Gabito Ballesteros was only 10 years old when he unearthed his musical talent. He formed part of a children’s mariachi at a local church in his native Cumpas, Sonora, Mexico, where he learned how to play the guitar and discovered his singing capabilities. It was his own family members and the people from his small town that let him know he had a gift.
Further exploring his talents, a then 15-year-old Ballesteros — whose models to follow are Joan Sebastian, Remmy Valenzuela, and Julion Alvarez — created a Facebook account to post videos of himself performing. His first taste of virality came when he covered “Apagaré La Luz” by Los Hermanos Vega Jr., and the group reposted his video.
“Nowadays, social media can open doors for you, and that’s what happened to me,” he tells Billboard. “But this was just a hobby for me. I couldn’t dedicate myself fully to music, because my parents wanted me to finish school first, and then I could dedicate myself to whatever I wanted.”
Just last year, Ballesteros finished his studies and entered the Música Mexicana realm. His first big supporter was Natanael Cano, whom he met years ago in Hermosillo, and who later invited him to collaborate on his “AMG” track with another then-newcomer: Peso Pluma. Ballesteros is also signed to Cano’s record label Los CT.
“All the songs represent something, but ‘AMG’ was a very big springboard for us,” he elaborates. “It was the song that took us to another step. I am happy and excited — but with a very big commitment, because once you hit a song you already want to have another 10 hits. That’s where the pressure is felt, but it’s nice.”
“AMG” marked Ballesteros first-ever Billboard chart entry, peaking at No. 6 on the Hot Latin Songs listing dated Feb. 25 and at No. 37 on the all-genre Billboard Hot 100 dated May 13. In total, the Mexican artist has four entries on Hot Latin Songs and two top 40 tracks on the Hot 100, including “Lady Gaga,” in collaboration with Peso Pluma and Junior H.
Ballesteros has since been nothing but in-demand, recently even teaming up with artists outside of the genre, like Becky G on “La Nena” and Piso 21 on “Me Libere.”
“I am proud to be living this moment,” he says. “Natanael opened the doors for us. At the time it was difficult for him, with all the criticism and bad comments, but he was able to do it — and today it’s our turn. I feel happy to be able to open a new path for the talents that come after me. Just as I have my idols, I would like to be that for the artists who come along the way.”
Below, learn more about July’s Latin Artist on the Rise.
Name: Gabriel Ballesteros Abril
Recommended Song: “AMG,” Natanael Cano x Gabito Ballesteros x Peso Pluma
Major Accomplishment: “It’s all of them. Every step I take is an achievement for me. A year go, I had smaller goals, now I have bigger ones … but I feel that every one of my goals and achievements, since I began my career, has a lot of value.”
What’s Next?: “I have a tour with Natanael Cano that is about to start in Mexico. My first album is coming too, which hopefully we can release at the end of this year. Collaborations are coming that I can’t mention at the moment, but yes, many projects and surprises are coming. I work daily for all my fans.”