The Australian urban pop scene is still pretty much underground. My homegirl Deni and the lovely Jade Macrae have been on the grind for decades but neither woman has bothered the charts in a very long while. The batton has been passed to Jessica Mauboy, who has single handedly carried the torch for the past two years - scoring 6 top 30 hits from her platinum selling "Been Waiting" album. Jessica's success clearly proves there's an audience for catchy urban pop music in this country and it's exactly this gap in the market that newcomer Vera Fernandes is hoping to fill. After first making a name for herself as a model, the 25 year old turned her attention to music and has been making waves in the industry ever since. Vera's debut single "All About You" was a super smooth mid-tempo ballad produced by hitmakers Audius and Leon. Those guys crafted Jessica Mauboy's "Running Back" and were also responsible for one of my favourite tracks of 2009 - Liena's "Go Crazy". Well, the aspiring diva has teamed up with those guys again for her second single and it's another slick urban pop jam with a killer chorus and catchy hook. With "Sometimes We Fall" about to hit iTunes, Vera took some time out to talk to me about her sound, inspirations and future plans. I just can't believe she cited Cheryl Cole as an influence. I'm dying inside!
Vera, you're so exotic. Tell us about your background.
I came to Australia from Portugal when I was 6 with my family and have lived here ever since.
Your bio boasts that you're "one of the most recognisable faces in the car enthusiast industry". Are you some kind of famous driver or did you pose on top of sports cars?
Haha.. I wish I was a racing car driver! I was involved in the car industry as a promotional model for many years representing major sponsors at all the car shows and from there I was featured in Australian car magazines, so that's where that comes from.
How did you make the move from model to pop star? Have you done it all on your own?
I have always been singing and songwriting, that has always been my passion. Throughout school I was performing in bands, groups and solo... basically any opportunity that I had I was there. The modelling work came from friends encouraging me to get involved in that industry, and given it was still apart of the entertainment side of things, it gave me a great insight into the other side of the music business which is all about networking, your image, being business savvy and staying level headed. I am a very ambitious person but I have had a lot of amazing mentors in my life who have guided me along the way.
Who are your musical influences?
Lauryn Hill was a huge influence on me musically when she released "The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill" and I've always been surrounded by Hip Hop and R'n'B which I love. I also think that listening to the likes of Nelly Furtado really showed me how artists can evolve and I love the work she did with Timbaland, who is one of my favourite producers. Funnily enough, The Cranberries in the early 90's were also a massive influence on me during high school and that's where I found some of my vocal techniques. And I have to give Mariah some credit because I have always loved her. No matter how much time goes by, her earlier stuff always gives me goosebumps. Right now I'm listening to a lot of Cheryl Cole (OH HELL NO!) and her work with will.i.am - the list goes on! In saying all that, my musical taste is so diverse my friends can never guess what's on my ipod. One day it's Coldplay and the next day it's a Benn Watt minimal house remix. I think that being open to different music broadens your creativity as an artist.
Your first song "All About You" generated a lot of buzz, particularly on the local urban music scene. Were you always interested in that genre?
I still can't believe how much this track has grown on people. It really has taken me on a ride! It's been so incredible to have radio stations such as TodayFM play my first single as an unsigned artist. I still get people who hear it for the first time contact me and tell me that they loved it and that they cant get the hook out of their head. I really live for that sort of response to my music... it's amazing. "All About You" was such a fun track to write and produce, it was my first proper studio recording and I always knew exactly what I wanted my "sound" to be. Urban music is what I feel the most passionate about, which is why I sourced the best urban producers in Australia to work with me on my EP. The urban community is full of passion and I love and appreciate all the support I have received from the local scene.
"Sometimes We Fall" (listen to it below) is another killer serve of urban pop. Is it true that Audius and Leon produced it? How did you get involved with those guys? Yes it is true that they worked on "Sometimes We Fall" with me. They also worked on "All About You". I had wanted to work with Audius for a long time before we actually hooked up to do the first track, Myspace played a huge role in us all getting together because that was what everyone was into at the time and it allowed them to see and hear my potential beforehand. After we met we just hit it off creatively, they really got behind me and wanted to be apart of my dream. You can almost hear the amount of dedication that went into both tracks. We are all perfectionists and there is a lot of passion and respect when we are working on music together. I love what those guys are doing for urban music in Australia.
When is the single being released? How will you be promoting it?
The 2nd single "Sometimes We Fall" will be available on iTunes within in a few weeks you can keep on top of the release date by checking out my website. There will be a string of performances later this year and possibly a showcase on completion of the album.
So, there is an album on the way? Who are you working with on it?
Yes! I'm very excited that I will be in fact continuing to work on my album with Audius and Leon at the Sound Academy as well as sourcing some local producers for the remixes and working on a few one off projects within the dance scene. All very exciting!
Thanks for the chat and good luck with everything!
To learn more about this upcoming urban pop sensation, check out her website and Myspace.