Culture

Charlie Parra: A Peruvian guitarist winning fame on YouTube

Pierre Gutierrez Febres for El Comercio

Charlie Parra might represent the new face of the music business. The young guitarist from Lima owes his international career to YouTube.

Charlie Parra: A Peruvian guitarist winning fame on YouTube

Charlie Parra's videos (Peru.com)

His videos have received more than a million visits on YouTube and he is the face of Kramer Guitars, Laney Amplifiers and EMG pick-ups. Currently, Charlie Parra is in Canada, starting what will be the internationalization of their career.


A school psychologist once recommended that he learn to play an instrument. “I had behavior problems and bad grades,” says Charlie. “They advised me to play the guitar, in order to be concentrated on something. It was love at first sight.”


What genre did you start with?
Hard rock. Lots of Guns N’ Roses. I played the intro to “Sweet Child o’ Mine” all day for a year. Later, I got into Van Halen and Ozzy Osbourne. My first heroes were Eddie Van HAllen, Randy Roads, Slash and Dimebag Darrel. I was 17.


At that age, one thinks of pre-university academies. What was your vision for your life in that moment?
I decided to study Communications, but I quit and then went to work with a band. We played covers of Deep Purple and Guns N’ Roses in bars; that lasted like two years. But I realized that I couldn’t play in bars all my life. If I contined doing that, I would go broke. Difonía [Parra’s currently broken-up band] was taking off. The record was released and we started to play in Lima, the provinces, and even in Colombia. Later, I started to ask myself how to get out of the local scene.


That’s how the idea of uploading videos to YouTube was born…
Definitely. A friend uploaded a video of him playing the guitar and he bragged about having a thousand views. The video was really bad, and received negative comments from other countries. “How badly they play the guitar in Peru,” they wrote. That motivated me to make a video. The first was called, “El funk de Pepillo,” which was an improvisation. Later, I recorded a heavy metal version of Hector Lavoe’s “El día de mi suerte.” That was my first hit. Later, I did Mozart’s “Turkish March” and I started to have subcribers, and the number of visits kept growing. They sent me messages from Chile, Argentina, the U.S., Brazil, Canada, et cetera. Later, I recorded the national anthem of Peru, and I had my fifteen minutes of fame in Lima. The strange thing is that that is one of the least-seen videos.


How many videos do you have?
I have 102 on YouTube since I opened my channel three years ago. In the midst of that, the idea of recording a solo album came up. When I released it, I didn’t even sell fifty copies in Lima, but more than 1,500 overseas. When they ran out, I entered into iTunes, Spotify and Band Camp. But I don’t have managers, I go it alone.



But you’re going to need one…
Yes. I remember when the national anthem came out, I got a flood of offers to manage me. They told me that I was going to be on TV and have lots of interviews. But that wasn’t my path, I didn’t want to mix with the farándula. That’s what they were looking for, but that wasn’t my objective and never will be.


I have always had the idea that Peruvian television and radio are the worst. If my music appeared there, I would feel like my work had been stained. If it appeared on TV, I would scrub it. Obviously I like money, but I like music more. If I mess up my music, I mess up my life.


Which video catapulted you?
One was “Speed f*cks” like a year and a half ago. Later, I came out with “Punk vs. metal” and I got a million visits for just one video. With that, other videos grew, like “Power Rangers” and “Dragon Ball,” which are now going to reach two million visits each.


Fans appeared everywhere.
Yes, the highest-ranked “YouTubers” started paying attention to me and asking me to compose songs. Some were famous gamers like Richie Benaud, TotalBiscuit and Sandy Ravage, and through them I earned more followers.


How did Kramer Guitars sign you up?
Last year, I appeared on a list of the most-seen artists on YouTube. I was listed alongside stars like Iron Maiden, 50 Cent and Lady Gaga. My photo appeared along with them. It was awesome. Kramer spotted me and I became their YouTube partner. That earned me money, as I was working with Google Ads. When more people saw my videos, they put more ads on them and therefore I got a steady income.



Then came the sponsorship of Laney amps and EMG pickups…
Yes, they gave me an amplifier and a head. But the one with EMG is the most important, because on their official website, they put me on a list with my favorite guitarists. I appear with people from Metallica, Slayer, Black Label Society, Children of Bodom, Judas Priest, Pink Floyd, et cetera. It’s great motivation. I have to justify my inclusion there.


What’s your next step?
I am working on my second solo album with the Castillo brothers, and Kramer is designing another guitar for me.