Thalia Condo, a Salt Lake City-based singer-songwriter of Latin folk and pop, was born in Guayaquil, one of Ecuador’s largest cities. Her parents weren’t musicians, and her first love was something else entirely: chess.
“I grew up playing chess, so I didn’t have too much time for music when I was little,” Condo said. “But we did a lot of traveling and I remember always being curious about other cultures and other genres of music from other cities and countries.”
When she was 10, Condo visited Brazil during an international chess competition and was struck by not just bossa nova but music from all over the world she hadn’t ever heard: The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Aretha Franklin.
She began playing guitar while she was a student at her Catholic high school. “I was extremely shy and doubted I could even play live in front of people,” Condo said. “I had an awesome friend that always believed in me and always told me I should perform the songs I wrote. Then I auditioned for a Christian CD the school was putting together, and I got the part. That’s the day I knew I could sing.”
Opportunities to perform music were few in Ecuador, so she moved to Utah — where her mother’s side of the family resided — and applied and was accepted to the University of Utah.
Condo answered questions about audiences, chess and bread:
When were you first interested in pursuing music professionally?
Music has always been part of me, and I think I never gave enough credit to what I was writing or singing. In fact, I’ve been writing and singing since I was little, always carrying my notepad to write down song ideas everywhere I traveled with my mom. It became professional the moment I started working on my CD and realized that what I was making was easy to lose yourself in and identify with. And, of course, I love the adrenaline you get when you’re onstage. I could not live without it.
What audience are you trying to attract?
Honestly, I have never written anything thinking of what type of audience or what type of person would hate it or like it. What I write comes pure from my heart, and I try to always send a good message to people, especially when I have met so many that are going through a hard time in life, and I love making happy songs that can make them renew their faith in life or give them some hope. My material has been liked by young teenagers and older folks, so I hope my style will attract everyone.
How did your time in Ecuador shape you?
I am grateful that I grew up in Guayaquil. If I wasn’t there when I was little, I would have never understood about pain, poverty, desperation or other things you don’t see as much in America. I had a decent life and a beautiful family, but you do see a lot of hardship, and people with dreams that could never become true due to politics and the economy. I also played chess internationally for many years, which helped me to become organized, disciplined and able to plan for every single goal.
How is music similar to chess — or is it not?
Well, they are actually pretty similar when it comes to planning and strategy. As far as the game aspect, you have to concentrate a lot, devise your strategy and how you will attack. In music not so much of the attacking or killing the enemy, but I do believe you have to plan as well, be very disciplined, practice every day, listen and learn more to become better at your craft. I mean, chess is pretty demanding, and music is the same. I have learned that in general, life (not just music) is similar to a chess board. You meet people every day, you never know what they are really thinking or what their next move would be — they could be the knights that embrace who you are, or they could be the bishops that might stab you in the back. So you just have to be careful and go by your heart, and that’s something that music gave me that chess didn’t.
Why do you stay in Utah?
For a time, I thought of moving out of Utah for my music, because I thought cities like New York, Los Angeles or Miami were better for playing shows, or they would give me the access to expose my art. But with the Internet, I don’t find it necessary. I could still travel all the time and go everywhere to play shows and have a base here, since this state is so beautiful and peaceful. I love that Utah has the most beautiful mountains, that I could go anywhere on a bike or walk to coffee shops — it’s just very accessible. Utah is full of honest, wonderful people. And I love my apartment downtown.
What was the best thing before sliced bread?
Whole bread. Seriously, dulce de leche ice cream, if it was invented before.
Since bread is square, why is sandwich meat round?
Because the cheap, greedy meat companies decided to cut costs and boost profits by taking the corners off their meat. Hopefully, the bread companies don’t follow their example. I like my bread corners.