Popular musician and Full Sail grad David Rodriguez, known in the music business as ‘Sie7e,’ says music industry execs first doubted the marketability of his blend of Latin, Caribbean, and pop music. However, after being named Best New Artist in the 2011 Latin Grammys, performing with Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas, and recently releasing a hit (“So What”) that shot to number one in 14 countries – no one is doubting Sie7e now.
“In the Latin world, it’s either Reggaeton, which is like our version of hip hop, or it’s salsa, or it’s Cumbia, or you are a ballad singer and you just do ballads,” says Sie7e. “For a long time, many labels rejected me because they [would ask], ‘What is your group? To whom do I offer your music?’”
Sie7e says the answer is that his style – dubbed “feel-good music” – has crossover appeal among a wide range of listeners.
“When I do my concerts, you see small children, you see their parents, you see grandparents. You see all ages. And I see people that you can tell are more into rock music, and I see people that you can tell are more into reggae, or more into hip hop. You see the way they dress. And I’m like, ‘Okay, I have people from all genres, from all ages that are liking it,’” says Sie7e, who is now represented by Warner Music Latina. “I am blessed.”
Sie7e, who graduated from Full Sail’s Recording Arts program in 1996, took a tour of the campus on Nov. 8, hours before his concert at the Orlando House of Blues. He was able to reunite with his old classmate, Full Sail Career Development Advisor Renaldo Peña, also a musician and a fan of Sie7e’s music: “He definitely brought a positive vibe to the Latin music scene, something that was missing for a while,” says Peña.
Sie7e’s music is decidedly upbeat, funky, and positive with elements of reggae, salsa, ska, bomba, samba, flamenco, blues, and funk. His influences are also eclectic, and include musicians from his native Puerto Rico, as well as Bob Marley, John Lennon, Bob Dylan, Fela Kuti (Nigeria), Caetano Veloso (Brazil), and Facundo Cabral (Argentina).
“There’s a lot of genres in there, but I call it ‘feel-good music.’ And all the songs are pretty much on the positive side – nothing violent,” says Sie7e. “I believe in the healing power of music really. And so that’s what I’m trying to do.”
By all accounts, Sie7e is succeeding at his goals. Since 2011, he has performed in more than 14 countries, including Chile, Costa Rica, Venezuela, Colombia, Panama, Mexico, Spain, and the U.S. “Pretty much after the Grammy, everything changed. I even went to Belgium, to a place I had no idea that people were listening to my Spanish-spoken songs,” says Sie7e. “I finished my last tour in Argentina, and I played in front of 200,000 people. It was like Woodstock.”
Sie7e has spent most of 2013 in the studio, recording with producer and co-writer Philip Lawrence (Bruno Mars) and recording engineer Jean-Yves Ducornet (Carlos Santana). He is expecting to release his next album early next year. “And hopefully, one or two years from now, I would like to do a full English version for the American market,” says Sie7e. He says Philip Lawrence told him, ‘Definitely this is crossover. You have to do it. It’s one of those concepts that Americans will definitely enjoy.’ “So I hope so,” says Sie7e.
The Latin Grammy Awards air Thursday, November 21, at 8 p.m. EST on Univision.