If there is one lesson to be learned from Edwin Serrano’s story, it’s that talent and a drive to succeed can get you anywhere.
On this week’s episode of the L.A. Weekly weekly podcast, the singer, songwriter and producer sits down for a conversation about his journey from growing up homeless in New York to producing for some of the biggest names in the business.
“It’s a blessing,” says Edwin, who goes by Lil Eddie professionally, of his career. “It’s definitely been a long journey to [this] kind of success.”
Lil Eddie has worked with Usher, Janet Jackson, Pink, Nelly Furtado and Paula Abdul to name a few. He also developed and helped form Fifth Harmony and Latin music’s biggest boy band CNCO which earned him a Senior A&R position for Syco/Sony Music in 2019.
“I’m just scratching the surface of what the ultimate goal is for me,” he shares.
While he has achieved incredible heights in his professional life and continues to climb, he had to overcome significant challenges and lows to get to where he is today.
Born in Brooklyn, he experienced a traumatic fire at an early age that left him and his family homeless for five years. Without other family to turn to – his father was a “New York gangster” and his mother was shunned for staying with him – they had to fight to survive on the city’s streets.
“I was actually homeless. Living in shelters, living in cars, living on the streets. I remember eating off the streets, waiting until 12 o’clock till restaurants close and eating out of garbage bags … yeah it was a hard life,” confides the resilient artist. “Then we moved to Spanish Harlem, and then there was this audition to join this choir called the New York Boys Choir.”
His brother joined, and that opened up a whole new world of possibilities for Lil Eddie. He followed his older brother into the group and realized that singing, performing, was his passion.
“In that choir, I got to do amazing things, like sing for the Pope and sing for the Billboard Awards … all these amazing things,” he says. “Being in the choir was like opening Pandora’s Box … no matter how much I came back to nothing it gave me that desire to want to want more. I started to see the world and realize there was more than the four walls that I felt trapped in.”
That desire to want more, and his prestigious position in the choir, is what ultimately led him to his career in music today. Ambitious to the core, Lil Eddie graduated high school at 15, started college that same year, and got signed at a young age. His professional work took him to Japan, where he had a #1 album, and on a tour through Germany. Traveling for work helped put things in perspective for the young star.
“It helped me realize there’s so much more than just America in itself and releasing music in America, there’s a whole world of currency and livelihood, and ways that you can make your livelihood doing music,” he says. “We are architects, more than just singers and songwriters, we are creators and we can do way more than just write a song or sing a song.”
He had some help along the way, as his talent got him noticed by industry big wigs like Sean Combs (Diddy) himself, who would go on to mentor Lil Eddie.
“Diddy was very very instrumental in my career, because when I was young, he really put me to the test and on the spot,” says Lil Eddie. “He was so profound.” Always giving advice, the artist credits the famed producer for keeping his head in the game.
For Lil Eddie, music is more than just a game, it’s his life’s blood.
“I always tell people I feel like music found me,” he shares. “My music is heart music. It’s music from the heart … what I feel, what I’ve experienced.”