Fernie: Primordial Vulnerability

Interview by Maude Bélair
Genres and styles : Soul/R&B

Additional Information

It’s not always difficult to know what to say. The problem is figuring out how to say it. For Fernie, an emerging Brazilian-Canadian artist who grew up on the West Island of Montreal, it’s certainly easier to express himself through his music. Through shimmering, enveloping R&B-soul sounds, Aurora opens the door to the intimate vulnerabilities of an artist for whom transparency is paramount. 

While many point to the project’s similarity to artists such as Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar, Fernie points out that Aurora‘s goal is not to be musically inspired, but to perpetuate the habit of not being afraid to pour out one’s heart, to bare one’s soul in the service of art. Aurora is therefore much more than sweet guitar melodies and perfectly executed falsetto vocals, it also embodies total self-acceptance. 

Fernie quickly realized that people are used to wearing masks well beyond sanitary measures, that it is not always easy to feel accepted, especially when you are BIPOC or a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. While it is not easy for anyone to open their hearts, Fernie chooses to do so. For us, for him, for the music. And it’s a success all the way around. 

Aurora is his first album. It will be presented by Fernie on September 24 and 26 (the two shows are sold out, our apologies to latecomers) as part of the POP Montreal festival.  

That’s why PAN M 360 hastened to meet this sweet, sensitive and above all, talented human being.

PAN M 360: Your very first album will be available on September 24th! On this project, you talk about your own journey towards self-acceptance, the need to accept the past as it is, and most importantly, the discovery of a whole new version of yourself. What have you realized about yourself or your environment in the last few years? 

FERNIE : Definitely, what was on my mind the most was to be more careful with myself and my mental health. In the midst of the pandemic, I kind of pushed music away for a little bit to really work on myself because it’s what I needed the most. And also, I realized the importance of friends and family, and that it’s the people around you who really matter. It’s this network who kind of allows you to really accept who you are. The people who aren’t afraid to challenge or criticize you despite the friendship are the ones who encourage you to grow. And I think that’s something that I really held on through the pandemic and even now. 

PAN M 360 : Journalists often specify that you come from the West Island part of Montreal. How did living in that specific neighborhood impact your music?

FERNIE : I originally grew up in Lachine and I’m from adoptive parents. My mother is Brazilian, and my father is German. So we all lived in Lachine but since I went to a private German school, which was on the West Island, we all moved there. And as for the impact, I think it definitely did in the sense of what it meant. We often associate this part of the city with people who only care about appearances, so you feel pressured to be someone you’re not. So, I wanted to kind of break away from that to show more of the transparent and honest side of myself because I firmly believe that the world really needs those two values. And I think my album describes that through my self-reflections and I think that can open a dialogue.   

PAN M 360 : Aurora is your debut album, but it isn’t your first project. Actually, the first thing you put out was an EP back in 2015 that is called The Acoustic EP. Why did you go from an acoustic sound to a R&B kind of vibe ?

FERNIE: I was always encouraged to be versatile in my music genres. My first EP was much more about a kind of emo vibe, Aurora is more about a sensible soul sound. So, I think the changes in my sound come from my personal growth. I’m also part of a collective that really impacted my music, it’s basically where I understood I wanted to do more R&B music. So, I’m glad I got to experience those two vibes, because I think it offers two completely different perspectives and lyrics and overall experience so… I’m glad I did both of those. 

PAN M 360: And I think you said that you really were impacted by Frank Ocean and Daniel Caesar’s music. Why those two artists specifically? 

FERNIE: I wouldn’t say that I look up to them in a sense but I certainly appreciate what they do as artists. Both of them write transparent and personal stuff, especially Frank Ocean. If you listen to the lyrics, you realize he’s really open about his life and how he truly feels… and not only that but he’s not scared to voice his worries about the future and what needs to change. And I think that’s what captivated so many people around the world. And I think that’s amazing. So, I wouldn’t say I want to do what they do, I think I just share those ideas. 

PAN M 360 : You talked a little bit about it before but I quickly wanted to ask you this: you are part of a collective named Kids from the Underground. Can you talk a little more about what it is ? 

FERNIE : Basically, we are a collective of like-minded artists who share the same vision.  It’s more than just the music for us, we are a family. Everyone in the collective has a different story to tell and different music to share. Over the last three years, we really worked on our project and to reach new people as well. So, I’m kinda like a branch in a tree, you know ? We also come from the same area so it’s really easy to collaborate with one another. I guess destiny brought us together because it’s really working out for us. 

PAN M 360: “September” is a beautiful song on Aurora that presents the perspective of a love story shared between two people of the same sex, escaping the sometime isolating heteronormative narrative of love songs. Why is it important to your to bring a queer perspective to your music ? 

FERNIE : I think “September” isn’t just about the queer perspective, but also about the universal message it brings. In the song, I sing from a non-bineary stand-point to a cis man. But I beg people: when you listen to it, take it in as you please. It’s so limitless, it’s not just for a boy and a girl, or a boy and a boy… Inclusivity is a really big deal for me, so it’s not just about the queer perspective, but also for the BIPOC, everyone! 

PAN M 360 : I think it’s safe to say that Aurora is very open and personal. Was it hard to kind of expose all of your vulnerabilities on a music project ? 
FERNIE : At first it was, but at the end of the end I was like ‘what do I have to lose?’ Because I think that this album to me is not a cry for validation but more of a ‘let me make these songs and let the people around the world share the same kind of vibes I have’. I think that if you really want to touch the heart of someone, you have to give all of yourself. I find it hard to express myself through words sometimes, but music is always there to allow my truth to get out.

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