By Kamren Curiel
No other artist represents today's bicultural Latino quite like singer-songwriter Gustavo Galindo. Born in Mexico City to an Irish/Scottish/French mother and Mexican father, who met in a swimming class at USC, the 30-year-old Latin pop rock artist spent his childhood between Mexico, Lake Tahoe, and Sacramento. Growing up, he listened to a diverse soundtrack that included everything from Cat Stevens, Miami Sound Machine, and 90s grunge to José José, Juan Gabriel, and Maná. Today, he's back to his roots in Mexico City, where he's prepping for a follow-up album, after living in eight different parts of L.A.
"I'm tired of moving," Galindo told me from a Coffee Bean in Glendale. "I have to find a house when this whole thing pays off."
His debut album, Entre La Ciudad Y El Mar, was just nominated for a Grammy, which sparked his Universal label to finally take notice, and State Farm recruited him for the second year in a row to be the "Celebrity Teacher for a Day" for their Sounds of Mi Vecindario campaign. Sporting a leather jacket, jeans, and a gold chain with a guitar and Virgen de Guadalupe pendant hanging from it, the ruggedly handsome singer took a break from his travel-heavy schedule to talk about his passion for promoting arts education in high schools and politics.
"I'm a strong proponent of education reform," said Galindo, who graduated from Claremont College in 2004 with a degree in Government. "The bass player [in our band] is an A.P history teacher and soccer coach at Hamilton High School in Los Angeles. I can't count how many times he's been pink slipped [for being progressive]. I went to talk to the kids about pursuing my dreams of going to college and being a fulltime musician and it was interesting to see the dynamics of his classroom, where he's in control, and another classroom where the teacher with tenure could care less. It's hard to work in a system where educators aren't getting the pay they deserve."
Politics runs in his blood. Galindo's mother's aunt was married to Manuel Ávila Camacho, the president of Mexico from 1940 to 1946. He grew up listening to stories accompanied by pictures of Mexico's political past. Growing up in Sacramento, he interned with then California governor Cruz Bustamante, and wanted to be a diplomat or in the foreign service before dedicating his life to music.
"The Dream Act is very important to me," Galindo said. "My friends were able to go to a private high school in Sacramento and Occidental College on scholarships [because of it]. One of my friends went to medical school and is now at USC doing his residency. He was the first in his family to go to college and now he's going to be the first doctor. If people want it, they should be able to have it. That's what the U.S. is based on."
The politically-savvy singer, whose music education mission will take him to heavily Latino-populated high schools in New York City, Dallas, San Francisco, San Jose, Chicago, Miami and Los Angeles, also believes in the power of voting.
"There's this part of Latin culture that's passive," Galindo said. "Keep your head down, shut up, work, and everything will be okay, but we have a lot more power than we know. If you want something to change, you have to do it yourself. You have to vote. If you don't, you really can't complain."