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Fernando fusion

A genre-less musician looks to make a niche

By Lynnea Hunter
On April 28, 2011

  • ETSU student Michael Fernando’s music is a mash-up of various genres. His recordings can be found on iTunes, amazon.com and Backdoor Records. Contributed Megan Bible

Ask Michael Fernando what kind of music he plays, and he has to think about it. Ask him how many instruments he plays and again he has to pause for thought. Ask him why he plays the music, though, and he doesn't miss a beat.

"It's just fun. It's a really good release of emotion — any emotion. There's a style of music or a song that can help you release that emotion, that can help get you through whatever's going on or keep you happy. And it's just plain fun."

So, what kind of music does he play? "That's a really good question. I draw off of a lot of things and I feel like some of my songs are more along the lines of folk/Americana; some of my songs are more pop-rock; some acoustic-rock; some ballads. I don't really fit into one genre, I guess. And I definitely don't want to, either."

And just how many instruments are in his repertoire? "Um … guitar, ukulele — for real — piano, bass, the mandolin some, but not a whole lot. I wouldn't embarrass myself on any of those." And he sings, which we'll count, bringing the total to six.

Music started at an early age for Fernando. It was always in the background, but it wasn't until his older brother started learning the guitar that Fernando really started to take notice. "My brother started playing with his music class in school, so naturally, I had to be just like my big brother," he says.

Fernando and his brother taught themselves, thanks largely to the Internet and other guitar-playing friends. Being a solo performing artist, however, was the last thing on Fernando's mind. In fact, his original debut into the singer/songwriter/musician world happened by accident and completely against his will.

"I started playing guitar with my buddy, David Nipper, when he would play shows at local restaurants. And I just played guitar, but he heard me sing when we were practicing. I would never sing in front of anybody, ever; I wouldn't even sing in front of my parents. So I would play with David at his shows, and at one show, I remember, he said, ‘Hey, Michael. Why don't you sing one?' I said, ‘No! Absolutely not!' And then he put his guitar down and walked off stage. And I thought, ‘Well … crap.' So I did. And it was bad. It was real bad. But I did actually really enjoy it, even though it sucked. So the more he got me playing, the more I got comfortable with it, and the more I loved it."

Once he got comfortable playing and singing, Fernando started adding songwriting to the mix. Inspiration comes in a variety of forms, from the everyday and mundane, to the extraordinary. Most of all, though, it's just life. Fernando draws from his everyday life — and sometimes the lives of his friends — in order to write music. "I know that's what everybody says, but it's the truth," he says. "You write about what you know."

Fernando's music is truly a mash-up of genres. Heavy doses of Train, O.A.R and Carbon Leaf with overtones of 311, Bruno Mars and even Kenny Chesney serve to keep listeners on their toes. There's even a hint of reggae-funk once in a while.

As far as where he wants his music career to go, Fernando is, for right now, pretty open. "I want to take music wherever it takes me," he says. "I would love to be able to do it as a career, but I know how hard it is to do that; how hard it is to get there ... It takes a lot of work, a lot of dedication. But I would love to do that. But if that's not the case, and if I'm not fortunate enough to get there, then I'm happy doing what I'm doing now."

Even if the professional music world doesn't pan out, Fernando hopes his mass communication-advertising degree with a digital media minor might help. Right now, though, he's sticking with performing. Playing shows, writing songs and hopefully recording soon are all on Fernando's radar screen, along with taking a full load of classes. As if that's not enough, he also plays with two other local musicians, the group A Great Disaster and artist Kryss Dula, all on top of his budding solo career.

Another focus at this point is just down-right necessary shameless self-promotion. "I had a small conversation with the vice president of A&R [artists and repertoire] at Jive Records and he said that if I get better, then he'd like to set up a showcase at their label. And by ‘get better' I mean if I can get more Facebook fans, YouTube views, MySpace plays, CD sales, all that." (Incidentally, CDs of his debut "Doublespeak" are available at a number of locations: cdbaby.com, amazon.com, iTunes and Backdoor Records.)

Necessary in today's world for shameless self-promotion is the inevitable social networking site. Not to be left out, Fernando's a member of many. You can find him and his music at any of the following:

•    www.facebook.com/MichaelFernandoMusic

•    www.myspace.com/MichaelFernandoBand

•    www.reverbnation.com/MichaelFernando

•    www.cdbaby.com/cd/MichaelFernando1

Regardless of what he's got going on, though, Fernando tries to keep some perspective and a level head. When asked what advice he would give to other budding musicians, he immediately says, "I need advice, I can't give it." Then, after a long contemplative pause; "I guess I would say, ‘Be dedicated. Don't get to the point where you're not enjoying what you're doing anymore. Keep working, stay with it and don't give up on your dream.'"


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