A packed crowd sold out Lincoln Hall in Chicago earlier this month to help former Hamilton star Anthony Ramos celebrate his 28th birthday and kick off a new journey: his first headlining show supporting debut album The Good & The Bad.
“It’s honestly a dream,” Ramos said. “It was beyond anything I could explain. It’s what I’ve wanted for a long time, and to finally get it–I can’t even explain.”
Ramos, born Anthony Ramos Martinez, released The Good & The Bad on Oct. 25. The album’s 12 tracks tell the story of where the New York-born actor and musician has been, what he’s been through and where he’s going.
“This is my real life,” Ramos said. “It’s a bit more vulnerable on this level, on this scale. But I love it.”
Like Hamilton creator and star Lin-Manuel Miranda, Ramos is of Puerto Rican descent, and also grew up in New York, alongside his mother and two siblings. He started making music in 2018. Before then, he had mostly been known for his multiple award-winning roles in the original production of Broadway show “Hamilton” (John Laurens and Phillip Hamilton); the recent adaptation of the film “A Star Is Born” (sidekick Ramon to Lady Gaga’s Ally) and others. Ramos helped earn a total of four awards with these two productions in 2016 and 2019.
Following his role in “Hamilton,” Ramos collaborated with Miranda and other Latino artists to record and release the 2017 single, “Almost Like Praying,” a tribute song written by Miranda to Puerto Rico after the massive Hurricane Maria swept through the island. All proceeds of the song went toward relief funds in order to assist the people of Puerto Rico affected by the disaster.
As he shifts into a new gear as a soul and hip-hop artist, Ramos notes differences between his new solo career and full group productions.
“It’s cool to be on stage every night to sing my words and to give my story,” Ramos said. “With Broadway you’re saying someone else’s words, but [as a musician] you get to say what’s on your mind night after night.”
While The Good & The Bad discusses love and vulnerability, a number of its songs allow for Ramos’ roots to sprout above the surface as he focuses on family to bring a sense of home. On opening track “Dear Diary,” Ramos confronts how he has been away from home for an extended time in order to follow his dreams. The ballad touches base with his mom in appreciation. Album closer “Come Back Home” has a similar message.
Ironically, as Ramos prepares for the 2020 release of his forthcoming film, “In the Heights,” he also deals with the theme of finding home. The film, starring Melissa Barrera, Ramos and others is about a Latino-American neighborhood in Washington Heights, New York, filled with hard-working people all searching for their purpose and place in the world as they find their own meaning of home. Ramos played the cousin of his character in the film in one of the first touring casts of the Broadway show in 2012.
Ramos said it’s a surprising coincidence that his album finds such close relation with the show’s message. In fact, it wasn’t until his “In the Heights” costar Barrara mentioned the similarities that he realized the film mirrored his own life and his own musical themes.
“I feel like that was destiny; that wasn’t planned,” Ramos said. “The story came together the way it did, and it just so happened that it was this narrative about this guy who was figuring out who he wanted to be.”
Ramos said that of all his new songs, he feels the most connection to “Figure It Out” because it allows him to finally express feelings in a way he never knew how in the past and to finally let a new side of himself step into the spotlight.
“’Figure It Out’ is a song about being vulnerable; it’s a song about saying how you feel,” he said. “I feel like, growing up, that wasn’t something I did well. And now as an adult I’m dealing with this now, and I’m grateful.”
Ramos, who once worked as a teacher in a preschool and a cashier at a bakery in between acting gigs, now reflects on all the hard work he put in to bring him to this point.
“It’s totally surreal,” Ramos said. “I put in hard work, but I was also in the right place at the right time. It didn’t just happen like ‘that.’”
Ramos looks forward to sharing his music and his life with fans as he continues his tour, and invites anyone and everyone to join in his journey.
“I get to meet with you, connect with you. I get to [share] what was on my mind when these songs were written, why every song was written,” he said. “And I get to walk through the story personally. I’m so excited to do that.”
Follow writer Amelia Parreira at Twitter.com/AmeliaParreira.