From pop to hip-hop, Quest’s quest takes him out of the box
With the mainstream success of his breakout song “Back to Love,” which won best urban video in the 2010 Myx Music Awards, Jose Villanueva III, or Quest, has been associated with hip-hop and R&B. But he’d rather not box himself in, since his music, he explained, is a product of ever-changing influences.
“I started singing ballads and pop songs, particularly those by Gary V. The first song I memorized was the ‘Faces of Love’ track called ‘Look in Her Eyes,’” he told the Inquirer.
From then on, Quest would listen to a wide variety of artists—Eraserheads, Pearl Jam, Guns N’ Roses, Rivermaya, Stone Temple Pilots, Stevie Wonder, Brian McKnight, Boyz II Men, Jay Z, The Roots, Tupac Shakur, Bobby Caldwell and many others.
“Magulo ako when it comes to music. But they have all influenced my music and style. I go through phases,” he said. “My dream is to fuse all these and come up with my own.”
His 2010 album “Revolution,” in fact, wasn’t intended to be an urban-inspired album, he said. “Whatever sound fits the material I have, I’ll go for it. The sound was very much a reflection of my preferences and mood at the time,” he said.
Quest’s other influences became more apparent with his second album “Life of a Champion” (2012), which he described as more experimental. Aside from the usual smooth and soulful hip-hop/R&B tunes similar to those in his first album, the newer one featured a smattering of heavier, grungier ditties. “The songs kick harder—noisier snares, louder distortions,” said Quest.
While exploring different genres can do wonders for an artist’s growth, it can also alienate fans of his earlier sound. But at the end of the day, Quest stressed, that evolution is inevitable, and it’s up to the artist to forge a strong relationship with his listeners.
“If you’ve made a strong connection, they will follow you no matter what. It’s not just about your music, but your personality and what you stand for,” he said. “Rico Blanco’s audience never abandoned him despite the changes in his music.”
The highlight of his career so far, he pointed out, is the song “Sige Lang,” which topped the Myx charts last year, and which the Gilas Pilipinas basketball team picked as fight anthem. Asked what he thought made the song a hit, he said, “I think it had the right ingredients—a great message, sound and mood. I think I got lucky with that song. The response was amazing, and I want to keep it going.”
To do so, Quest believes he should please without compromising creativity. “I won’t sing about things I don’t believe in or live by,” he vowed.
Prior to pursuing music, Quest worked as vocalist and musical director of the Victory Christian Fellowship at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City. Also, as a talent of Magic Sing, he lent his voice to songs by Phil Collins, James Ingram and Michael Learns to Rock.
Quest admitted that he wouldn’t be in the business were it not for celebrity church mate Sam Milby, who convinced him that he had what it took. Though hesitant at first, Quest gave it a shot. “A large chunk of my music is grounded on faith,” he noted.
His album “Life of a Champion” is exactly that, he stressed. “Sometimes, champions have scars as testaments of loyalty, perseverance; of falling down and rising again. It’s about a modern-day winner.”
He’s had a fair share of struggles. He battled alcoholism from his late teens to his early 20s, and was afraid he wouldn’t amount to anything. “That was one of my biggest hurdles,” he said. “Then I discovered God. It’s good to bounce back from failure. That’s one of the things I want to share with my music.”
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