Peter Contreras “Big Petey”: “Do what comes natural ”

I am helping to make young people aware of the things humankind is doing to the planet, and I am communicating through music ways on how we can take care of the environment in a more sustainable way. Specifically the two songs that address this issue in the “Unsustainable Havoc” album are “Unsustainable Havoc” and […]

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I am helping to make young people aware of the things humankind is doing to the planet, and I am communicating through music ways on how we can take care of the environment in a more sustainable way. Specifically the two songs that address this issue in the “Unsustainable Havoc” album are “Unsustainable Havoc” and “Save the Planet.”

As a part of our series about music stars who are making an important social impact, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Peter Contreras.

Peter, aka “Big Petey” is a hip hop artist who mixes his latin routes into his modern tunes — parents from Bogota, Colombia, and grew up there during grade school. He incorporates early piano training, a natural ear for music, EDM sounds, and influences such as Eminem and Spanish rap. His album, “Unsustainable Havoc” combines playful tunes, party beats, along with thoughtfully intense tunes on current issues, such as global warming and political unrest. He currently lives in Houston, Texas.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I was born in Englewood, NJ of Colombian parents from Bogota. I received piano lessons at an early age, and I also enjoyed playing by ear. At the age of ten, we moved to Bogota, Colombia where I grew up until my junior year of high school. I became a truly native bilingual speaker, and have been able to incorporate Spanish into some of my songs. We moved to Houston where I completed my senior year, and went on to study at the University of Houston (BS in Mechanical Technology, and MBA).

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve held on to my formal schooling becoming a Project Manager in the Information Technology industry, but I’ve always been active with my creative mind as well, producing my album “Unsustainable Havoc” with modern technological tools, which came natural from my work in the technology field. The real story behind my inspiration to produce this album is really my children, and specifically my son. As a toddler and young kid, he has always been playful with words wanting to rhyme and find patterns. I realized I could use this easily in my songs, and even incorporate some of my son’s and daughter’s voices in early productions (not part of the album).

Can you share the funniest or most interesting story that occurred to you in the course of your career? What was the lesson or take away that you took out of that story?

I was with my parents at a Parent/Teachers meeting at the school, and all the parents and kids of my grade were touring our classroom where we had a piano. It was pretty noisy with several different conversations going on. I decided to play the Star Spangled Banner on the piano, and little by little the crowd started noticing and started to listen. Halfway through the song everyone stood in silence as I played the rest of the anthem. At the end I received a standing ovation (well, people were already standing anyway), and I realized then I could make an impact with music.

What would you advise a young person who wants to emulate your success?

Stay focused on your talents, but also have a back-up occupation in case needed. I recommend a career in the STEM area (science/technology/engineering/math). You will need money to fund your creative endeavors, and you do not want to struggle having a low income job that barely pays the rent.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you explain how that was relevant in your life?

I always like the quote “Just Do It” made famous by the Nike commercials. Just go out and do the things you conjure up in your mind, instead of just thinking about them. This is how I’ve been able to not only produce music, but write a book, run with the bulls in Spain, skydive, travel to all the continents (except Antartica), etc. All these experiences can be used as true influences in your music.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

My parents always encouraged me to do whatever I put my mind towards doing. They were always encouraging and gave me emotional support, making me believe I could do anything. I owe everything to them.

Let’s now shift to the main focus of our interview, how are you using your success to bring goodness to the world? Can you share with us the meaningful or exciting social impact causes you are working on right now?

I am helping to make young people aware of the things humankind is doing to the planet, and I am communicating through music ways on how we can take care of the environment in a more sustainable way. Specifically the two songs that address this issue in the “Unsustainable Havoc” album are “Unsustainable Havoc” and “Save the Planet.”

Can you tell us the backstory about what originally inspired you to feel passionate about this cause and to do something about it?

I’ve always loved the outdoors, and recently I’ve been bitten by the golf bug. I have always considered a privilege to be able to walk in nature while playing a game that highlights the beauty of our surroundings.

Many of us have ideas, dreams, and passions, but never manifest it. But you did. Was there an “Aha Moment” that made you decide that you were actually going to step up and take action for this cause? What was that final trigger?

There wasn’t an Aha Moment. It was just a gradual increase of alarming news of the state of the environment, and watching society just go about their business with not much of a change. The recent pandemic seems to be an actual blessing to the environment, as there has been significantly less vehicles on the road, and I am hoping it stays this way as companies realize much of the work can be done from home, avoiding unnecessary pollution of vehicles on the road, and the need to heat and cool large office buildings (among other things).

Are there three things that individuals, society or the government can do to support you in this effort?

  1. Share and play the album “Unsustainable Havoc” on the radio and appropriate venues, and hopefully the songs “Unsustainable Havoc” and “Save the Planet” get highlighted, bringing home the message to more young people.
  2. I am available for any show or interview. I’ve also been trained in the art of public speaking (have participated and won competitions with Toastmasters).
  3. Share and play, share and play, share and play

Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or an example for each.

  1. Other than our talents and training, the one thing that helps us to influence others and find success is to be confident and in control of oneself in front of others. Some public speaking courses will have techniques that you can use for any situation in life where you are on stage. I wish I would have done that at a much earlier age. I took a public speaking course, where the main focus was to get rid of stage fright using some meditation techniques as well as confronting the fear head on in the presence of others. I found that most people are really there to pull for you, not to bring you down. Have faith in the good will of others, and you will start to relax.
  2. Do what comes natural — do not force things that do not feel comfortable. If you are comfortable in your private life, performing successfully will come much easier. I am still working on this side of things, but there has been progress.
  3. Have fun while you work on your goals! Do it responsibly — do not drink and drive.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could start a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

We can work on rehabilitating people that are in bad situations due to their upbringing, rather than throwing them in jail. Love breeds love.

We are blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Politics, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them 🙂

I would be delighted to meet film producers like Don Cheadle and Harrison Ford who help to support the environment and sustainability. Getting my anthems on sustainability woven into their outstanding story writing for films would be an honor like no other.

Thank you so much for these amazing insights. This was so inspiring, and we wish you continued success!

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