Fernie Aurora POP Montreal

Fernie rises from the underground for POP Montreal

Aurora, the debut album by the Montreal R&B artist, drops today.

Even though West Island R&B wunderkind Fernie has yet to play a festival gig, the singer’s POP Montreal debut could already be deemed a major success. With two sold out shows on Friday and Sunday, word has clearly gotten out that the 23-year-old is one to watch going forward, and when his first album Aurora hits streaming services Friday, expect even more accolades.

If you catch either show — at le Ministère or Clubhouse Rialto — they might go down as one of those intimate artist introductions you’ll brag about having attended in the years to come. It’s hard imagine Fernie’s lush, ambitious R&B sound staying in small rooms for long.

We chatted about POP, Aurora and the West Island crew Fernie emanated from, called Kids From the Underground.

Erik Leijon: Knowing you’re playing to a sold out crowd at POP Montreal, how is that affecting your preparation?

Fernie: Honestly, it’s helping me because I’m super motivated to sing in front of people. I haven’t done that in so long because of the pandemic. It’s given me a lot of hope, but I also get really nervous — I have a bit of anxiety and stage fright.

EL: And I guess it’ll be your first time playing the songs from Aurora?

F: It’s my first time performing anything new. Before the pandemic I released a song called “Westchester” (#15 on Cult MTL’s Top MTL songs of 2020), and that’s a song I haven’t sung live, so this POP show will be about my new songs and the album, and what I represent within the album.

EL: Did you perform much pre-pandemic?

F: I’ve been part of a collective called Kids From the Underground for about three years, and that’s when I started doing shows. It was bars at first.

EL: What’s the story behind Kids From the Underground?

F: We’re basically just a bunch of kids from the West Island. I had met Samaether at a park where we were just chilling. He’s the guy who runs it all. And from there he had met other people that he knew who were very good at what they did, with similar aspirations and the same ideas, so we all joined together. And within that we all helped each other, performed together and we really just vibe — we’re a big group just supporting each other through everything.

EL: So you help each other on your respective projects?

F: Exactly. So with my project, I was able to have people from the collective help me out in terms of production and backing vocals. Even songwriting — there’s one song on the album where I actually had help. It was honestly a really cool experience, because I’m someone who writes on his own. So to have that experience and having a moment shared with someone else in terms of songwriting, it was honestly very amazing and especially with my collective because it’s people that can be personal and transparent. So it really makes the song more truthful and more alive, in my opinion.

EL: Did being in the group help you find your sound?

F: I think prior to Kids From the Underground I had a different type of sound, which was more in the acoustic emo type of realm. With Kids From the Underground I was able to find a different part of myself, and that part of me is more like the R&B side, so I’m really diving into soulful, jazzy sounds because there’s a lot of people in the group who really, really like those styles. I’m just trying to learn and develop, and who knows, maybe after this album, it’ll just be a different type of genre. I’m always just growing.

EL: How long have you been working on Aurora?

F: Aurora is basically a compilation of songs I’ve written within the last three years. I’m not someone that’s able to write a lot of songs quickly, I’m mostly a person who draws inspiration from experiences. So throughout these three years I was able to write selectively and I just decided to add them all within one album because I feel like they all had a same underlying theme, which is rebirth, finding yourself and just accepting yourself for who you are, and just really being transparent with yourself or with others as well.

EL: Let’s give a shout out to the other members of Kids From the Underground.

F: So we have a singer named JaD. He’s amazing. We have a producer Sameather, who’s like pretty much the person who invented Kids From the Underground. We have a rapper named Hxx, who’s another amazing rapper named Mosez Jones, and we have our lovely manager named Roy, and he’s also a producer as well. And then we have another producer named Charles Guy and he’s the next Mozart, in my eyes. He’s so young, so talented, knows so much. And then we have Housefly, who’s kind of well-known here now. He does a lot of production. He’s been working with Maky Lavender recently on his tour. And yeah, we’re basically just trying to like slowly slither our way into the industry and just plant the seeds. (There’s also KIN and TommiGunner.) ■

Aurora is being released on Friday, Sept. 24. Fernie performs with Bodywash and Yawn at le Ministère (4521 St-Laurent) on Friday, Sept. 24, 8:30 p.m., sold out. Fernie performs at Clubhouse Rialto (5723 Parc) on Sunday, Sept. 26, 1:30 p.m., sold out.

For more Montreal music coverage, please visit the Music section.