• Wed. Jul 24th, 2024

Jay Wheeler’s Abuela Helped Make Him One of Reggaetón’s Most


Jun 15, 2024

For many of us, our relationship with our grandparents can serve as a bridge to the past, often linking our crucial developmental years with the wisdom and customs of the generations that came before us. For Jay Wheeler, the connection he shares with his grandmother, Clara Luz, is something he cherishes. It has helped mold him into the man and artist he is today.

“One of the most beautiful treasures I have in my life is my abuela,” Wheeler says. “She’s a person that loves to go out, who loves to party, and I’m lucky to still have her with me and have her healthy.”

But along with being the life of the party, his grandmother has helped instill many of the values that guide the singer — who’s been hard at work ushering in a new brand of romantiqueo with his albums “Emociones” and “Emociones 1.5.”

“She taught me to be respectful, to always be empathetic to people, and to have a healthy fear of God. I’m a person who believes very strongly in God, thanks to her,” the singer says, adding that she also taught him to “just be loving with the world.”

That caring disposition is something that comes across in his music and his interactions with fans and the media. Wheeler once mentioned that he tries not to wear sunglasses because he wants his fans to be able to see his eyes. On the musical front, DJ Nelson’s protege is in high demand to bring old-school crooner vibes to the new wave of trap and reggaetón. His latest offering, “Musica Bueno Para Días Malos,” is a futuristic ride through the ups and downs of love. However, the singer recently found the opportunity to tackle a different genre when he released a cover of the classic song “Piel Canela.”

“I was actually really nervous because I know it’s a classic, that it’s something that you don’t want to mess up,” he says. “So, my intention was never to make a better version or anything like that. My intention was just to make my version of a classic song — one that reminds me of my grandmother. “

The opportunity to cover the song came about as part of a collaboration with McDonald’s. The fast food giant is hard at work promoting their new “Grandma McFlurry” and offering fans a chance to meet the reggaetonero to sweeten an already sweet deal. For Wheeler, however, not only does he get to cover a timeless classic, but he also gets to honor his abuelita, who he also credits with helping cultivate his love for music through her own passion for song and dance.

“My grandmother always wanted to be a singer . . . and that inspired me. From a very young age, she instilled [that desire] in me. And she always wanted to be famous,” Wheeler laughs. “[To this day,] if you give her a stage and microphone, she’ll dance and sing.”

The singer recalls a childhood video of him and his abuela singing and dancing like two superstars. Fast-forward to today, and Wheeler is on track to be just that — the McDonald’s campaign a testament to his rising star and marketability. As part of the marketing campaign for the Grandma McFlurry, Wheeler and his grandmother got the chance to film a commercial together, advertising the new snack and the TikTok competition that goes along with it. So his abuelita is finally getting her time in the limelight.

So, what’s next for Wheeler and Grandma Clara Luz? Wheeler is currently on tour, and his next stop is a concert performance at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden, where he’ll cycle through his repertoire of reggaetón hits and trap bangers the week after Puerto Rican Weekend. But while cantando urbano is his bread and butter, the singer hasn’t ruled out further experimentation with classic genres.

“I’m open to doing anything when it comes to music. There’s no limit. I’m always going to challenge myself to do everything,” Wheeler says.

“Obviously, not everything is going to suit me, but I’ll always try,” he adds. “I’m very open to everything, to doing rock music, classic music, whatever. I’m always going to try and give it my touch — my best shot.”

Along with switching up genres every now and again, the singer has also been known to collaborate with his wife and fellow singer, Zhamira Zambrano. So, maybe a duet with his abuelita will also be in the cards sometime in the future. Whatever he chooses to tackle next, his grandmother will be there, looking on with pride, knowing that her passion was the push toward the bright future Wheeler is currently living.

Miguel Machado is a journalist with expertise in the intersection of Latine identity and culture. He does everything from exclusive interviews with Latin music artists to opinion pieces on issues that are relevant to the community, personal essays tied to his Latinidad, and thought pieces and features relating to Puerto Rico and Puerto Rican culture.


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