How RINI went from a young Filipino immigrant in Australia to busking on the streets of Melbourne and becoming a rising R&B star.
It seems as if busking on the street is a right of passage for any would-be musician. Gathering strength and powering through self-doubt to perform at a random street corner is that kind of origin story ripped straight from the movies. Not only does it build character and instill a sense that this is what you are meant to do, but it will make for a great moment to look back on when success finds the artist.
In that case, Justerini Sandoval, who you have more commonly known by his stage name RINI, is living the dream. Way back when, RINI was a Filipino immigrant on the streets of Melbourne looking to make some coin. Little did he know that it was chapter one of a globe-spanning career.
LEARNED IT ON THE GUITAR
Born and raised in Manila, RINI, who gets his stage name from the last four letters of his first name, practically grew up surrounded by music. Pop and rock were his go-to genres at the time, and he singles out his dad for instilling in him that sense of musical magic. “My dad was the one who kind of introduced music to me. He’d come back home from overseas work with a bunch of instruments and gears,” recalls RINI on his music-loving father.
As a kid, RINI picked up the passion for playing the guitar. But it was in 2011 when RINI and his family moved to Australia that his love of music kicked into high gear. There, his knack for R&B started to develop as he listened to modern genre greats like Frank Ocean, Kehlani, and Daniel Caesar. “When I went to Australia, my dad put me in a music ministry at church,” he shares, noting that he played guitar during service.
At that time though, he wasn’t into singing, that is until his dad encouraged him to do so. In 2014, curiosity got the better of RINI, and he started his foray into a full-fledged musician. He started posting YouTuber covers, with his first cover being Payphone by Maroon 5. “I kept on doing it and eventually started writing songs, saved enough money, worked part-time, busked in Melbourne, bought my gear, and started recording my stuff.”
MEET ME IN AUSTRALIA
Whether you stopped to watch their performance and marveled at their talent or passed them on the street, you’ve probably come across at least one busker in your life. RINI was once that during his early years as a musician. Looking back, RINI sees those early days on the streets of Melbourne as not easy and a bit nerve-wracking given his confidence then was still developing. “It was definitely scary. I didn’t know what people would say and if I was good enough to be doing that.”
But there is a rainbow at the end of every storm as he adds on those worthwhile moments, “[T]hat’s kind of the first step, getting out of your comfort zone and trying out new things. Busking helped me form a lot of connections around Melbourne. It was a great way for me to boost my confidence and get more opportunities in my music career.” Busking helped open doors for RINI, literally, as he was able to perform in bars, clubs, and open mics, and get the occasional crowd here and there. “It was a bit intimidating but I kept on playing and they enjoyed it,” he recalls of the first crowd he ever had as a busker.
Soon enough, RINI began making original music. The then young independent artist’s love for music got him to the recording studio, and that includes recording his first song in his friend’s bedroom studio. Still, the inherent talent in him to make a tune quickly manifested given how much of a breeze his first recording session was. “At that time, I was just experimenting and trying new things. I just found it fun,” he says on his first song, which he wrote about a girl he knew.
As RINI continued to make more music and share it with the world, the more he started to gain a following as it became clear that RINI has an inherent talent to produce bops that speak straight to the heart. Press play on any RINI song, and you’ll be treated to a vibey and personal R&B tune that hits in more ways than one. We thought that it wasn’t possible to find any more ways to talk about love, but RINI does it and tells stories through his piercing vocals. It’s no wonder then that Warner Music came calling to sign the Filipino-Australian.
HOME SWEET HOME
Two albums, hit singles, and hundreds of millions of streams later, RINI is an undeniable rising act in the world of R&B. And it was this musical force that he brought to Manila last July for what essentially was his homecoming concert. His recent world tour went through Asia, and that included a stop in his hometown of Manila. “It’s been such a dream to me. I’ve been meaning to come back to Manila. It’s my hometown, I have family here, and just to be able to see them again and play for Filipino fans has been surreal. I’ve just been enjoying every single moment that I have back here.”
Samsung Hall was packed with hundreds of his Pinoy fans as he treated them to his stable of bangers, such as the long-awaited performance of Strawberry Blossom and the line “I am the thriller from Manila.” “I was happy that a lot of people came to the show. My family came to the show. It was so much fun.” A highlight and standout of the night came when he performed a Tagalog song, Buwan by Juan Karlos. “I’m a big fan of [Juan Karlos] and that song is one of my favorite Filipino songs,” explains RINI on the song choice. “It feels good to sing a Filipino song.”
In a true Filipino-coded moment, his family showed up to his concert wearing matching shirts and had a tarpaulin with his face on it, which was then hung on his lola’s parlor. “It was really heartwarming and it reminded me of my life back here,” he says of the sweet gesture. While his stay in Manila wasn’t as long as he would have preferred, he still made the time to experience those essential Filipino moments. “We went to Jollibee and I haven’t had Jollibee in so long. It just brings me back to the time I was still living here.”
DO WHAT YOU LOVE
From a young boy who learned how to play the guitar to an R&B star whose music is on playlists all over the world, RINI is living the quintessential artist’s dream. Going from square one to established musician, it’s the kind of life many manifest for themselves. RINI is making waves through the efforts of his hard work and talent. The young RINI who was busking on the streets of Melbourne was inadvertently laying the groundwork for a dream-come-true career.
“That younger me didn’t know he was going to get far because, at that time, I was doing it because I love doing it,” he shares on what he thinks his younger self would think of the current RINI. “I never thought I would tour the world. I think he would be proud.” And as RINI ends the interview with a message to his younger self, it can also be words that any young and would-be musician can take to heart. “Keep doing what you’re doing and learn to enjoy the process. Be more patient and keep all the people that are good for you around you forever.”
Creative Direction GELO QUIJENCO
Art Direction KENNETH DIMAANO
Photography JAN MAYO
Assistant Photography MIGUEL BUID
Editor-In-Chief AYN BERNOS
Cover Story RAFAEL BAUTISTA
Videography CHRISTIAN DAVID STA. INES
Videography Assistant IRA VIBAR
Podcast Videography KIERAN PUNAY
Podcast Editor JAMES JACINTO
Associate Producer MIKA TAFALLA
Shoot Assistants MEGAN LIM AND EZRI MITRA
Makeup Artist CHERRY LISING
Hair Stylist JA FELICIANO
Stylist JANA SILAO
Assistant Stylist SOPHIE SILAO
Nails by PRECIOUS OPINION
Continue Reading: RINI Is Ready For His Homecoming Concert In Manila