Listen up, mga Kapamilya. A new guard of young, talented producers are taking over the local music scene, and Star Music’s very own Roque “Rox” Santos is one of them. If you’re not familiar with Rox’s name, that’s fine. But you should be familiar with Rox’s work. After all, he produced all of Daniel Padilla’s albums—and many others besides.
Daniel is arguably Star Music’s largest-selling act in recent history. His albums have been certified either Gold or Platinum, thanks in no small part to Rox. But how did Rox get his start?
Rox Santos with Daniel Padilla
Rox grew up surrounded by music lovers. His grandmother and some of his aunts, uncles and cousins are musicians, and he counts them among his earliest inspirations.
“Yung Lola ko, siya yung gumagawa ng mga vocal arrangements para sa choir ng church namin sa Bicol. Yung mga ibang kamag-anak ko naman marunong tumugtog ng iba’t-ibang instruments. May Tita ako na nag-aral ng music sa Bicol University. Nakuha ko sa kanila yung hilig ko for music. Nakikita ko kasi yung family ko na mahilig sila kumanta at tumugtog, tapos sumasali din sila sa mga competition. Sabi ko sa sarili ko noon, ang gagaling naman nila. Hanggang sa isang araw, naisip ko, paano kaya kung gayahin ko sila?” he says.
Because he wanted to be like his relatives, Rox started to look for opportunities to play music. But it wasn’t until he went to Bicol University for college that he really began to get into it.
“Sa Manila ako pinanganak at sa Las Pinas ako lumaki. Pumunta lang ako sa Bicol para doon mag-third year high school hanggang college, kaya ako naging malapit sa music. Yung Tita ko na nag-aral ng music doon, siya yung choir leader sa Sto. Domingo church, so sumali ako sa kanila at doon ako lalong na-expose sa music. Yun yung time na tinuruan ko yung sarili ko tumugtog ng gitara. Self-study ako noon.”
Rox graduated from Bicol University with a bachelor’s degree in BS Food Technology. He became a manager at a nutrition lab soon after. Rox says he took that job because back then, he had no clue how to turn his passion for music into a real career. But passion won out over practicality in the end, and he left the nutrition lab after only a month.
He took a job at a restaurant to make ends meet and tried to come up with a plan to pursue music. Luckily, it didn’t take long before he met Star Music’s Jonathan Manalo. Rox reveals Jonathan encouraged him to apply for an open position at Star Music. When he was hired as a project coordinator, he finally felt his life was heading in the right direction.
As a project coordinator, Rox had a lot of paperwork to do, but he reveled in the workload because he was thrilled to finally be part of the music industry. But eventually, he started yearning for a chance to make music, not just help release and promote it.
He got that chance when ABS-CBN started developing a remake of the Mexican telenovela Yo Soy Betty La Fea. He found out that the local version of the show needed a theme song, so he jotted down some lyrics and approached Jonathan for help. As it turned out, Jonathan had been helping the I Love Betty La Fea production staff look for a theme song, so he was happy to help Rox flesh out his idea.
“We needed to write a song that captured the character of Betty. Si Betty kasi, kahit inaapi siya, positive pa rin siya. Kapag may pagsubok siyang pinagdadaanan, lumalaban siya. From there, we came up with a song na tungkol sa tunay na kagandahan ng isang babae,” Rox recalls.
The I Love Betty La Fea production staff loved “Kagandahan,” and so Rox’s very first composition was used on the show. Performed by Bea Alonzo, the actress who played the role of Betty, it became, according to Rox, a “modest hit as sub-theme.”
Rox says of the first time he heard his own composition on the radio. “Parang nasa cloud nine, ang saya saya mo lang kasi parang hindi ka makapaniwala na yung composition mo nasa radyo at TV. Parang gusto ko ulit-ulitin yung moment na yun kung pwede lang.”
“Kagandahan” was the first in what would become a long line of Star Music hits produced or written by Rox. However, his success didn’t come overnight. With each song he worked on, he learned more and more about the craft of writing would-be hits.
Aside from Daniel’s discography, Rox has also lent his magic touch to new releases from the Agsunta band, Kim Chiu, Kisses Delavin, Migz Haleco, Yohan Hwang, and the Elisse Joson and McCoy de Leon tandem. Rox wrote a song for the one and only Regine Velasquez, which made the Songbird’s recently released 30th anniversary album. Another one of his songs will be on Jaya’s next album (her first for Star Music), which will be out in the first quarter of 2018.
He wrote several minor radio hits for Angeline Quinto and Liezel Garcia, but Rox considers writing for Michael Pangilinan and Vice Ganda his biggest break as a songwriter to date. His compositions for Michael (“Hanggang Ngayon,” which he co-wrote with songwriter Cynthia Roque) and Vice (“Boom Panes,” “Karakaraka,” “Push Mo Yan Teh” and “Wag Kang Pabebe”) were all massive hits. That said, he’s also quite proud of a song he wrote for Angeline Quinto titled, “Sana Ngayon Lang Ang Kahapon.” It was used as the main theme of the Asianovela Fierce Wife, becoming a hit in the process.
But the success of Daniel’s albums alone makes Rox worthy of the title “super-producer.” With Rox behind the boards, the future of Star Music—and all the artists on its roster—is in good hands indeed