Unlike the grey and rainy skies of his hometown of Bergen, on Norway’s west coast, boy pablo’s music is bright and sunny, enveloping you like a tropical heatwave. Nicolas Muñoz dives into the world of lovelorn romance, peering in from the outside with his breezy pop.
When his third single ‘Everytime’ found its way out to the world by way of YouTube algorithm magic back in 2017, it thrust the spotlight his way. As the view count racked up, various EPs, all along a concurrent theme (‘Soy Pablo’, ‘Roy Pablo’) followed.
Now it’s time for his debut, and instead of continuing this trend, it goes entirely left-field for a wholly immersive vibe. Muñoz takes on the role of the eponymous Wachito Rico (the translation from Chilean meaning ‘Handsome Boy’) – the protagonist of a romantic journey befitting the twee, charming nature of a Zooey Deschanel rom-com.
“I decided early this year, because it may have made it easier for me to make it interesting, both for like the listener and to myself,” Muñoz says of the decision to step into Wachito Rico’s shoes. Citing it as a far more interesting move than just putting “down like ten songs in a playlist.”
“All the songs are about myself,” he continues, “but it was so much more fun to make a character come to life through the music videos and make a whole story about him.”
So, is it all written out, a la a Hollywood script, or is it more of a see what happens on the day, then?
“When we were getting together, we made the whole story,” he explains. “So everything’s planned out. Me and my manager, who is also the art director for this project, we’ve been having so much fun watching movies and watching different series. We were quarantined together in April, and were just watching a lot of movies and trying to merge ideas, and talking together about who Wichito Rico is as a person.”
Citing their movie playlist as featuring Napoleon Dynamite, Nacho Libre, and Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket; those quirky and naive vulnerabilities echo through the concurrent storyline of Wichito Rico, both visually and audibly, along with that defiant glow of smiling through the storm.
Positivity is a key player in the world of boy pablo. Given he was still a young man back when ‘Everytime’ hit it big, the rush of the last few years has given Muñoz a chance to adapt while keeping his head above water. “[I learned] how to cope… I mean, I haven’t learned everything about it, but I’m better at coping with stress and better at preparing myself for stressful periods.
“So that’s that’s been a challenge,” he admits. “But I feel what I’ve grown most in is as a stage performer, and as a songwriter as well. I wouldn’t say I’ve changed too much. I think I’m kind of the same I was three years ago.”
Muñoz reckons keeping that positive swell in both his music and his life “has a lot to do with the people that are around me,” he says.
“My family are the best. They remind me where we came from, and where we where we’ve been before all of this. My parents have been super supportive since the start. And also my girlfriend is really good at reminding me of the person I am.”
Muñoz comes across as a happy chappy, even now, reclining into his chair over a Zoom call. Always a smile plastered across his face; throughout his airy, pop-based tunings; or any promotional picture. But the journey to Muñoz’s being packaged in the world of boy pablo wasn’t as clear cut for one reason: “When I started making music I just made [whatever] was the first thing that came out of my head.
“I don’t see myself as a super positive, super happy guy, but I really enjoy when people are good to each other,” he says. “When you can focus on being good and positive, instead of bringing yourself down and get depressed on your own. I went through a phase in my teenage years where I was really sad all the time, and I didn’t like that. So I guess maybe it’s a reaction to that?
“I think it’s good to let out bad feelings, and sad feelings. I have a couple of songs that are not very positive, even though they’re not depressing songs,” he says referring a couple of the softer jams on ‘Wachito Rico’, including the genteel yearning ballad ‘te vas // don’t go’.
“I love slow songs!” Muñoz enthuses. “It’s my favourite thing at the moment, making those songs. I tried to get in touch with a little bit of the sad side of love – most of the songs are based on real-life experiences, so even though we say like ‘the story of Rico’, it’s also personal to me. Especially the slow songs I think are very honest.”
Although he’s been growing and learning in the vast open space Boy Pablo now resides in, Muñoz’s world on a lower level has certainly grown. His label, 777 Music, and management have all become a close-knit family – so much so that fellow wistful-playful lamenting labelmate Judah Just Kidding not only plays a character in the video for ‘Hey Girl’ but his first single, ‘All My Life’, is a direct continuation of the video, picking up where his character is left behind by Wachito Rico.
Even Netflix-smash Tiger King is involved in Boy Pablo’s world now. The oh-so recognisable nasal sneer of Rick Kirkham having narrated two of the music videos for ‘Wachito Rico’ (‘Hey Girl’, and its follow-up ‘Honey’). After escaping those wilds of America for the vistas of Norway, “we contacted him, and he was like, ‘Yeah, I’ll do anything that’s not Tiger King!’ Basically, it was a really spontaneous thing, but funny too,” Muñoz says.
“We were just doing whatever we like to be honest,” he says of being able to exist in this self-sufficient and self-fulfilling world of spontaneity. “I’m really happy that we can be in control of everything. It’s [also] exciting to show we have so many ideas. Me and my manager are really good friends; we look up to almost the same artists and persons creatively. We just want to create our own thing and hope that younger people will look up to us for what we’re doing.”
Giving back is what Muñoz wants to do, to offer that same inspiration that came to him in the hopes of offering another burgeoning youngster, be it half-way around the world, or a Bergen local, the same breakthrough sunlight that came to him. Knowing that he’s been given a chance most never get, and all through the luck of an algorithmic draw (and the upbeat, boppy tunes, mind you) taking his global success and making it about the home around him is another part of the Boy Pablo charm.
A lot of Muñoz’s inspiration also comes from his local scene under those grey Bergen skies. “People are always super surprised that [the music] is so happy because it rains all the time over here,” he chortles.
“I looked up to this artist called Sondre Lerche, and this band called Young Dreams, [they’re] basically my two main influences from Norway, and I hope to be an inspiration to people that are trying to make it, and music as well.
“I always thought that Bergen has a very cool music scene,” he says. “You always hear about the never-ending burning wave of cool bands from Bergen doing their thing in Norway. I hope to be as inspiring as they were for me.”
Taken from the November issue of Dork. Boy Pablo’s debut album ‘Wachito Rico’ is out now.
Words: Steven Loftin