I was recently introduced to Patricio Castillo through his friend, the actor Charles Baker. Patricio has enjoyed much success as a singer, vocal actor, performer, composer and songwriter. He became well known for his vocal performances on The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, Happy Feet and Corpse Bride. Having the ability to perform both in English and Spanish, Patricio has been part of many projects that were dubbed in Spanish for Latin American distribution. Patricio became popular as the Spanish Brett McKenzie on the HBO comedy Flight of the Conchords, causing such a nationwide sensation that the duo invited Patricio to perform live at many of their sold out shows. As a composer and songwriter, Patricio has published songs for film and television shows such as: The Interpreter, Tortilla Soup, Master of Disguise, Transamerica, Crash and Burn and Sons of Anarchy.
You were born in Chile. Can you tell me what it was like for a typical boy growing up there?
I had a pretty normal childhood, a lovely relationship with my sibling. I grew up in a small city named Rancagua. Even at a very young age, I was very independent. I would walk to school with my brother and we were always together. In school I was the child who was called to sing the National Anthem as young as 5 years old; I knew this was my calling and it was the one thing I remember I loved doing.
Was music always something you were surrounded by? Or was it something you did not pay much attention to as a kid?
Music has always been a part of my life since I was a child. My biggest influence was my grandmother who was a singer. She was originally from Spain; the Spanish are a very happy and lively people. In family gatherings she would always sing and my father would play the guitar, so music was always happening at home.
When did you discover you had a singing voice? Did other people realize it before you did?
I always knew that I was ‘given’ something. I realized early on that I was able to sing certain songs that other people were not able to. My grandmother was my biggest supporter, at every opportunity she would set up a stage for me to sing; whether in a church or a gathering, she was always the one that would set it up for me to sing.
What route did you follow with regards to performing? Was it a long, hard road or did you find success early on?
I did not follow an academic route to become a performer. I become a performer by trying over and over again; meaning every opportunity I had to sing, I would take. I started singing in school shows and then continued performing wherever possible. I performed in a couple of musicals where it gave me the opportunity to sing and act, which is the type of performance I enjoyed the most. I also participated in a couple of festivals and won 3rd place in the first National Annual Jazz festival in Chile; close on 250 people who were considered jazz singers participated. I think I was recognised early on. As far as success goes, this is hard to define, since success in the entertainment business is hard to quantify. Some quantify success with awards obtained, international recognition, projects etc. In some capacity I have experienced all of this. For me, success is to continue to be called to do this work, and each time the work grows so does the artist in me, in ways that is hard to explain. ‘Happy and blessed with every opportunity’ would be the best way to describe my success.
What was the first song you wrote?
Gosh… I truly don’t remember.
What is your usual songwriting process?
Most of the time it is a chord progression idea. Then I start seeing what melody would work with that… and finally, when I have captured the melody, I generate a story based on what this melody is making me feel. Other times I think of phrase that I generate into a melody. For a commercial, writing is a different process: the story is already provided and there I have to do my best to interpret what the storyteller is trying to say, melodically. Is a different challenge, but I love both creative processes the same.
You have had many, many of your songs published on TV and Film projects, tell me about some of the most outstanding ones. Being able to perform in both Spanish and English has served you well, giving you the opportunity to voice in Spanish the part of Brett McKenzie on the HBO comedy Flight of the Conchords. How did you get that job?
So, this is a funny story: I was doing a project with a post-production house for Warner, I think it was Happy Feet 1, and at the time the owner of the post-production house was talking about an HBO show called Flight of the Conchords. This show was being dubbed in Mexico and HBO was not happy with how the songs were being done. The owner then asked me, as I was recording Happy Feet, ‘Hey, Patricio! Do you think this is something you’d be able to do and make it sound exactly the same, but in Spanish?’ Without doubting or knowing I said, ‘YES, of course’… Then my manager somehow connected with Jemaine Clement, either via Facebook or MySpace, and basically invited the duo to see how the Spanish version was being made for their show. To their surprise, they had NO idea that this show was being done in Spanish, and were just blown away how it sounded so much like them, but in Spanish. This led to an awesome relationship with Jemaine Clement which then turned into a request of, ‘Hey! Do you guys want to perform together?’, which we did in many sold out shows in LA. Until this day we are still in touch and try to support each other in the projects we are currently working on.
Your latest project is called The New Vintage Sound, the idea being you take popular classic songs and put your own stamp on them. What will be the first release?
This has been an interesting, experimental project. The plan here is to release one video per month starting March 2017. We released our first music video interpreting ‘Sunny’ back in November but the ultimate goal here is to be able to release as many cover songs as possible, and to then release original songs that will fit the style we are trying to recreate. This project was also created to take the show to Las Vegas or award shows (like the after parties at the Oscars, ESPY, Emmys etc…) but we are not there yet. Whatever happens with this project, this is also my way to continue doing music and experimenting with different sounds while performing.
Does your mind ever wander when you are performing?
I don’t think so, I sing, do one thing at a time. Performing live allows me the opportunity to analyse the lyrics and get in touch with the feeling of the song. When I’m recording, I’m more focused on the technical aspect, to ensure that I put in my best performance ever… it’s being recorded so that is forever.
Can you share three genres of music you particularly lean towards?
Jazz, Opera & Rock
I am constantly surprised that bands today are still managing to surprise me with great music, are there any of the more recent new bands that have caught your attention?
I would say singers. Bruno Mars is an incredible singer and performer and Ed Sheeran with ‘Thinking Out Loud.’
How important do you think having a social media presence is nowadays in the music business?
I think is the open gate to everything. Being an artist who started his career in the USA in 1995, with the typical Rock Band, and having to perform live as much as possible to obtain popularity or a record deal, a social media exposure may have helped pushed this wider. Social media allows you to release your work without having a record label attached. Experiencing both worlds, I have enjoyed having the chance to publish on my own, and social media has definitely helped me do just that.
With the of the likes of Spotify springing up, what changes would you like to see to the music industry to make it fairer to musicians to receive a bigger cut of the revenue when releasing material?
Music has always been the business of the publishers and not the musicians. My manager once said to me, ‘Patricio, never forget that you are a singer and this is a job, a fun job, but is a job, so make sure you understand what deals are being made and how.’ I have appreciated this advice, since it made me realize that a big part of getting a bigger cut, is understanding how the cuts have historically been done and it’s our responsibility, in a way, to try to change this when an opportunity is presented.
Who are some of your favourite songwriters and singers from the past?
I have got so many… but the ones that stand out are: Freddy Mercury, Frankie Laine, Elvis, Ella Fitzgerald, Dean Martin, George Michael, Glenn Hughes, Stevie Wonder, Pavarotti, Placido Domingo and the singer from Foreigner.
Is there a particular song or musical passage that always gets you feeling emotional?
Freddy Mercury ‘The Show Must Go On’ is one song that truly makes me emotional… goose bumps and teary eyes.
If you had to do it all over again, would you still choose this career? Would you do anything differently?
I can’t imagine being anything else but this, but I may have changed the path a little. I did not do much theatre or acting and this is something of which I would have wished to have done more.
Songs often evoke special memories of a time or place; can you give me three examples of songs that take you back to a certain happy place?
There is always that one song that takes you back to high school and university days; this was a happy place. In the house where I grew up, my father would listen to Frankie Laine a lot and his songs take me back to when I was kid; Frankie Laine takes me back to beautiful memories of mom and dad.
How important is image to you? Do you think musicians should move with the times and refresh their image occasionally?
I am a man that tailors everything I wear, but this is me, and this has always been me, even before considering myself an artist. I think we move from one look to another because life, and styles, constantly change.
What was the first single or album you ever bought? Do you remember when or where you first heard it?
Queen. It was a vinyl of the album ‘A Night At The Opera.’ I must have been 15 years old when I got my hands on it, and recall being in my house (living room), listening to the best album I had ever heard in my life.
Do you go to many live performances? Whose was the best concert you have seen?
Not many, but I saw Jamiroquai live and to this day I’m still happy and dancing. Best show I have ever seen.
What song would you like played at your funeral or which poem read?
‘Bicycle’ by QUEEN
Whose music would you be happy to admit to as being your guilty pleasure?
Good one! I truly enjoy all kinds of music proudly and guilt free… but if I had to choose one, that would be KENNY ROGERS.
Which movie soundtrack do you never tire of?
Hans Zimmer, anything from Mr. Zimmer.
I love to dance. Would we ever see you up on your feet at a club or party?
Heck yeah!! At one ESPY Award after-party, I was the one who made people dance. I love to dance and I’m usually the one on the dance floor with the crazy moves.
Do you prefer vinyl or have you embraced the various digital formats?
I embrace digital for the compact practically of an MP3; it’s easier to carry 1000 songs than carrying 1000 vinyl.
Final three questions I like to ask everyone.
What is your favourite word? OPEN
How would you describe your perfect day? TODAY
I cannot possibly live without? AIR 😉
You can find Patricio at
Thanks to Claudia Castillo for all her assistance throughout. Thanks to Davina Baynes for editing and most of all thanks to Patricio for taking the time to do this.
This interview has been edited for clarity and length. Any opinions or views expressed within the interview are the subject’s own and publication does not imply endorsement of any such opinions or views by Absolute Music Chat or its personnel.