Don’t Call It A Comeback: An Interview With Musician Fernandito Ferrer

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Néstor David Pastor

“I had no idea of the amount of connections I had in New York...it’s like reaping the benefits of ten years worth of work,” says singer-songwriter Fernandito Ferrer on his recent move to the city.

The cosecha is already opening doors. Just last month, Fania Records released the second of two videos which feature Fernandito performing two classic covers as part of their new series, ‘The Bushwick Sessions.’

(Check out his version of “Mi gente” by Héctor Lavoe here and watch him perform “Las caras lindas” by Ismael Rivera here).

It’s the kind of opportunity that might have eluded him in the past. The San German native has made a lot of connections over the years, often passing through New York on his way to other parts of the country. But as even he admits, it’s hard to stay in touch with the right people when you aren’t around enough: “You spend a week here and then you have to go.”

Nowadays, whenever there’s an opportunity somewhere in the Tri-state area and beyond, he’s available. He just has to pack his things into the back of his car, whereas in the past, that may have meant months of planning and more importantly, a plane ticket to leave Puerto Rico.

For years, Fernandito thought of trying to establish his career somewhere outside of the island: “For me, it was obvious that I wanted to and needed to live in another place,” later adding, “There was a moment in Puerto Rico where I was a slave to my work routine.” So after nearly a decade on the road, he made the decision to move to New York. “It’s been incredible, it’s been revitalizing,” he says.  

Fernandito first came to New York in 2000. Since then, he’s returned almost every year. But there was always the sense that he was missing out: “[There are] so many people, so many places and possibilities; it’s too much to digest when you’re just here to visit.”

The timing is important to consider. After years of touring the United States and Latin America, Fernandito felt better prepared to take advantage of everything the city has to offer him–which makes this opportunity, despite nearly twenty years of experience, like something of a second chance. “I think this transition is happening for me during a more developed stage in my career,” he asserts.  

Born in 1978, Fernandito Ferrer began playing music at a young age. He first trained as a percussionist, later switching to the guitar after becoming enamored with Nueva Trova during his first years at college–an interest which coincided with the student protest movement in Puerto Rico during the late 90s.

Fernandito is part of a newer generation of trovadores which carry on the legacy of the Nueva Trova movement that began in Cuba after the Communist revolution and which peaked during the 1970s. Names like Silvio Rodriguez, Roy Brown, and Victor Jara should come to mind.

With his percussive guitar-playing style, use of looper effects pedals, and an impressive tenor range, Fernandito continues a tradition which, as he explains it, is meant for “creating spaces for conversation and trying to bring to light the issues that don’t receive enough attention.”

In 2002, Fernandito went on to record his first and only album, Después de tanto tiempo, in Santo Domingo. Since then, he’s also contributed to more than a dozen compilation projects.

He went on his first tour in 2006 after having spent the intervening years establishing his presence throughout the island. Fernandito left for New York in October, subsequently traveling to the New England area, Chicago, California, and then finally to Mexico, before returning home. It became a familiar route over time–one that required a lot of work on his part.

As an indie musician, Fernandito is responsible for booking his own gigs, hiring musicians to play those gigs, managing his social media presence, making travel arrangements, etc. It can be exhausting and time-consuming–two factors, among others, which ultimately contributed to his decision to move to New York.

It does help that there is some overlap with Fernandito’s past musical lives. “The best musicians I know from the island are here in New York, in the area, or pass through here,” he says.

There’s also more flexibility to go on tour, especially in areas like New England and New York where he can rely on well-established connections to the local music scenes. It’s like his own personal artist residency, replete with access to an entire city, ten years in the making.

For now, the cosecha includes assembling two sets of trios (bass, guitar, drums; piano, guitar, percussion) and finally getting to work on his long overdue second album. From there, Fernandito is open to the possibilities, hoping to, in the process, turn New York into a second home for his career.


Cover art by Güillo Cruz (Kroniko Arte), courtesy of Fernandito Ferrer. 

© Center for Puerto Rican Studies. Published in Centro Voices on 24 June 2016.

Centro Voices (ISSN: 2379-3864).
The views expressed here are those of the author and not necessarily those of Centro Voices, the Center for Puerto Rican Studies or Hunter College, CUNY.