Exclusive: Sammy Arriaga Blends Latin, Country On New Mixtape

Sammy Arriaga performs for MusicRow staff.

Sammy Arriaga performs for MusicRow staff.

Newcomer Sammy Arriaga has songwriter Monty Powell, Facebook, and the boldness that accompanies musical ambition to thank for his move to Nashville.

Arriaga auditioned for American Idol during Season 10, earning a “golden ticket” to Hollywood. Though he didn’t win that season, he did discover a passion for country music.

“It inspired me to pick up a guitar and teach myself to write songs,” said Arriaga. “I fell in love with the genre and I knew that Nashville was the heart of the genre.”

Sammy Arriaga performs for MusicRow staff.

Sammy Arriaga and band members perform for MusicRow staff.

Arriaga dropped out of a college program in Winter Park, Florida, to pursue music on his own. He started by sending Facebook messages to several Nashville-area songwriters and publishers. Monty Powell, a songwriter and longtime Keith Urban collaborator, responded.

“He thought I had potential and said if I ever moved to Nashville, he would be glad to help out. That was enough for me,” said Arriaga.

Arriaga immediately packed and made the nearly 1,000-mile trip to Music City.

“I had never met the guy,” said Arriaga. “I grabbed my stuff, showed up in Nashville and direct-messaged him to say, ‘I’m here.’ He asked where I was staying, and I said ‘My car.’ He was like, ‘No, you’re crazy. Come stay at my place.’ He sent me his address and he guided me from that point on.”

Banjos N BongosThe wager has been a successful one. Arriaga has since inked a deal with Los Angeles label Latium Records, and recorded the acoustic mixtape Banjos N’ Bongos, which blends the salsa and merengue sounds of his Cuban heritage with a bedrock of country music, and a splash of the urban and Top 40 songs he grew up with. Arriaga co-wrote every track, collaborating with writers including Brett Beavers, Jim Beavers, Aaron Scherz, and James Slater.

During a visit to MusicRow, Arriaga performed three tracks from the mixtape, including “Margarita Talk,” “Cuban,” “Cold In Miami,” and “Banjos N’ Bongos.”

Arriaga plans to bring some of his Latin-flavored style of country to the CMA Music Festival, when he performs on the Gildan Broadway Stage at Hard Rock Cafe on June 10.

Banjos N’ Bongos is available at all digital retailers. Arriaga has signed a development deal with Sony Music Nashville and has been working with producer Dann Huff. He is booked by WME’s Kevin Neal.


Sammy Arriaga with MusicRow staff.

Sammy Arriaga and his band with MusicRow staff.


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Category: Artist, Featured

About the Author

Jessica Nicholson serves as the Managing Editor for MusicRow magazine. Her previous music journalism experience includes work with Country Weekly magazine and Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) magazine. She holds a BBA degree in Music Business and Marketing from Belmont University. She welcomes your feedback at jnicholson@musicrow.com.

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