artist project, which is a dance project, was born out of a realisation that for most of us, it is super hard to finish something. And to trust, whatever we’re doing. Most of the people I work with have difficulties completing anything. Because there’s always something to improve and they want to avoid embarrassment. I mean, we all have our fears, right? So, the way I can help my music to go out there is by being in charge of it. That’s how I moved from songwriter to producer, and now I’m willing to take the chance as an artist.
Can you elaborate a bit on that? Like the music that you released recently, is that your music as an artist or producer?
Mostly as a writer or producer. But yeah, as I said, I’m taking the artist path. So, I’m still working with the same writers and artists than before, but now in a different form. Just to help the projects move further. You know, when you’re writing, you’re sort of guessing everything because you’re trying to get into the artist’s mind, but you don’t know what the artist is thinking. When you’re producing, you narrow it down, because you’re actually with the artist. But then, when you finish the songs, it’s often like: ‘oh, I don’t know about this, maybe we can try something else, and my manager said that…’. And then the songs don’t get released. I mean, I reached a point where I had around ten masters that I delivered and got paid, but none of them got published. Money wise it’s okay, my job is done, but I cannot get more projects because I can’t get any advantage of the promotion and publicity, simply because they are not out there.
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EVERYONE MEET THE ONE AND ONLY BRUNO⚡️This mastermind of a human and I met at @highcoastsongwritingcamp in Sweden this past year and GEEZE I’M SO HAPPY OUR PATHS CROSSED! He’s one of the most brilliant/talented musicians/producers I’ve ever met and I’m so freaking lucky to call him one of my closest friends! AGH!!! I just wanted to let you all know to please prepare your eardrums for the greatness that’s about to ensue…Some badass songs are on the way and we’re STOKED to share them with your faces! WOO! . . . . #booboobangerz #amsterdamproducer #lasinger #singersofinstagram #songwritingsessions #lasessionsinger #musicians #allthesassiness #musikmakarna #darkpopmusic #radiohits #highcoastsongwritingcamp2019
So, they are stuck in the process, and your name isn’t out there.
Exactly. So now I’m taking things back into control. But at the same time, I’m releasing a bit of the creative control. Because all this is like a collaborative project, working with several songwriters and featured artists and me as a producer-artist.
How would you describe your role in this project?
Half of my job is about encouraging the artist, and the other half is about putting the pieces together. After all, thanks to having this broad set of skills learned at the Institute, I can be sure that what I’m doing is according to standards, and that I can take the time and everything to bring the best out of the artist.
You made quite a lot of Pop Music. And now a transition to dance. How come?
Yeah, my current project is mostly Dance. It was the first style I tried to produce back in the day. But more like Trance music, I loved that, especially in my DJing time. For me, Trance was more musical compared to the other House music styles at that time. Trance was really about playing keyboards and programming everything. So now, thanks to the lockdown and acquired technical knowledge, I had the time to replicate those tracks that I always liked. I had some compositions I made during that time, and now I can make them sound excellent.
How many songs did you write this year?
This year is going slow, but we have four releases so far. But yeah, I worked on no less than 50 tracks during this time. Basically, a track a day, and there is more to come. We have around 20 tracks in the queue for this year.
You often go to [song] writing camps. For people that don’t know what that is, can you tell us a bit about that?
Well, you get into a room with two strangers or more, and then you need to share all your secrets within the first half-hour. So, you get to know each other’s stories, drives and motivation. And then you start writing songs together.
Do you mean sharing your life secrets?
Yes, life! In music, the songwriters are the ‘weirdos’ (laughing). As a producer, you can get paid for doing tryouts and sessions. But often, songwriters do it for ‘free’ with the chance of getting royalties. And if you think about that, if there is someone that really wants his/her music to be out there, it’s most certainly the songwriters. So, the thing with these camps is that you get to know [new] people and learn from the things we share and have in common and start writing together. In that sense, I identify myself more as a writer than a producer. Writers are more involved in the emotional part of the music. And that’s my favourite part.
We all go to writing camps, expecting to bring a good song back home that we can listen to and work on and having a chance to get into ‘something’, meaning staying active in the music industry and work with artists. So, yeah, in general, it is more for networking. Most of my closest friends and the people I’m working with for my project, I met during writing camps.
And what happens with the songs?
Then you pitch them, like to either the label or the publisher. They’re often the ones that got you the place to go there, and you can pitch the songs through them. Some A&R’s attend too, and sometimes we perform the song(s) at a venue in that same city. But it requires patience. You never know if something happens. Actually, we are going to get a royalty cut from one of the songs we did during a camp in Sweden, where I was the producer. And I think some of the songs I did during a camp in Mexico also. So, yeah, it happens sometimes. (smiling)
But the main thing about these camps is that it keeps you going. We all encourage each other and helps us to grow. That’s why some people call them retreats!
We can imagine! So what’s coming up from your new project?
The first part of our collaborative dance-pop project is ready. We call it a multi-cultural inclusion and diversity-oriented project, aiming to get circular influences and share our vision and personal taste. Confirmed artists include Maydar, Maria Mathea and Niclas Lundin from Sweden, Marta Gałuszewska from Poland, Oceana from Germany and Chelsea DiBlasi from the US. Also, we have songwriters from The Netherlands, Sweden, Poland, Germany, Finland, South Africa, Spain, Mexico and the United States.
At the moment we’re also working on a project with Mónica Vélez, a multi-platinum and Latin Grammy winner Mexican songwriter.
And of course, we’re looking for new opportunities! Nonstop!
Things are really moving for you, and you’ve come a long way. What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Interesting question. It happened that I received the same advice from different persons, at the same time, you know. But if I summarise it, it’s about trusting yourself; ‘You got this, I believe in you, keep going.’ I’ve learned that you can get all the information from the outside, externally, but you need to make it yours and translate it to something that works for you, internally.
Excellent advice! And last but not least, what’s your ultimate goal?
That’s a cool question because It made me think about what I’m going to do when I retire. I guess it’s about building a career where you can just keep doing the things you like. And the ultimate goal is about ‘giving back’. You know, leaving the world a better place? It’s almost a cliché. For me, it’s about helping to shape my generation in the things we’re doing. And try to fill up the blanks in the things we’re doing.
I think people in music are the real dreamers, in the sense that we need to figure things out. The vision I want to portray in the things we’re doing is about knowing more and doing better and that working hard always pays off. And if you’re okay with doing what you’re doing, just keep doing it. That’s the ultimate goal. Don’t settle for less.
Thank you for this inspiring conversation, Bruno!
Wishing you all the best, and we’re looking very much forward to hearing about your new work.
Interview and text by Dennis Beentjes