Brazilian native following musical dreams

Liz Mineo

For Alex Nunes, who grew up listening to Brazilian rock band Os Paralamas do Sucesso in his native Brazil in the 1980s, opening the group's show two years ago at a Boston nightclub was a dream come true.

That Nunes found himself sharing the stage with one of Brazil's legendary rock bands, nearly 20 years later and more than 4,000 miles away from home, was the result of a happy combination of events.

It's a story that could be made into a song.

Nunes, 36, who moved to Westborough, Mass., 13 years ago, was known for covering the band in Boston's Brazilian musical scene. A local producer with connections helped him obtain the gig opening for Paralamas, a winner of two Latin Grammy Awards for Best Rock Band in 2000 and 2003, which was touring several U.S. cities, including Boston.

Playing in the same venue with his dream band - which combines elements of rock, pop, reggae and ska - and Herbert Vianna, Paralamas' vocalist, guitarist, composer and bandleader, Nunes felt in seventh heaven. The thrill of opening the show for them is something Nunes will never forget.

"I was so excited," he said. "I felt very good. It's so great to open a show for bands you like so much."

Paralamas liked Nunes as well. They asked him and his group to open for them again last year, when the band came to do another tour and receive a 2007 Lifetime Achievement Grammy award.

After that, Nunes felt encouraged to start a musical career as a soloist and songwriter. A few weeks ago, he launched a CD titled "Nesses Dias," or "In These Days," with an independent label based in Boston, featuring four songs he wrote. His songs speak of dreams, love and longing.

Nunes hopes this could be his ticket to a full-time musical career.

The Brazilian songwriter, who during the day works as a real estate agent, has been passionate about music since he learned to play guitar at age 12. With childhood friends, Nunes formed a band that performed at school and children's parties in his hometown of Governador Valadares, a city in southeastern Brazil.

After he moved here in 1994, seeking better opportunities, he formed a group with other Brazilian immigrants called Vicio, which went on to become one of the most popular Brazilian pop rock bands in the Boston area until 2000, when it disbanded. In 1996, the band launched a CD called "Depois do Carnaval," or "After the Carnival," with 12 songs written by Nunes and band members Otavio Fonseca and Pablo Carvalho.

Nunes' musical style stands out because there aren't many Brazilian rock bands in the area, said Wolfgang Tomich, a Framingham, Mass.-based social columnist for a Brazilian newspaper.

Of the handful of Brazilian musical groups in the area that cater to the large Brazilian community, most play forro, a type of traditional country music that hails from Brazil's northeastern region. There are also some Brazilian artists playing bossa nova or MPB, an acronym for Brazilian popular music, in clubs and bars around the Boston area. Brazilians playing rock or pop songs are somewhat unheard of, said Tomich.

"It's a funny thing, but we don't have Brazilian pop rock bands around here," said Tomich, who has lived here since 1980. "Most Brazilians around here come from Brazil's countryside and they prefer other musical genres."

Of Nunes' style, Tomich said it's a refreshing sound that draws Brazilians that hail from cities and urban areas in Brazil who have settled in the Boston area. Tomich is a good friend of Nunes' mother and has helped Nunes' career by playing the role of his agent.

"I've been checking bands for a long time," said Tomich. "Alex's sound is different. It's music you can sing along, dance to and enjoy."

Nunes' musical style resembles that of pop rock songs, with their characteristic strong beat, catchy melodies and funky sound. His biggest foreign musical influences are The Police, U2 and Phil Collins, and on the Brazilian side - besides Paralamas - Legiao Urbana, Jota Quest and singers such as Roberto Carlos and Djavan, two of Brazil's best singers.

The song "Alivio," or "Relief," a song he wrote with part of its lyrics in English, sounds like a mainstream pop song that invites listeners to tap their feet and sway back and forth.

A prolific songwriter, Nunes also wrote songs for a gospel music CD he produced in 2002 to celebrate his faith. A member of Brazilian Presbyterian Church New Life on Union Avenue, Nunes composed gospel songs for the CD titled "Seguindo os Passos," or "Following the Steps," with a distinctive pop rock sound.

Nunes, who makes his home in Westborough with his wife Ana, and their two children, Lorena, 6, and Gustavo, 3, hopes to succeed as a professional songwriter here. It's not an easy task, he said, as an independent struggling artist with little money to produce CDs and difficulties to promote his material and obtain weekend gigs. But he doesn't lose hope.

Life has been good to him, he said, although, like many immigrants, Nunes struggled at first working in low-wage jobs such as washing dishes, cleaning offices and setting tables at restaurants. But he never stopped playing music.

After he fulfills his dream to succeed as a songwriter in the U.S., Nunes hopes to go back to Brazil to share his music with his fellow countrymen and women. He would like to spread his music and his songs that talk about love, dreams, gratitude and the good things in life.

"I choose to write about good things," he said. "I want people to feel good when they listen to my music. I'm so grateful for all the good things in life."

For more information about Nunes, visit

Liz Mineo can be reached at 508-626-3925 or