BY MIKE FUHRMAN
Juan Mendoza can’t read a note and doesn’t have much of an interest in singing.
But the 22-year-old Statesville resident is passionate about music, and he’s living his dream – at least on a part-time basis.
Known professionally as haunt3d, Mendoza has been composing electronic music for nearly 10 years. After tasting success with a 2022 collab with Matthew Cochran (aka Elvis Depressedly), Mendoza has gained additional confidence in his ability to be a professional composer and producer.
“It was a thousand percent validating,” he said of the experience and commercial success of the single “Falling off.”
“It was definitely like a eureka moment. It’s all I’ve wanted to do for so long.”
Mendoza fell in love with music as a young kid. What started as a minor addiction to Guitar Hero grew into a real passion when he started fooling around with FL Studio on an old laptop as a preteen. He was sharing his original compositions with the world by the time he was 15.
After graduating from Statesville High in 2020, Mendoza headed off to Appalachian State University in Boone. But college life – and academics – weren’t for Mendoza. The COVD-19 pandemic was in full swing and he struggled to find the right life balance.
“I would sleep all day and I would stay up all night and make music in my dorm room,” he said.
By the end of that semester, Mendoza had composed about 200 songs in ASU’s Cannon Hall – and decided college was for other people. “A cocktail of situations and life events led me to leave university” and devote more energy to music, he said.
“I said, ‘I’m just going to do it,’ ” he added.
His parents, who instilled a love for music in Mendoza at a young age, helped inspire him make the leap. “They have been a hundred, a thousand percent supportive of my career,” he said. “I owe them the world for that, for sure,” he said.
After moving back to Statesville, Mendoza has continued to grind. He works in a paint store to make money, but his music has remained his priority.
“I try to put in maybe four or five hours every day,” he said. “I’ll sacrifice sleep if it means I get to work on my music.”
Things started falling into place for Mendoza last year. Cochran, whom he’d met online, suggested they work together on a project. Mendoza composed the track and Cochran wrote the lyrics for “Falling Off,” which has now garnered nearly 450,000 streams on Spotify.
In addition to providing a boost to his confidence, Mendoza has also enjoyed the compensation from the various streaming services that featured the song. While the income equates to a fraction of a penny per play, those fractions add up and Mendoza earned real money for his work.
“It took care of some things for sure,” he said. “I didn’t expect it and he didn’t expect it, and he was a wildly successful artist already.”
In early November, Mendoza released a new EP, “It’s Feeling Heavy,” a collection of six electronic songs with “dreamy synths mixed with high energy house beats.”
With every composition, he tries to convey a feeling or a mood and forge a connection with his listeners. “A melody can tell a story,” Mendoza explained.
With his recent success as haunt3d, Mendoza is also working on growing as a performer. Conceding that he has some work to do in that area, he’s not exactly an introvert, but he is very much a work in progress in that realm.
Before his first performance, Mendoza was more than a little nervy. His palms were sweaty, but he made it through. “I was getting ready to freak,” he said.
Today, he’s a veteran of about a dozen shows, played mostly at small venues with modest crowds. He’s focused on making sure everyone who takes the time to see a show has an enjoyable experience.
“I just get in a zone,” he said. “I’m in my own world up there.”
Still, Mendoza isn’t quite ready for his parents to check out a show. There are limited options for performing locally – rap and country rule in Statesville, he said, and most of his shows have been in Charlotte, the Raleigh-Durham area and Winston-Salem.
He wants to make sure it’s a night to remember.
“I want it to be like the shebang – not when I’m playing in Raleigh on a Saturday night with a bunch of crazy people.”
Editor’s Note: This article was originally published in the December edition of “IFN Monthly.”