Port Jefferson Station-raised singer-songwriter Raquel Castro impressed the four judges/mentors and received a standing ovation Monday on the NBC competition, “Songland” — leading to her "Wrong Places" becoming an iTunes hit by H.E.R. on Tuesday.
"I was kind of waiting for the song to be, y'know, constructively criticized and ripped apart a little bit," Castro, 25, told Newsday Wednesday. "And when I got that reaction from them, I was just, like, my mind went blank."
The show’s regular judges — producers Ester Dean, Shane McAnally and Ryan Tedder — and guest judge H.E.R. did have pointers in addition to praise, and when Castro returned for round two with lyrical tweaks and Tedder's production, that slightly more up-tempo version impressed the professionals even more.
"I love this song so much," said Grammy winner H.E.R. "It feels so good, and then when the beat came in, I was like, 'OK, she's got a little swagger to her!' "
In each episode, four songwriters compete, with three going on to work with the judges/mentors to polish their composition. A winner is then chosen whose song will be recorded by a well-known performer. H.E.R.'s single of "Wrong Places" — credited to H.E.R., Castro, the three judges, Darhyl Camper Jr. and Port Jefferson's Zachary Powell, a musician friend of Castro's who had worked with her on the melody — debuted at No. 2 on iTunes' U.S. R&B and Soul chart, and No. 3 on iTunes' U.S. Top 100.
The song, a ballad about heartbreak, was written "last year when I was living in California and had been going through a breakup and feeling a ton of emotions," Castro said. "And when you're in Los Angeles, you're going out — I have a bunch of friends out there, so it was definitely a lot of fun — but then you come home at night and you feel lonely and by yourself."
Putting her feelings into words "helped me realize I was looking for love in all the wrong places at that time," she said, crediting the phrase to singer Johnny Lee's "Lookin' for Love" by writers Wanda Mallette, Bob Morrison and Patti Ryan, from the soundtrack of "Urban Cowboy" (1980). From there, her song plies its own path.
Since "The Voice" veteran Castro now lives in Mattituck with her boyfriend, how did she find love in all the right places?
"So, actually," she said, laughing, "I'm in a relationship with the person I was going through the breakup with who inspired the song!" The two, who met 3 ½ years ago on a beach in the Shinnecock Hills area, had broken up, "and then I moved to L.A. for about seven months to just get out of that head space, reset and figure some things out. So we ended up back together," she said happily. “And that's a whole 'nother story!"