Prodigiously gifted singer, songwriter and guitarist Joel Hernandez is just 20, but the pop-rock wunderkind has already absorbed a lifetime of music. Growing up in El Campo, Texas, he soaked up the region’s diverse soundscapes. Through his multi-generational musician family, he learned how to be a thoughtful and emotive songwriter.
Now, he harvests these formative experiences with his masterful debut. The 12-song album is an eclectic yet cohesive collection of songs, brimming with radio-ready hooks, vibey ensemble interplay, and sage coming-of-age insights.
“The album reflects all the different styles of music I grew up with. Back home, you could go out any night of the week and catch two-step music, blues, hard rock, salsa, and Tejano. All these flavors shaped me, and that’s the diversity I wanted to share on my album,” Joel says.
There is indeed a song for everyone on Joel’s refreshingly diverse debut. The album swaggers through alt rock, classic rock, soft rock, blues, R&B, pop, and soul with an assured artistry akin to modern icons like Gary Clark Jr, Tom Petty, and John Mayer. The record’s strong songwriting, and Joel’s highly polished signature aesthetic, hold the album together—shifts in genre feel more like mood shifts, offering the listener a satisfying and emotionally balanced album. Prior to recording and releasing his debut, Joel honed his performance skills with a bevvy of nationwide gigs—a marquee highlight being performing at the M Resort in Las Vegas. In addition, as a teen, 38 Special guitarist Jeff Carlisi handpicked Joel to be a part of Camp Jam’s prestigious Beatles Tribute Band for two summers in a row.
Joel’s journey in music began at 18 months, when his musician father pulled him up onstage to sing during a dancehall gig. He received additional inspiration and guidance from his piano playing mother, his two professional musician grandfathers, and through his church, where Joel was active in the choir.
By 9, Joel had already discovered his musical skills on piano, vocals, and guitar. As a teen, he played in a rock cover band. It was during this time that he was discovered by his current creative collaborator Rodney Alejandro, a Grammy nominated songwriter/producer with a diverse musical background. While Joel was in college, the two joined forces to write songs to for a future EP project. With songwriting sessions in Texas, London, and over the internet, Joel amassed a body of work that would eventually become his first full length album.
Joel’s debut is rife with standout tracks. On the bluesy pop rocker “So Young,” he shares a wise-beyond-his-years perspective on young relationships. “That’s about living in the moment with the people in your life because, as bitter sweet as it is, you know they’ll leave your orbit soon,” Joel says. The amorous “It’s Only You” smoothly melds urban pop to atmospheric rock. The after-the-love-is-gone ballad “Where Are You Now?” tugs at your heartstrings and sticks in your ears like a Top 40 hit from the future. The anthemic “Spirit Of Summer” celebrates being young with irresistible pop-rock hooks and undeniable melodies. Joel showcases his bluesy roots on “Can’t Get Through” which boasts a sleek pop chorus a la John Mayer.
Joel, guitar in hand, went toe to toe with some of today’s finest studio musicians while tracking the album, most of whom were 10 to 15 years his senior. The musicians tracked live for a week at Sonic Ranch Recording Studio, which is located in the middle of a pecan ranch 45 minutes outside El Paso. This process and experience imbues the album with the rich musical spirit of world-class musicians making in-the-moment magic together.
This is Joel’s first foray in the pop-rock arena, and he’s doing it with an album of flair, dimension and depth. Joel reflects on this milestone saying: “This is a big step to a career in music, and I’m so excited to get out there and share this album with everyone. It feels like this has been a lifetime in the making.”