It’s Time to Dance!!!! When a smile can light up an entire theater. When your friends are successful and loving life. When hard work brings incredible success, and when positivity and joy permeate everything you do, then the Universe will surely be kind to you. And we couldn’t be happier for Tony Succar!
He burst onto the stage at the Latin Grammys in 2018 and 2019, winning for Best Tropical Album for “Mas de Mi,” and Producer of the Year! Tony is the youngest person ever to be awarded in both categories!
He was born in Lima, Peru and immigrated with his family at the age of three to Miami, Florida. His mom and dad were musicians and remain a big influence in his life. Tony began his formal musical education on piano and then moved to percussion and producing where he has become a beacon to others in the world of salsa, jazz, pop and afro-latino inspired music.
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In This Episode
- 01:00 – Cirina introduces Tony Succar, who won the best tropical album for Mas De Mi. He won producer of the year in 2018 and 2019. Tony is the youngest person ever to be awarded in both categories.
- 03:55 – Tony reminisces his formative years in Lima, Peru, where he was raised around music at an early age.
- 09:45 – Tony talks about different kinds of music and which genre he favors.
- 12:09 – Cirina asks Tony what his life was like growing up with his immigrant family.
- 17:35 – Tony shares why he decided to pursue college and a master’s degree.
- 23:14 – Cirina asks Tony for his advice to young musicians on whether to pursue their music or their education.
- 25:57 – Tony talks about the Michael Jackson album he produced called Unity.
- 30:58 – Tony talks about the OWC equipment he uses for his studio.
- 36:42 – Tony shares the instruments that he uses when he plays percussion.
- 38:31 – Tony shares his three tips to musicians so that they can reach their goals and dreams.
- 44:43 – Cirina and Tony encourage listeners to check out his website and follow him on his social media pages (Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, LinkedIn) to get updates about his latest projects.
I am here with Tony Succar and we are going to have a great conversation. I can just tell, look at that smile. That smile.
Your mother must love that smile.
Well, I get it from her and actually my grandfather, her dad, has an amazing smile. It just lights up the room. I have to thank them for that, for sure.
You inherited it. I can tell you really did. You were born in Lima, Peru, right?
Yes. I was born in Lima, but at a very young age, I came to Miami, Florida. I was about almost three years old. I grew up here ever since.
Do you still have relatives there, though? Do you go back?
For sure. I have a lot of families still there. I’ll go back for a lot of business work now because, since I’m a Peruvian, the majority of my fan base is actually in Peru. I did a lot of shows—when we could do shows—and I’m going to go back. I’ve been back in a while since February, then the pandemic hit. It was one of my last shows, actually, before the pandemic.
That’s tough, isn’t it? I was in Lima. It’s a beautiful city in some ways and really dangerous in others. It has changed over the years, so it can be pretty rough but I have dear, dear friends there. The people are so warm and loving, and the food is awesome, the company and the music. I envy you those trips because it’s beautiful.
Great food. The food in Lima is amazing. There’s a lot of variety. I guess the main thing that I really love about it is that I just feel at home.
They say that wherever you are in your formative years, that’s where you always feel the most comfortable. You mentioned when we were setting all this up that you started in music at a very young age and that you’re raised around music. Was that because of your family or because of the culture in and around Lima, or both?
No. I got into music here in the United States. I grew up in a home with a lot of music around us because my mom is a singer, my dad is a piano player. That’s how I got the music bug at a very early age. Not just because I naturally liked it, but it was expected. It was like, “What instrument do you like?” and you had to pick up an instrument. That’s how I got into percussion and the piano.
But you started first with piano, right?
Yeah. Because my dad is a piano player. I always had a passion by just watching him play, and I always wanted to play like him. But then, I had a very bad teacher. He put me in a school here. I had a terrible piano teacher. She traumatized me.
That’s why I left the piano. I got super traumatized. It was terrible. I think I have some type of PTSD, actually, because it is, but I don’t even realize it. I don’t remember. I just blocked it. It’s still middle school, so you think you remember. I think I just blocked all those moments, and I can’t even really remember any. I don’t know. Not that I regret it. I think everything happens for a reason, but at the same time, I feel like I wished I would have continued.
I think that a lot of people don’t understand that creative people are also very sensitive, especially children. A good educator can make or break a child’s psyche with just a few words. But you’re strong; you came out of it. You climbed out of it. Did you leave piano and then went on to pick up percussion?
The drums. I felt like it was an escape because percussion and the drums are, first of all, I think it’s a lot more simple instrument. I wanted to do something simple that wasn’t so demanding. They’re very loud instruments, too. I love to just make a lot of noise.
I don’t know if you’d say drums are simple. Maybe they’re simple for you because you have a natural ability with them, but I think a lot of people take for granted how difficult playing percussion properly is.
I agree with you. There’s a lot of preparation involved in order to actually start to be able to play in a band, for example, and be able to play all these different rhythms and keep time. At the end of the day, the drummer or percussionist’s main role is to keep time, and that was always natural for me. That’s why I found it simple. But for a lot of people, it’s not that simple and they’re just like, “I can’t keep the time.” Then can’t even play with bands. Even if they practice a lot. It’s just such a natural thing. You’re either able to keep time or you’re not, really. Luckily God gave me that talent to do that.
That’s pretty amazing. In that instance, the leader of the whole pacing and the sound and the feel of it all. But you know what I noticed? I’ve watched you play. I’ve been watching a lot of your videos. You really get into it. I think what makes you so good—and tell me if I’m wrong because I’m definitely not a percussionist—one of the things I noticed when I was watching a lot of your videos is that there are some percussionists that are technically really good, but they pay attention to the technique, and they’re watching the drums.
You do that but am I wrong? I mean, you feel to me like you’re totally losing yourself in the music. Your technique is so ingrained in you that you feel that music. I think that’s part of what keeps you on tempo, right?
Most definitely. I think one of the most important things is to have fun. I lose myself in the music like you say. I just shut off everything, all my worries. It’s all about the music at that moment. I’m actually very good at being able to concentrate while having fun. That’s very difficult for some people.
Some people make serious faces when they’re playing because they’re so concentrated in what they need to do. There’s nothing wrong with that, but for me, I can concentrate. I’m conscious of where I am in the music, but I’m at the same time conscious about having such a blast. In that moment I cannot think of anything else but just what I’m doing at that moment and just vibing. It’s really fun.
Yeah, you do. I see that you watch the other people you’re playing with, so you’re part of the group. You really get in there and I just think that’s wonderful. You have fun. What is your favorite kind of music? Because you play different kinds. There seems to be obviously a Latin leaning, but you do all kinds of music. If you have to pick between salsa, jazz, pop, Afro-Latino and all of those, what do you think you’re most leaning towards now?
I really love Salsa music. For me, that is just life. I don’t know what it is. There’s something about it that I can’t just ignore, although I love all styles of music. Actually, to be honest with you, in my free time, I listen to more country music right now, too. I listen to a lot of country music. I listen to a lot of jazz. There’s something that when a real good salsa comes on, it’s over for me. I want to get up and dance and celebrate.
There’s a lot of life to the music and a lot of creativity, a lot of our musicianship involved. I’m a musician, so I really enjoy that. And a lot of organic stuff, which are the horns and a lot of human-created sounds rather than computer-generated sounds. That, to me, is something very important.
You’re listening to country now, too? That’s pretty cool.
I really love country music. I think it’s probably one of the most beautiful songwriting art forms out there. I love to tell stories, so for me it’s just always a pleasure to listen to these songs. All these great writers from Nashville, beautiful productions. I grew up in the United States, so I’m still Americanized, very American I would say. I’m more American than Peruvian, even, just because of the way I grew up. However, that’s the cool thing with me, I’m just sort of a mix.
Absolutely. Are you going to try some country music, you think?
I definitely will. I’m going to try that down the road, listen to Latin country.
That’s awesome. I think that’s awesome. The thing I like about country is it’s all about love and romance. The guy gets the girl, the guy loses the girl, or the girl gets the guy, the girl loses the guy. It’s all about love. That’s a lot of what the Latin music is about. It’s just a different style of music. That would be awesome. I think you should try that.
I love country because it’s got great storytelling and it’s among my favorite genres of music.
That’s going to surprise a lot of people. On your journey, you left Lima when about three years old with your parents. You moved to Miami. Who else was in the house with you? Did you have siblings? What was it like growing up?
I do have a sister and a brother, and they’re very musical as well, which is super cool because we have The Jackson 5 and we have The Succar 5. We’re also five, we’re not five brothers or whatever, but my mom was singing, my dad was playing the piano, and I was playing the drums. My brother is a DJ and my sister is a singer. It’s like a family affair and we would always work together on the weekend. We were already united all the time.
It was very fun to grow up plus I really love to play soccer. For me, that was one of my biggest passions. My brother played soccer and then my dad was a coach. Wherever we would go, our family would go in together. My sister would bring all her friends to our soccer games. My mom would be there with all these percussion instruments. You know soccer moms going crazy every time we scored a goal, scandalous people making a lot of noise. Crazy Latino people. It was actually very fun growing up.Make sure you take advantage of your youth and do stuff right away. Click To Tweet
I think every family has their issues and stuff. It was never easy for us, and especially we had a strong economic struggle as immigrants here. My dad left all of his dreams, his career, and everything back in Peru—he had a great job and everything—to come to the United States to clean bathrooms and start from scratch, all for the benefit of us—my brother, my sister and I. That’s something that’s always in my heart.
That’s why for me, I owe everything that I’ve ever built and done in my entire life to my dad for having that vision, for taking a leap of faith, and doing it completely unselfishly, like I’m going to do this for the future of my family. That’s huge. For me, what an amazing story and what a great person. That’s why I try to be a great person in life because my dad has always shown that with actions, not just with words.
And he’s proud of you, too, I’m sure.
Yes, I’m sure of that as well. I feel like he’s really proud of me and he’s very emotional about it as well. He says it all the time, which is very important.
I love that. My grandfather emigrated from Sicily when he was 13. He came over on the boat and he worked to bring everybody from that side of the family over one at a time, and met my grandmother, actually, in Brooklyn.
I have great admiration for people. And my mother emigrated from Belgium because she met my father during World War II. There’s a strong sense of family that happens when you move from a country that becomes your homeland, but it becomes a foreign country when you move here, and then learning everything new. It’s not easy, but there’s something so rich about it. I wouldn’t trade the way I was raised for the world.
That’s why parenting is so important because you really mold that person for the rest of their life. That’s why it’s so important to make sure that family is always number one. That’s just a priority and everything because that is the real nucleus of everything. If you have a strong foundation, then you can go off to do whatever you want any time. Because you have a strong foundation, you’re going to most likely be making the right decisions throughout your life because you have that. If you don’t, then it’s easy to fall through the cracks because maybe you don’t really care about the real important things in life. You just try to escape with materialistic things or whatever.
I noticed that you sing. I see you singing in these videos, too. You’re doing some vocals on some of those songs, weren’t you?
A little background vocals here and there, but I’m not a singer.
You’re just having so much fun. It’s really fun to watch. This is something I wanted to ask you, too, because a lot of young people who love music and want to get into music, and it’s the struggle. Your family obviously loved what you were doing and were very, very supportive. There are a lot of kids out there whose parents don’t want them to do that. They want them to get into a profession where they’re going to supposedly make a lot of money.
The young person has to make a decision about, do I go to college or do I just start working on my music. What made you decide to go on to college and then even to your master’s degree? There were some decisions that were made there. Why did you decide to do that?
I decided to do that because my father always put a lot of emphasis in education. My dad is doing a masters right now in business. My dad is always constantly studying. He loves to learn. He’s a bright individual, very clever. He knows a lot about a lot of things. That’s why I had to go that route. Plus my sister went to Harvard. She graduated from Harvard with a medical degree.
She went on after that to do even a speciality at Nova. She’s a super nerd. How is I’m not going to go and do that? At least a master’s in music. I know it’s just the least I could do. There’s a lot of pressure.
Sibling rivalry, right?
Definitely. Especially because she had all the brains, definitely. I’ve always been a bright person, but I was more street-smart. I’m a very street-smart person. I can smell things. I can feel the environment.
Instincts. I’m a hunter. That’s what I do. I just go out and hustle. That’s how I’ve gotten to where I am today. Also, you got to be able to make tough decisions and be able to go through rough times and survive at the same time.
Miami is not always the easiest place to live in either, right? I’m sure that there were some challenging times there for you.
Miami is very diverse, which makes things a little weird sometimes because you find yourself in a position where you want to maintain yourself with the clicks that you are culturally a part of. Even amongst the Latinos. It’s not just the Latino community, no. It’s like the Cuban community. And then you’ve got your Colombian community, your Peruvian community, and your Argentinian community.
There’s all these different communities, and a lot of times they don’t mix, especially when it comes into the music world as well. Remember, I’m playing a lot of Cuban music; I’m not Cuban. For me to break through and prove to the world that as a Peruvian, I can make salsa music and I can make a legit. It was a tough process and it’s difficult to actually get people to jive into my sound. I’m definitely the first Peruvian to ever win a Latin Grammy as best salsa album. That was huge for Peru, but there was a lot of work behind that.
Let me tell you, I went through so much to try to get there. Just the fact that I did it makes me so proud of myself, my team, and my family. But now, I’m looking for bigger and better things. You’ll always want more. You don’t want to plateau yourself. It was a big accomplishment that I never thought I would be able to reach, I promise you.
Well for those who don’t know, I think you were nominated in 2018 for best tropical song.
That was Me Enamoro Mas De Ti.
Yes, that’s a beautiful song. But then the next year, you got four nominations and you walked away with two wins, is that right? In 2019 as producer, as well as the best salsa song of the year. That was pretty awesome.
Yeah, it’s monstrously huge. For the rest of your life, everybody’s going to always say, you were the youngest ever at that time in that category?
I’m going to tell everybody out there, do not underestimate young people. We always have a tendency to think they’re young, they don’t know, but some of the best talent comes from the heart and young people. That was great. Your family must’ve been jumping up when you won. Big party afterwards?
It was a huge party, huge.
It was the biggest thing ever. I went to Peru and it was like Michael Jordan was coming to town type of thing. I was like, what’s this? It’s crazy because the struggle is always real. Before, I would have to beg to try to get interviews there and try to get into the radio. It was just a very difficult process. But once that happened, everybody was hitting me up. They wanted to interview me. They want me to be on their show and for me to be on the radio shows and do all this stuff. I’m still the same person as before. Nothing has really changed. I just won a couple Grammys. I think it was the same. Why don’t you really believe in independent artists? Why don’t you really try to help them out? But that’s just the way the industry works.
You went to school. You got your master’s. What would you tell people, however, who ask you, should I go to school or should I just keep working in bands and groups? What should I do? What would you tell somebody? I get asked a lot about people who want to get into film. For me, it’s a dilemma because I don’t want to go against what their parents would tell them. What advice would you give them?
Yes, should they go to school to study music or should they just do it and work in the field and play in bands and try to make their way that way? What do you think? Obviously, you went on and got your master’s. Are you glad you did that?
I was super glad that I did that and went to do my master’s degree and all because I feel like that prepared me like crazy. I think that was the main thing that gave me the discipline as well to learn about a lot of different things. You have to understand that this is not just about playing music and being good at one thing. You have to be well-rounded and being able to see the bigger picture and learn about the music business. It’s going to make you a better entrepreneur.
In this industry, if you’re not really an entrepreneur, then you depend on other people. You’re dependent on the record labels, and you’re dependent on everybody else. That’s why I think going to school is important. Some people just naturally have that tendency of becoming well-rounded in different areas. I’m not saying that you have to go to school. I mean, there’s Steve Jobs and guys that have done stuff, amazing careers, historic without going. But I think it’ll never hurt, really. It’ll never hurt. If you have the opportunity and you’re not young forever, that’s very important to make sure that you take advantage of your youth and do stuff right away.In the music industry, if you're not really an entrepreneur, then you depend on other people. Click To Tweet
I hear your father talking there. I hear your father giving you that advice. He’s talking in your ear telling you.
I wanted to talk to you about your producing. A lot of very talented artists, musicians, engineers go into producing. To me, that still uses all that creativity, but it does involve a slightly different part of the brain. When did you first start knowing you wanted to? The Mas De Mi was that the first thing that you produced, right?
I also produced a Michael Jackson tribute album called Unity. Unity is a very special project because I’ve never really done anything before that in the commercial world. That’s really what got me known worldwide, really. It’s what went viral for me and got me a deal with Universal Music. They put me on the map. I did a PBS special as well. It was in 2010. It was right out of college and I decided I wanted to do an album.
I wanted to do an album that would cause a lot of attention, that can showcase my skill as a producer and as an arranger. I said, “If I can make Michael Jackson’s music work in the salsa format and people can dig it, I think people are going to respect me.” That’s what I kind of did.
Obviously, I was a Michael Jackson fan. I didn’t know how to get licenses. I didn’t really know anything about the industry. I just went ahead and started doing it. It took me four years to actually get the album out, then about two years to finish it. It’s a long process, but let me tell you. What people accomplish usually in 20 years, I did in four years because it just boosted me at such a high level.
I have to give thanks for that idea, the enlightenment of God. He just put it in my head and thanks to Michael Jackson for his incredible music because everybody’s a Michael Jackson fan. There are so many out there. That was huge.
How did you get the rights? How did you license that music? It must’ve been hard.
It was a huge process, a legal process. Luckily, I was able to get the licenses through the actual estate by presenting my album to them and my project directly to them. It was actually a very tough process because I first went through my attorney and my attorney actually told me that they denied everything. She ended up telling me to actually leave the project at a certain point. But I never gave up. I went myself. I did it myself. I just went myself to try to get it and I got it.
That’s amazing. You’re persevering. It was the Michael Jackson music but it also benefited. Wasn’t it also a charitable album in some ways or not? Am I wrong about that?
Definitely we did some nonprofit type of work and stuff, but it was still a commercial project because Universal signed it. When Universal got involved, they had to make money. That’s just the way it is, but we did it. We did the public broadcast show, PBS. That’s always a nonprofit. There really isn’t any profit ever generated from those shows because it’s funded by the government.
We did a lot of things that were tied into giving back, especially the message of Michael Jackson with hit songs, Black or White. That was very important to me, actually, to make sure that the legacy was respected. That was one of the reasons why I got the licenses in the first place because the state saw the true message behind the album and my project. I named it Unity, so it’s all about unity.
What a way to throw yourself into the business. That must have helped you with all of your music videos and the producing in the future. How many people were involved in that PBS project?
Thirty-five musicians on stage, so it was big. Plus 100 musicians that had recorded on the studio album. It was crazy.
Tony, you have to be amazingly gifted in music, but also really charismatic with people and caring about people because you can’t pull something like that off unless you can help the team unite. It’s called Unity for a reason. That’s a lot of musicians and a lot of people behind the scenes. That’s awesome. Can we still see it?
You can go on to pbs.org and just search Unity—The Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson, and then you can get all of that information and be able to stream the show. Actually, it’s available on DVD as well. People like the CD and the DVD. It’s available on my website, tonysuccar.com.
That’s awesome. We have to visit your website. Talk to me about your gear. There’s a lot of gearheads out there now. First of all, I want to ask you because this is OWC Radio. I know you do use some OWC stuff in that studio you’re in. Can you talk about what you use and why?
Of course. I use a lot of different audio gear, obviously. In terms of my computer setup, it’s very cool because I use several things from OWC that make everything smooth and beautiful, which starts off with the Thunderbolt 3 Dock, which is my main dock. That’s where I literally connect everything to. I really enjoy being able to just connect one cable onto my laptop and just like boom, everything will turn on including my interface, my monitors, and my screens and stuff like that.
I also use an Envoy hard drive. Those are amazing, fast. Thunderbolt 3 hard drives, I would say those are very beneficial when working on music projects and your recording, and you don’t want any latency or anything like that. Those are (I would say) the two main OWC products that I’m always constantly using. I also use AKiTiO Node 8 which is an external GPU enclosure that OWC sells. So fire, because then I can put an external GPU in there. That helps me edit a lot faster my videos, which video production is a very big part of my career now.
It is. What you edit on? What NLE are you using?
I use a Mac computer and then I use Adobe Premiere Pro as my main editing software. I really enjoy it because I’ve been using it for a long time and I’m too lazy to learn anything else at this point.
Well, it’s the language. It’s hard to switch. Once you start with one, you don’t want to switch over and go to something else. What software do you use when you’re writing, and when you’re mixing? What do you use?
I use Pro Tools to mix all of my music. I love Pro Tools. For me, it’s one of the best softwares out there, Avid. I use it for everything now, although I’ve used Logic before as well. I like Logic from Apple. It’s a very awesome software. I use a bunch of different plugins and stuff like that from iZotope, also from IK Multimedia, Universal Audio, Waves. The list just goes on and on.
Isn’t it amazing what you need in order to produce sound, music, video? You have two studios at your house. Look around for a minute or think about, because this is radio and some of this is going to be audio only. I know we can see you in here but we can’t see all the equipment. What else is around you in terms of the other equipment that you’re using?
Well, I use a lot of outboard gear as well in terms of audio. I’ll use an LA-2A compressor for example, from Universal Audio Teletronix. I have a PreSonus monitor station where I control all of my monitors to do that. I have a pair of PreSonus monitors. I have IK Multimedia monitors. I have KRK monitors, subwoofer, and a bunch of instruments that you can think of. I also have a Neve, BAE Preamp. I have the API 512c preamps which I love for percussion and brass, a lot of brass. I love to record the trumpets and trombones with that.
I have a whole list of great microphones starting off with this Austrian company called Lewitt. One of my favorite microphones of all time, the Lewitt 840 is the one that I use the most for vocals. I also have Neumann. I have AKG. I have Earthworks which are great microphones as well. You can never stick to just one brand of microphones, it’s impossible. It’s sticking to one brand of clothing for the rest of your life. Sometimes you got to wear different things for different occasions. Same thing with sound in general. That’s more or less what I have around me and a bunch of instruments like I said, and cameras and lights. I love lights, too.
You are made for this, Tony. You are doing what you’re supposed to do. What kind of cameras are using to shoot your videos?
I use the Panasonic GH5 camera. That’s my camera right now. And I can’t wait until the GH6 comes out. I’m such a GH lover, Panasonic. I have different types of lenses. I have Sigma lenses, which are amazing. I have a lot of the native Lumix lenses as well. Then I have a bunch of little toys like a slider, electronics slider, motorized slider or what they call it, and a gimbal. The Ronin gimbal is super fun, and a whole lot of memory cards.
A huge pot of memory cards. Well, that’s where the OWC equipment comes in. You can plug your card into that Thunderbolt 3 dock. It goes right in there.
Exactly, that’s what I love. I also have a hard drive, ThunderBay, which is cool. I also have a Thunderbolt 2 PCI card enclosure, which I have for my ProTools HD rig, which is also OWC. I have a bunch of OWC stuff as well in my studio. I just don’t remember all the things that I have a lot of them, it’s so much.
Well, because there’s a lot of it. Talk to us about the instruments that you’re using when you play percussion. What do you have now that’s your favorite set?
Well, for sure my favorite, I would say instrument that is called the timbales, which are the ones that depict the drums standing up. Those are so fun to play. I also have cajon. I also have congas. I have bongos. I have a piano. I have bass guitars. I have everything really in my studio and I have a trumpet. There’s never an excuse to not make music because everything is around you all the time.
You’re in a toy shop there. I want you to take some pictures so we can put them up. Where are the timbales made from?
Those are made by a company called Latin Percussion. LP is the leading brand of all percussion. I’m endorsed by them, which is a great thing because they have so many different types of percussion instruments. They’re always sending me all these great instruments and a great variety of stuff from Cuba or wherever. The timbale is, actually, the instrument itself was born in Cuba. However, the ones that I play, I think are made in Taiwan.
I would not have expected that. I didn’t know that. That’s funny. The Cuban community has praised you at this point. I’m assuming you have made them proud with the music that you’ve played. It’s just so much fun watching those videos. It really is. Thank you for that.
I wanted to ask you for the people who are listening, that would love to get some tips from you. Are there things that you know now that you didn’t know when you were younger that you wish you had known? Can we think of maybe three things, tips you might want to give people, especially other percussionists?
A very important tip is to never give up on your dreams and be very disciplined because talent is very relative. Even though you find yourself maybe comparing your skill to another musician or percussionist, that talent is really relative. If you find yourself too behind or whatever, it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to catch up or surpass what you’re looking at and where you’re listening to. Just means you got to put in the hard work. You got to put in hours. You got to put in the training.Never give up on your dreams. Be very disciplined because talent is very relative. Click To Tweet
My main thing is to train a lot, practice a lot. Don’t waste your time when you’re younger, for sure, because as you get older, things get complicated for sure. You want to use that youth time to try to get as good as you can. For example, I haven’t practiced in six years. I haven’t picked up my instrument to practice. Just never have time. I’m producing so much and writing and doing all these things, which is practice but it’s never going to be actually sitting down and practicing your instrument, getting your technique better and stuff like that. That’s why I suggest as my best piece of advice, be disciplined so that you can be able to reach your dreams.
Is there a certain aspect to your technique that other percussionists admire you for or what are you known for in that world?
I think I’m known for my smile the most, actually. This is what people talk about the most. They’re like, “Man, I had so much fun.” “Why are you having so much fun?” He’s having a blast. “You’re so charismatic and so slick.” I compare myself to the South American soccer players because South American soccer players like Brazil, Argentina, Peru, Colombia—and I play soccer—we tend to really love to make things complicated because it looks complicated, and we want to just have fun. We’re not really going for the goal. We’re not really thinking about, we want to win this championship and we’re going to do whatever it takes, technically or theoretically.
That’s the thing with me and music, too. I’m not trying to be the best. I’m just trying to be the one that has the most fun. I want to have fun when I’m doing it and I just want to have such a blast. I write music that, when I play it live, I know I’m going to have a blast. I’m not making music like diggy-diggy-diggy. I’m making music that really has a lot of rigs, has a lot of power, has a lot of stuff.
When you’re having fun with something that you’ve written, what song immediately comes to mind?
The first song I really have fun with is probably Michael Jackson stuff. That was really fun. Billie Jean is one of my favorite songs to play. I always open the show with that because I got to set the tone.
There you go. That’s awesome. I don’t know if I’m allowed to play that on this show, though. Probably would get dinged for copyright.
Okay. Well, we can play Me Enamoro Mas De Ti, another one that I really love to play. That’s a super fun song and that’s on my Mas De Mi album.
I want to know, is your mother happy? Are you in love? Are you in a relationship? Do you talk about that? Do you have time for that in the middle of all this music?
Yeah, of course. Definitely. I’m married. I’ve been two years happily married. It’s still sort of fresh. It’s been a process of learning also, because we never lived together. We were those types who grew up very Catholic or whatever and you don’t move in until you’re married and all that. That was a very big transition for me. Everything actually happened last year. Last year, I launched the album, I got nominated, I won, I got married, I traveled the world touring.
I even went to Bahrain, the Middle East to play salsa. That was crazy. It was a lot of transition and I’m so grateful for my wife and how much she sacrifices also to be with me because I’m a very complicated person. My complicated life is what it is. I’m not a complicated person in the sense. I don’t really need a lot to be happy. I just am a workaholic, like a massive workaholic, to the maximum potential. I’m not going to lie to you. Everybody that I’ve met has always told me, “Tony, I’ve never met anybody that works as hard as you. Never in my life I’ve ever seen anybody just sacrifice so many hours of sleep.”
I haven’t had so much sleep so much of my time and my eyes just shut off. Then my mother, it seems as if she’s happy for me, but she’s very Japanese. Japanese people don’t really express their feelings. That’s the other thing is that, because of my cultural background, I have all these mixes. I understand my mom’s language of love, for example, I can tell that it’s by just doing stuff for you or something, cleaning after you or showing that she’s there.
She’ll never say like, “Tony, I’m proud of you.” I don’t even remember when’s the last time she said, “Tony, I’m proud of you” or “I love you” or something like this. I don’t remember in my entire life. It’s just the Japanese thing. It’s so weird. Everybody has their thing, but I’m not like that. I’m like my dad. My dad says I love you every two seconds. It’s crazy.
I do that with my kids, too. I think maybe too much. I tell them I love them all the time. But I do. I just want to smoosh their cheeks.
That’s how it should be.
It’s wonderful. I’m so proud of you, too. I can hardly wait for the next thing you do. We have to stay in touch.
Let’s send people to your website again. Where do you want them to go to buy some of your music?
Oh, yeah. You can go to tonysuccar.com and you’ll find all my links to my social media so you can follow me on everything on all the platforms, even TikTok. I love to do TikToks. I’m always doing a lot of videos on my YouTube channel. You can subscribe to my YouTube channel, which is Tony Succar as well.
2021 is going to be one of the most important years for me, because I’m diving into a different area that I’ve never done before as a producer and director of film. I’m going to be launching my first documentary, and it’s a self-documentary. It’s about my life. It’s really cool. It’s about how I was able to get to the Grammys and all that, being completely independent and going through all my own struggles or whatever.
Then I also have a PBS special that’s going to air on Latin Jazz in July. That’s going to be super fun. I have a live concert special as well coming out, and a live album. There’s a lot of good stuff coming in 2021. I hope you guys can be a part of it just by being subscribed and staying up-to-date.
We’re going to do some updates on you once in a while so people know where you are and what you’re up to. I hope that the pandemic allows a lot of this to happen. It’s not easy right now, but if anybody can do it, Tony, you can. We’re rooting for you. I do want to thank OWC for sponsoring the show so that we could talk to you and I’m excited that you use their equipment because it’s great stuff and I just want to thank you for taking the time. Maybe you can get some sleep now.
Well, actually, I have a session now. My people are in the studio waiting for me. They’re getting set up and I’m so glad and I apologize. I apologize briefly about my internet connection, but like I said, they’re doing it here in the area of the studio where they’re changing the line now from the normal cable—whatever it was—into fiber optic. It’s messing up my WiFi a little bit, but I hope all your listeners have been able to enjoy the show. I’m sure I’m going to be back because I really want to tell you about everything that’s going to happen. Next year, I feel like it’s going to be amazing. I really enjoyed having this conversation with you. I felt amazing. It was one of my best interviews yet.
Awesome. Well, we’re just excited for everything you’re doing. Everybody listening, remember what I always tell you, get up off your chairs and go do something wonderful today, even if it’s in your own home. Dance to some salsa. Tony, thank you. You have a wonderful evening. Have fun at the session. I’ll be talking with you again very soon. Everybody, have a great day. Bye.
Thank you. Bye.
- Tony Succar
- Tony Succar – Facebook
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- Tony Succar – TikTok
- Tony Succar – YouTube
- Tony Succar – Spotify
- Tony Succar – Apple Music
- Mas De Mi
- Me Enamoro Mas De Ti
- Unity – The Latin Tribute To Michael Jackson
- Michael Jackson
- Michael Jordan
- Steve Jobs
- The Jackson 5
- BAE Audio
- Earthworks Audio
- KRK SYSTEMS
- Latin Percussion®
- Universal Music Group
- Billie Jean
- Black or White
- Adobe Premiere Pro
- Avid Pro Tools
- Apple Logic Pro
- IK Multimedia
- Universal Audio
- Waves Audio
- AKiTiO Node 8
- API: 512c Mic Pre
- Bongo drum
- DJI Ronin
- Lumix lenses
- OWC Mercury Helios
- OWC ThunderBay 4
- OWC Thunderbolt 3 Dock
- OWC Thunderbolt 3 hard drives
- Panasonic GH5
- Sigma lenses
- Teletronix LA-2A Classic Leveling Amplifier
- Make sure your family is your number one priority. Your family is the real nucleus of everything in your life.
- Have fun when playing or creating music. Shut everything else out and just enjoy the music.
- Aim to be a great person in your lifetime. Show it in your actions, not just with words.
- Learn how to make tough decisions in your life. This will allow you to go through rough times but survive at the same time.
- Always look for bigger and better things in your life. This will help you to strive more and make yourself better.
- Aim to be a well-rounded person in the music industry. Understand that it is not all about playing music and being good at it. You have to see the bigger picture in the music business.
- Take advantage of your youth. Never let go of any opportunity to learn and expand your knowledge. Use your youth to try and get as good as you can.
- Talent is relative. If you find yourself too behind, it doesn’t mean that you’re never going to catch up. It just means that you need to work harder on your craft.
- Be disciplined so that you can be able to reach your dreams. Be in control of your future so that you can do what you want in your life and career.
- Check out Tony Succar’s website and follow him on his social media pages (Instagram, Tiktok, Youtube, LinkedIn) to get updates about his latest projects.