Next Generation Star
Alyssa Bernal wasn’t looking for a major record contract when she started posting videos of herself singing and playing guitar on YouTube her junior year in high school, but the powerhouse voice on her homemade videos drew notice from powerful people. Pharrell Williams, the rapper from N*E*R*D who won two Grammys for his production work on Justin Timberlake‘s album “Justified,” saw promise in the San Antonio teen with long, dark hair and big dimples and contacted her through MySpace. Williams flew Bernal and her mother out to Los Angeles two days later.
She played “Hey Love,” one of the few originals she had written at the time, for both Williams and Interscope Records founder Jimmy Iovine. Williams promptly signed her onto his record label Star Trak. In a quote on Bernal’s website, Williams says, “Finding a new talent like Alyssa is so exciting to me. There are a lot of young singers out there who can carry a tune, but Alyssa is the real deal. She is a true musician with an incredible voice.” Bernal told Williams that she wanted to work with the producer who recorded the last Jason Mraz album, and he agreed to give her the chance. She spent two months in London writing and recording with Martin Terefe, who also has produced Train, James Morrison and Cat Stevens.
“It was not until London that I knew how I wanted to sound and where I wanted to go,” says Bernal. The recording session led to an EP with three songs including the duet “Hold Me Tight” with singer Jason Wade and a nationwide tour with his band Lifehouse. Bernal covered over 30 cities on the tour from Boston to Portland in just a month and a half at the end of 2010.
As a San Antonian growing up on the North Side, Bernal was always around music. She is the granddaughter of Manuel Bernal, one of the local Univisión station’s first talents and a gifted jingle writer, and her father Andy Bernal was in the Tejano band Culturas.
“We have music for every occasion,” says Bernal. “At Christmas, Thanksgiving, the Fourth of July, my family just sets up instruments and plays all night.” Her dad and brother play drums and her uncles play other instruments such as the piano and saxophone. From a young age, Bernal was pushed to sing with the family in spite of her natural shyness. For now, Bernal also sings live locally, but is considering a move to Los Angeles. “I want to live here,” says Bernal, but admits that the move “would definitely help with the budget.” Many of her YouTube peers have already made their way there.