A career in music journalism for Lucas Villa ‘12 (BA Communications) started with an April 1999 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine.
Villa is proof that using resources to the fullest and staying focused on goals can lead to a dream job. His start at UCSB put him on the path to writing for Billboard, MTV News, and a full circle moment at Rolling Stone Magazine.
In this Alumni Q&A, Villa shares how his love for music and Britney Spears got him to become a voice for Latin music and artists in mainstream media.
What lessons and experiences at UCSB helped build the foundation for your career today?
I would say so much. Outside of the classroom, I learned a lot. Most of my foundation came from all the extracurriculars. They were what helped me get really hands on in Journalism because there wasn’t a journalism major. I wrote for both the Daily Nexus and the Bottom Line. I don’t know if too many people can say they worked for both. It was my sophomore year I decided to actually get involved in activities and extracurriculars. I also got to work for the radio station KCSB. I had my own radio show to play music and talk about music. My slot was from midnight to 2 a.m. but I had a lot of fun doing it. KCSB has a section dedicated to on-air news so I got to do that as well. I got to do news reports in English and in Spanish and interview people so that gave me a really good foundation in writing. One of my last extracurriculars that really helped me was writing for Word Magazine. It’s a class where every quarter you work on this magazine that covers people and events in Isla Vista and the UCSB community. Ellen Anderson and DJ Palladino were the mentors and professors for that class. That was the most hands on I had ever gotten before I left UCSB.
I hadn’t heard about the class until my senior year and I wanted to see what more I could do. I got to get out there and interview all these different people, I remember Biko house was one I did. Even though UCSB didn’t have an actual Journalism major, it was because of all these extracurriculars that I was able to get the foundation that I have.
Did you always write about music at UCSB?
For the Daily Nexus, I wrote album reviews. When I worked for the Bottom Line, I was a promotions manager, but I also got to do music news stories for them as well. For KCSB, I did current events happening around the world and locally. My own radio show was just me playing music that hopefully people enjoyed.
How did you get started as a music journalist?
Journalism was always a dream of mine since I was a kid. It wasn’t until UCSB that I actually got to tackle it. One of my classmates sent me an internship opportunity to write for this website, the Celebrity Cafe, which was based in New York. That was my first professional work with Journalism. That was during my last quarter at UCSB, so I remember being in class and writing music features for this website. Another classmate pointed me in the direction of another website that was looking for writers. I sent in an application and ended up working for them for about 6 years. I was able to keep building my portfolio and resume, and that’s where it all started. Connections really were important for me. If my friends hadn’t told me about those opportunities in the beginning, I may not have had my professional career in writing.
What is one career or personal milestone that you are most proud of?
What made me discover music journalism as a kid was Rolling Stone magazine. I have always loved Britney Spears as an artist since I was a kid. She was on the cover of the April 1999 issue of Rolling Stone magazine. I collected everything that had to do with her. It was when I opened up that cover that I realized that music journalism was a thing and people get paid to write about and review music. It was exciting to know that it was possible to make that a career. That was me in 4th Grade and Rolling Stone magazine has always been embedded in my head.
Flash forward about 20 years, I was contracted with a few websites, so I was comfortable and didn’t really feel like I needed to branch out yet. Last year is when I really started to branch out and pitch my ideas to some of these big publications. I finally went after these publications I had always dreamed about and I felt like my background experience was finally strong enough. I pitched to Rolling Stone, this company I’ve loved for so long, and one of my pitches landed. My first published work with them came out last May. After that, I was able to land something with Billboard and MTV News. I’m freelancing full time now and everyday my bylines grow and hopefully keep growing. After writing for these contracted sites for 8 years, I was able to go full-time as a freelancer last year. It’s been working out.
What was the winning pitch for Rolling Stone?
It was to interview this rising Mexican singer, Christian Nodal. Even though I’m a huge pop music fan...I mean, Britney Spears is the reason I got into journalism, a lot of the coverage I do now is discovering Latin music. I’m Mexican American and I feel like Latin music has grown exponentially in popularity, yet it’s still not getting the coverage of all these mainstream outlets. So, I’ve made it my mission to keep pushing Latin music and Latin artists. I would say I’ve been pretty successful so far. Like I said, I love all types of music, but I’ve been really focused on Latin music from not just Mexico, but Colombia and Venezuela. I feel like the mainstream media needs to catch up.
As a Latino myself, it is extra rewarding to be doing this kind of work. It makes me feel so proud. Sometimes it’s extra work when you’re interviewing people in Spanish and then you have to translate it, but it’s all worth it to be working in the Latin music scene.
What is one fun thing about your job that you didn’t expect?
Before I got into being a journalist, the idea of interviewing celebrities sounded really glamorous. Once I actually started, I didn’t see these artists really from a fan point of view but more of a work point of view and approaching these people professionally.
After the Christian Nodal interview with Rolling Stone, I got to interview Paulina Rubio. She is one of the Mexican Queens of Pop. After growing up and hearing her music as a kid it was such an honor to take all my knowledge of her over the years and sit down and have a conversation with her about her 30-year music career. Another artist I got to interview was Karol G. who is another career I’ve followed as a woman in Reggaeton. Not only do I try to uplift Latin voices but especially Latina voices.
At this point in your life, what is the most important advice you can give to someone who hopes to succeed in your chosen discipline/career path?
Don’t give up, keep knocking on doors. It might seem like people aren’t getting back to you sometimes but just keep following up. Keep reading other journalists. Get a feel for different writing styles. The publishing industry can be rough, but there’s always room for new voices and whatever is new that you can offer- embrace that and pursue it. Hopefully that can help get your foot into the industry.
What inspires you?
Music has always been such an important part of my life since I was a kid. I can’t play music, but I love to appreciate music. It’s cool to be able to get paid to appreciate music and share music. That’s what keeps me going. Now that my angle is focused on Latin music, there’s another level to my appreciation with my Latino roots, my Mexican roots.
Is there anything else you would like people to know?
I’m a freelancer, so if you need music coverage in any genre in English or in Spanish, I’m available. I have a strong background as I’ve been in the industry for almost 10 years. My website is Golden Oportunidad Music and I'm on all social media @MyPrerogative15