Aaron Paredes — the overnight success known as A-Wall — didn’t intend to go viral. “It was just a bonus for me,” he says, timidly. “I definitely didn’t try to go viral or anything. I personally just make music I want to hear myself.”
If you have TikTok, you’ve likely heard A-Wall’s hit single, “Loverboy.” The idyllic song became the soundtrack to a wholesome trend that asks, “Yo bro, who got you smiling like that?” According to Paredes, “Loverboy” was slowly getting popular before TikTok found it, but the cheerful edit took the song to the next level.
“It slowly picked up more traction, and each day it would hit somebody new,” he recalls. “It would be like ‘Oh, bro, did you see Sylvester Stallone used your sound, or that the Jonas Brothers used your sound? I’d just wake up to stuff like that. It didn’t feel real.”
Since its release in 2019, “Loverboy” has amassed over 60 million streams on Spotify, complemented by more than 100,000 TikTok videos. It’s an unlikely feat for any artist, but especially impressive for a self-trained, independent creator. Paredes may be new to fame, but his talent is rooted in a deep-seated love of music.
As a teenager, the singer flipped old cars to support his passion. “I sold my 1958 Ford Thunderbird that my grandpa gave me in El Paso to set up my home studio,” he recalls. “I was paying $60 an hour at the recording studios. I was like, ‘This isn’t going to work — if I want my songs to sound how I want them to sound, I need my own studio.’”
Shortly after, Paredes created the persona A-Wall, a clever play on his last name, which means “wall” in Spanish. With his own studio, he was able to fine-tune his sound, and has since produced three albums experimenting in indie-pop and R&B. His most recent record, Primavera — created with the alternative hip-hop group CHROMA — is a smooth combination of both.
He’s now at work on a new album, Autopilot.
When did you start making music?
In middle school, because I wanted to be a DJ. Coming from El Paso, the EDM scene was huge out there. People would just throw raves in the desert. And that was where my first interest sparked. I went to my first-ever concert and saw the lights, the crowd and how one person could control a huge amount of people for an hour. So I knew I wanted to do some sort of entertainment.
One of the biggest songs at the time was Steve Aoki’s “Pursuit of Happiness” remix with Kid Cudi — that was my first introduction to hip hop. I became a Kid Cudi fan, which introduced me to Kanye, which led me to Tyler, the Creator. I became a Tyler stan after Flower Boy came out — that’s where it all started.
I first recorded myself during senior year of high school. My friends kept pushing me to do it. They’d hear me do talent shows and stuff, so they’d boost me, and then we went to our first recording session. I paid $60 for one hour to cram a whole song in because I was broke.
Did listening to Tyler’s music inspire you to become an artist?
For sure — their artistry is an inspiration. I really admire how they go about marketing themselves. Whenever they put out an album, it’s a moment — you remember that. Their whole rollout is crazy. The merch is crazy. The live shows they throw are crazy. They push the limits of music.
How did “Loverboy” come together?
I started working on that song for an album project that was coming out at the time, titled Helios. I had this show coming up — and I had to try to get myself into shows in Dallas, so I was like, “Let me try out this song I’ve been working on.” I remember performing it, and by the second chorus, the crowd was just going crazy. So I was like, “Okay, yeah, this is the lead single.” And I put it out and, you know, it’s had a good run. [Laughs]
What was it like seeing “Loverboy” hit No. 1 on Spotify’s Top 50 Viral Songs list?
When it hit the Top 10, I was like, “All right, this is enough. It ain’t going further than this.” And I remember I was with my friends that day. I didn’t even know — it kept going up, to No. 8 to No. 7 to No. 5, and then they said, “Yo, you know you’re No. 1 right now?” And I was like, “Stop lying.” Then they showed me, and I just went crazy. We were at Whataburger, and I was just losing it.
Has going viral changed your view of the music industry?
I used to look at TikTok and be like, “Ah, it’s just a fad — it’s going to go away because it’s instant … people will get tired of it.” But through all this, I feel like you have to lean into that, and realize that’s the generation of today’s music. You can win a Grammy from making a song on TikTok go viral. The artists blowing up on TikTok are really talented.
Editor’s Note: A version of this story originally ran in NYLON magazine.
photo by Kalid Robledo & Marvin Martinez