Nathan Pacheco is doing something he's never done before.
For the first time in his career, the multilingual, classically trained tenor has produced an album of sacred songs, his way of singing praises to the Lord and helping people feel a deeper spiritual connection in their lives.
"This album stands apart from others I've done. Those have come from the heart, but these songs are tapping into the deepest part of my heart," Pacheco said in a Deseret News telephone interview. "My belief in the Lord, my gratitude and devotion, have resulted in the creation of this album ... one of the most fulfilling things I have ever done."
The album, "Higher," was released Friday, Feb. 10, and features 12 religious songs, including "Amazing Grace," "His Love," "How Great Thou Art" and his original "Through All My Days."
Pacheco, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, described the process of producing the album as emotional and spiritual, and he said he hopes fans will have a similar experience as they hear the music.
"It's as if I learned something that cannot be described in words but only through music," Pacheco said. "I hope the same feelings I felt while arranging and recording the songs will be felt by every single listener."
Along with talking about his new album, Pacheco shared a dozen experiences from his life, from his musical beginnings, his LDS Church mission in Brazil, mentors and making a living in the music industry to his love of languages, singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, the importance of family and faith, and a few of his favorite things.
1. Musical beginnings
Pacheco, the third of seven children, was born into a musical family. As far back as he can remember, his mother has taught piano lessons and his siblings have played music. Around age 3, Pacheco faintly recalls having a tape recorder and pressing "play" over and over because he really liked to listen to certain songs, he said.
"There has always been music playing in the Pacheco home," he said.
Pacheco has had many powerful experiences with different genres of music over the years, but he remembers feeling touched by the sounds of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart's "Requiem" when he was in sixth or seventh grade.
"I listened over and over, trying to take in all the beauty from it," Pacheco said. "Something about it really moved me."
2. Singing missionary
Pacheco's love of music traveled with him to Campinas, Brazil, where he served as a Mormon missionary from 1999 to 2001. Pacheco said he looked for every opportunity to sing for people, even when they weren't interested in the gospel message. He sang on buses, in churches, in the streets and in the parks, with no regrets, he said.
"I'm sure the people thought I was an absolute weirdo. I probably was," Pacheco said. "But I loved the way it broke down barriers, created a spirit of friendship and bridged the gap between cultures. Through music you can feel like instant friends with people. ... If nothing else, it helped me overcome my fears of singing in front of people."
3. Elder Holland's BYU speech
Before his mission, Pacheco studied music, took voice lessons and performed in his high school choir and musical productions. During his senior year he heard Andrea Bocelli and Sarah Brightman sing "Time to Say Goodbye." There was something about the way Bocelli blended classical with pop music that Pacheco found fascinating, and he knew he wanted to explore that style of music, he said.
After his mission, Pacheco pursued a vocal performance degree at Brigham Young University. During the summer of 2004, he was part of a study abroad program in Italy that he called his "summer of dreams." Pacheco fell in love with the sights and sounds, the language, the food and overall culture, which included a passion for music.
"How do I make a career out of this?" Pacheco said. "It was constantly on my mind."
That fall, Elder Jeffrey R. Holland of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles delivered a talk titled "Terror, Triumph and a Wedding Feast," which addressed themes of learning to overshadow fear with faith.
"The part in that talk that hit home with me is 'God is anxiously waiting for the chance to answer your prayers and fulfill your dreams, just as he always has. But he can’t if you don’t pray, and he can’t if you don’t dream. In short, he can’t if you don’t believe,'" Pacheco recalled.
The message had a profound impact on Pacheco. He had studied music all along but hadn't yet decided to pursue it as a career, he said.
"It (Elder Holland's words) helped me take that leap of faith. It was one of those unique, special and very personal experiences where I felt in my heart that the Lord knew me, was aware of me and my dreams and desires, and that he would help me," Pacheco said. "I had no idea how it would happen, but I decided to go for it. One audition led to the next, and thankfully, doors opened. I had some incredible experiences right from the start."
4. Mentored by Yanni
Pacheco acknowledged having many mentors over the years, but specifically mentioned his wife, Katie, for her support and Yiannis Chryssomallis, the composer/musician also known as Yanni, with whom Pacheco toured and collaborated for more than two years.
Pacheco said it was kind of Yanni to take him under his wing and share 25 years of experience with a guy who was just getting started in the music industry. Pacheco was most impressed with Yanni's focused and driven work ethic, he said.
"It was an incredible mentorship. He helped me learn what the industry was all about," Pacheco said. "He is one of the most dedicated people I've seen. Even with his success, he continues to give his all."
5. Selection process
Pacheco's process for composing or selecting music is fairly simple.
First, does a song move or speak to him? If so, how does it sound with his voice?
"There are so many I love, but if there's nothing special about my rendition, if I can't do it justice, I won't do it," Pacheco said.
Pacheco's travels around the world have only increased his love of cultures and languages. He speaks and continues to learn Portuguese, Spanish and Italian, and he has goals to learn Mandarin Chinese, Arabic and possibly other languages. Like music, knowing another language can break down barriers and open doors of opportunity, he said.
"It's hard to find the required time needed to be fluent but it's a hobby of mine, even if it takes a lifetime," Pacheco said.
Before touring and giving press interviews in Mexico, Pacheco polished his Spanish by attending a Spanish LDS ward in Florida. His language skills also came in handy while touring in other parts of the world. He hopes to sing more in Italian, he said.
7. Music industry
The biggest challenge to surviving in the music industry is coming up with a successful business model, Pacheco said.
"Unless you are Taylor Swift, you mostly make money from live shows," Pacheco said. "Like any business, you have to figure out a way to put on quality shows, produce amazing albums and get your music out there, all in an affordable way."
It's an "adventure," but Pacheco loves what he is doing.
"More than anything else, I love getting in front of an audience and performing live," he said. "That's where the connection (with fans) happens."
8. Memorable performance
On July 24, 2013, Pacheco performed with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir during a Pioneer Day Concert, "A Summer Evening of Music." He said the entire experience continues to be one of the most incredible and memorable of his career.
"Nothing compares to singing with that choir," Pacheco said.
During the concert, Pacheco sang a song called "Prendi I Miei Sogni" (Italian for "Grab Hold of My Dreams") and when the choir joined him during its part in the chorus, the artist said he was so moved that he almost lost control of his emotions.
"There is even a YouTube video to prove it. You'll hear a quiver in my voice," Pacheco said. "The emotion with which that choir sings is indescribable."
9. Family and faith
Pacheco met his wife, Katie, in the Washington, D.C., area while visiting his family for the Christmas holidays. He ended up going out one night with a group of friends and she was among them. At one point, a friend informed the group about Pacheco's musical talents and asked him to sing for them. He reluctantly sang "Con Te Partiro" ("Time to Say Goodbye"), and serenaded his future wife in the process.
"Did my voice win her over? She says it did, so I will thank the Lord for my voice," Pacheco said.
The Pachecos live in Nashville, Tennessee, and have two boys, 4-year-old Emerson and 8-month-old Crawford. Parenthood requires constant adapting and learning, but Pacheco has found fatherhood to be fulfilling. Like the heart of the Grinch who stole Christmas, Pacheco said it felt like his heart grew 20 times larger when his children were born.
"My whole world turned around in a new way and a new dimension to life opened up," said Pacheco, who said one of the family's favorite activities is walking around Costco. "When I'm not on the road or in the studio, I love being at home and spending time with my family and making up for lost time."
To Pacheco, family and faith are synonymous.
"For me, living my faith and cultivating a healthy family life are one and the same," Pacheco said. "They help me stay grounded and remember what is really important."
In addition to serving in the church, Pacheco shows his gratitude and honors the Lord by sharing his musical talents.
"It all comes back to the Savior," Pacheco said. "He is the fount of every blessing. All the good in my life is because of what he did. It was all made possible by the merits of Christ. Whether it be my family or the ability to travel the world and sing, all these gifts and blessings come back to the Savior."
10. Favorite hymn
One of Pacheco's favorite hymns is "A Poor Wayfaring Man of Grief."
"It sums up the purpose of life — to learn how to love God and love others," Pacheco said. "Our eternal happiness rests upon that."
11. Church calling
Pacheco and his wife now serve as ward missionaries. He said he sings in sacrament meeting about once a year and will occasionally organize a musical fireside with some of his musical friends in the Nashville area.
"Music has an incredible way of helping us feel close to the Lord and is one of the most effective tools in helping people feel God's love," Pacheco said. "I try to use it as much as possible."
12. Sports fan
Because Pacheco's wife, Katie, is from Alabama and her family cheers for the University of Alabama, Pacheco jokes that he was forced to become a Crimson Tide fan to marry her.
In truth, his Twitter account identifies him as a "wanna-be basketball player." The singer also enjoys sitting down to an entertaining game.
"I don't really follow sports a ton, but when I find a good game, it's easy to get drawn in because I love watching a good game," he said.2 comments on this story
Pacheco will be in Utah on Friday and Saturday for signings at Deseret Book stores and to perform at RootsTech on Saturday, Feb. 11 at 1 p.m. He is also performing at several Time Out for Women events, including the Layton evening event on Feb. 17.
If you go ...
What: Nathan Pacheco signing
When: Friday, Feb. 10, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book — University Village, 1076 S. 750 East, Orem
When: Saturday, Feb. 11, 6:30 p.m.
Where: Deseret Book — Fort Union, 1110 E. Fort Union Blvd., Midvale
Nathan Pacheco performs "Prendi I Miei Sogni" during the 2013 Pioneer Day Concert, "A Summer Evening of Music," with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and Orchestra at Temple Square.