“I wish more was taught about communication” – Hear65’s Vanessa Fernandez on the performer/producer dynamic
She and the rest of the Hear65 team oversaw the showcase that included Singapore artists Charlie Lim, The Steve McQueen’s, Intriguant and Linying.
While she might have had her production hat on then she benefits from being in the unique position of seeing the music industry from both sides.
For the first half of her career, Fernandez was in front of the stage curtain rather than making sure that it was set up right.
“I started out in music, professionally, when I was 18. But I was singing in the church choir since I was sort of like 12. When I was about 12, 13, me and some friends from the choir actually participated in a talent time competition on TV,” she says.
“We won that and, I guess, from there, I kind of figured, “Maybe I should keep pursuing this.”
It only started to get bigger from there for Fernandez’s performing career, she went on to be part of a hip hop group Urban Xchange, who starred in a national Singapore Coca-Cola advertising campaign which led them to sign a two-year contract with Universal Singapore.
Backing up her performing chops with a diploma in mass communications lead Fernandez to take a production internship which, among other things, guided her to become involved with the inaugural Hear65 showcase in 2016. Back then it was called Singapore Sound System.
The first event went so well that they brought it back in 2018 under the new moniker, Hear65, named after Singapore’s phone code and as a larger part of the Singapore Arts Council’s push for local music to break overseas.
“They did a whole bunch of research in 2016 and 2017 they released a music consumption survey of the Singapore population. One of the outcomes from the survey was creating this movement around Singapore music,” Fernandez says.
“So Hear65 was kind of the look of that movement.”
Coming from a performance background before expanding her skills to the production world has given Fernandez a specific understanding of what each party goes through to make it to the stage.
“If you’re just a producer and you just understand how to put together a show, there’s a creative empathy that you may lack because you don’t understand the process of how a musician performs,” says Fernandez.
“And on the other side, if you’re a musician you’re just focused on your performance, you don’t understand all the different aspects that go into making that show.
“So, for me, I feel that understanding the weaknesses on both sides, has allowed me to find strength in them when I’m was playing different hats.”
The word empathy rises a lot with Fernandez maintaining that it’s an essential ingredient for producers to be able to relate to their performers.
“Understand that musicians are very creative, empathetic, sensitive, nervous creatures. I want to make sure that they have everything before they go on stage,” says Fernandez.
“Because I’ve been in that situation as a performer, I’ve been on that stage where I don’t have everything, or I can’t hear myself, or I don’t feel comfortable, and then I’m already nervous as it is. I don’t want any of that to affect the performance.”
For musicians, having empathy for the producer can be as easy as turning up for soundcheck.
“Musicians can be like, ‘Oh, I’m just going to go get wasted,’ or, ‘I’m not going to bother with my soundcheck,’ and then you go onstage and it’s like, ‘I can’t hear myself,’ or, ‘Oh no, I’m too nervous,'” says Fernandez
“I think, being respectful of the production side of things, meaning to be on time and to be professional in delivery.”
On both sides, Fernandez it boils down to good communication.
“I wish more was taught about communication,” she laughs.
While Fernandez comments that she’ll never stop creating and performing music, helping other Singaporean performers have the opportunities she had through platforms like Hear65 is just as important.
“I think Hear65 2018 went really well. Of course, it’ll be a process. And these were only four artists of the many, many artists that we have. I wish that all the artists could play,” says Fernandez.
“But there are so many more artists. So I feel like this is only just a first step and a first beginning.”
Check out all the action from Hear65 Singapore showcase at BIGSOUND 2018 below.