Interview with Vanessa Fernandez
Vanessa Fernandez is known in her native Singapore as a DJ for radio station 987fm as well as being a singer with a powerful, versatile voice. She’s been making her name in the local scene, giving her the opportunity to work with different producers and musicians and honing in on her sound.
Here’s what Vanessa has to say about her journey from music to radio and back again:
Radio Morillo: Tell us a little bit about your journey to making music.
Vanessa Fernandez: I grew up singing in the choir. When I was 12 a couple of friends from choir and I entered a Girl Groups talent competition on TV called “Rollin Good Times”, singing 50s songs and we won. That was when I realized I wanted to do it professionally. When I was 16 I was in a school musical, which led to me joining The Singapore Repertory Theatre. I kept performing on stage and at random club venues and at 18 became part of a hip-hop group called Urban Xchange. We fronted a Coca-Cola campaign and went on to make 2 albums. Couple years later we changed our name to Parking Lot Pimp and the hip-hop took on a slightly rockier edge when we released our album Welcome to Our Frequency. The group disbanded in 2006 and that’s when I joined radio, still continuing to do the odd singing gigs here and there. I tried writing my own stuff but I don’t think I was ready to go solo. Finally last year I decided to get back to making music because it was time and I felt I was ready both in my heart and as an artist.
RM: How long have you been a DJ in radio? Did you ever foresee yourself on radio?
VF: Funnily enough I was first on radio promoting that musical I did at 16 and that was when a veteran DJ told me I should think about becoming one! I did radio in school when I was in a Mass Communication course but it never really interested me. I initially went into radio because I needed to make a living and I thought it was perfect because it was still in the music industry somewhat, and the hours were flexible. It’s been almost 4 years and I’ve grown to really love it.
RM: What opportunities have come about professionally because of your radio career?
VF: Well, I get to meet and talk to celebrities, although no huge collaborations have come out of that. Although thanks to the fact that my colleagues know I sing, I recently got the chance to duet with an Italian crooner named Patrizio Buanne because our sister station Gold 90fm was promoting his concert. Because I’ve built up my reputation over the years I’ve had the opportunity to work with a lot of the best musicians in the scene here.
RM: What kind of music/show do you produce on 987fm?
VF: 987fm is a commercial hit radio station so we play a lot of current popular music. The show I do is called AM Jam and I just got a new partner, Divian. AM Jam’s silly yet intelligent, light-hearted but informative, and we do crazy challenges with each other. The other day Divian made a concoction of squashed tomatoes, butter, raw eggs and 8 MEAL WORMS which I ate, live on air. It was gross!!!
RM: Who are your musical influences?
VF: When I was a kid, Mariah Carey and Michael Jackson. I used to practice Mariah’s runs til I could do them – could never hit the notes she did though! when I was a teenager I was into a lot of folk and rock – Alanis Morisette, Jewel, Silverchair, Oasis. As I got older and began to define my style more I was very much inspired by D’Angelo, Maxwell, India Arie for their style and John Mayer for his writing. Lately I’ve been getting inspired by 50s and 60s soul – The Supremes, Aretha Franklin.
RM: Do you write and produce your own music?
VF: I write my melodies and lyrics. Sometimes a situation inspires a few lyrics, which I put a melody to and I’ll do a rough demo then take it to a producer friend, Don Richmond, who works on the beat and gives me advice on style. Sometimes a producer will play me a beat and I’ll hear a melody and then write lyrics to it. I also like to do acapella covers, which is another way to express myself creatively. I’ll hear a song and I’ll think, hmmm, I could do it this way, and then I’ll record it.
RM: Do you write and perform your songs before you record it in a studio, or do you write and record material first before performing?
VF: Mostly the latter.
RM: How often do you perform?
VF: I used to have a regular pub gig every week, twice a week for a period of time, but that’s stopped recently. I do a couple shows here and there too – keeps me from getting complacent!
RM: How would you describe your music?
VF: Sexy soulpop.
RM: What kinds of responses have you received from your radio audience (about your songs)?
VF: People are very sweet. Radio is incredibly supportive of my music. They’ve always played any song I’ve given to them. A lot of people didn’t know I was a singer when I first started radio but that’s slowly changed over the past couple of years and I’ve never had someone say anything mean to me about it. They’re generally really nice and positive!
RM: What does success in the music industry look like to you?
VF: Doing projects that are challenging and feel true to who I am as an artist. Having a creative online space where I can share music and life with people who care and I care about.
Here’s “Love Me Crazy” by Vanessa Fernandez: