Alemay Fernandez Holds Her Own as One Of The Best Jazz Singers In The World
Hailed by TimeOut magazine as one of Singapore’s “best-loved entertainers”, Alemay Fernandez is a veteran performer in the Asian jazz scene. In her illustrious 19 year career, she has performed with the likes of The Count Basie Orchestra, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, David Foster, Gregory Porter, Ernie Watts, Randy Brecker, Antonio Hart, Mitch Frohman, Jay Anderson, Lewis Nash, Ed Cherry, Incognito, Ray Parker Jr, The Platters’ Bobby Soul, William Close & The Earth Harp Collective and opened for Laura Fygi & Benny Golson. She has sung for A-listers like Kevin Spacey, Ethan Hawke, Joss Stone, Kurt Elling, Lea Salonga, Paloma Picasso, Serena Williams as well as Presidents & Prime Ministers. In the Summer of 2017 she headlined the legendary Birdland Jazz Club in NY.
MT/Tracey: Hello Alemay, it’s such an honour to interview you. You’ve done so much in your career; how did you begin as a singer and who or what inspired you?
Alemay: Hi Tracey it’s a pleasure to get to do this interview. thank you for including me. My Dad loved great vocalists and always had jazz music playing in the house as far back as I can remember. It really informed my love for music getting to hear Ella Fitzgerald, Dinah Washington, Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Brooke Benton & gospel singer Mahalia Jackson wafting through the house on a daily basis. I was also blessed to grow up in a family that loved to sing and pretty much everyone in my family has a great voice. We’d all gather every Sunday at my Grandmother’s house and after lunch we’d sit around the piano and sing as a family. Automatically splitting into harmonies spontaneously. Then at age 10, my mother (realising I was a drama queen) took me for my first audition and I was cast in the musical theatre production “The Sound Of Music” as Louisa von Trapp. I continued to do theatre throughout my teenage years as well as sing in my church choir till I was almost 19 and was then able to sing in pubs.
MT: How many years have you been singing for?
Alemay: My first pub gig was pretty much the beginning of my adult singing career and I am now going into my 20th year as a professional singer.
MT: Do you recall your first ever performances?
Alemay: Oh yes with such lucidity. With the exception of my first tv appearance at age 4 on the kids show Romper Room, I can remember them all. I recited poetry on a kids talent show at age 7 because all the singing slots were taken. Was acting in educational videos and doing voiceovers at 9 and of course performing for my family at Sunday lunches.
MT: You have been dubbed by Time Out Magazine as Singapore’s best loved entertainer. Is singing your full-time career and how many shows would you do on average within any given time? (say, 6 months)
Alemay: Yes singing is my main career and I average 2 – 3 performances a week. I am also a part-time vocal lecturer at the local arts college here in Singapore. I also do voiceovers for commercials. I am the voice behind commercials for Singapore Airlines and Friso Baby Milk Powder.
MT: Did you do formal vocal training or is it your natural ability to sound so astounding?
Alemay: I definitely have great genes as both sides of my family can sing and are musically inclined. So I am blessed with natural gift BUT it takes a lot of effort to maintain and I have also taken informal lessons over the years at different stages in my career from a variety of vocal professionals which has helped me cultivate great vocal technique and maintain good vocal health. And that’s really what makes the difference.
MT: Do you listen to or notice upcoming singers and performers? If so, do you get blown away by any?
Alemay: Yes all the time! I absolutely LOVE Cecile McLorin-Salvant and there’s an incredible vocalist from South Africa who lives in New York and his name is Vuyo Sotashe who blew me away when I saw him perform at Dizzy’s club while I was in New York last Summer.
MT: You have performed with some of the world’s best, namely The Count Basie Orchestra, David Foster, The Duke Ellington Orchestra, Gregory Porter, Ernie Watts, just to name a few. How would you describe the experience as a seasoned singer working with other great musicians?
Alemay: Well it’s funny how you think you’re a seasoned singer until you get to perform with people at their level and then all of a sudden you feel like you’re a kid getting to learn from the greats. They are all so incredibly decorated and insanely talented and yet so humble and down-to-earth. All very sobering and highly fulfilling collaborations that I feel so fortunate to have been able to experience. The highlights of my career for sure.
MT: Do you continue to learn different ways or pick up new idea’s through new collaborations and experiences?
Alemay: Every single day. And I’m pretty sure that will continue to happen throughout my career. i firmly believe if you keep an open mind and always look for opportunities to collaborate, you’ll never stop growing and improving and that’s how you stay creative and grounded.
MT: I’ve noticed you have also performed for some huge A-listers like Kevin Spacey, Ethan Hawke, Joss Stone, Serena Williams and even Presidents and Prime Ministers. Can you share with the fans what it’s like to sing for these people? How does it make you feel and do you get to interact with them off stage?
Alemay: I got to interact with Kevin Spacey, Ethan Hawke and Joss Stone but sadly not Serena Williams or any Presidents/Prime Ministers except for the Singapore Presidents. The repertoire is often decided for you for political events. I sang jazz standards for Kevin & Ethan. Joss Stone asked for “Cry Me A River” & Paloma Picasso asked for “Moon RIver”
MT: I see you’re based in Singapore. How often do you tour or travel outside of Singapore for shows?
Alemay: At the moment with the out-of-town shows, I’m averaging once a month for abt a week at a time. Which I think it’s perfect and am enjoying very much getting to perform with great musicians all over the world and perform for different music loving audiences. Life is pretty amazing!
MT: Your album, ‘Hard To Imagine’ took 5 years to make and includes 21 musicians who are cream of the crop. This is such a superb album which includes Erik Hargrove (toured with James Brown and Bootsy Collins) Why did it take 5 years to make this album?
Alemay: Well it took that long because I decided to be adventurous and make every song quite different in terms of arrangement and instrumentation. I was doing a lot of things for the first , writing, producing, arranging. So there was a lot to learn. But largely because I was self-funding and had to take breaks to earn money to pay for everything song by song. Luckily my wonderful sister, Sabina, organised a fund raiser and that really helped alot!
MT: I noticed that 9 of the tracks from the album were written and co-written by you. Was this the first time of trying your hand at song writing?
Alemay: I co-wrote 6 of the songs and the remaining 3 originals were written by music colleagues and one set of lyrics came from my sister. So it’s a good mix of material. And yes I was writing for the first time so it was intimidating to say the least. But thankfully I had great guidance from my co-producer an co-writer Shawn Letts who is also like a brother to me.
MT: I’ve also noticed that you are a vocal lecturer in the Vocal Faculty at the Lasalle College of The Arts Singapore. Are you still lecturing?
Alemay: Yes and I have been since 2012. There’s so.mich budding talent. I’m happy I can be a part of their journey. They teach me and inspire me too.
MT: Could you give some budding singers any great advice and tips on how to sing?
Alemay: The key is to take time to relax all your muscles before you start singing and then be sure to be sincere with your expression. Never forget you are a storyteller. And how well you tell your story decides how well you’ll hold an audience.
MT: No doubt you are preparing for your next international show in Australia with the great Michael Pigneguy called ‘The Vanguard’, Where worlds Collide. Have you performed in Australia before?
Alemay: To date I have only performed in Perth so I very much look forward to my Sydney debut!
MT: It looks like a huge show with so many great artists and musicians. Who’s involved in ‘The Vanguard’ show with Michael Pigneguy?
Alemay: Well there’s of course the man himself on drums. Other guest performers Marques Young aka Q Sound from the U.S. on trombone and Evelyn Feroza from Malaysia also on vocals along with an Australian rhythm section of course.
MT: What will you be singing in the show?
Alemay: There’ll be a mix of standards, new originals that the band members have written together and a little bit of soul. Someting for everyone.
MT: This show will be super exciting and notice that it’s on June 7th. Where will the show be held?
Alemay: It will at The Vanguardin Newton. And I cannot wait to see everyone!
MT: If you can answer this question, it would be great. But what if the show is sold out? Would you be adding more dates?
Alemay: Sadly I don’t think we can do that. But hopefully next time!
MT: Alemay, thank you so much for your time, I really hope to be able to get to the show.
Alemay: Really hope to get to meet you at the show Tracey. Thanks again for having me!
You can also read our interview with Michael Pigneguy HERE
Alemay Fernandez and Michael Pigneguy are giving away two free tickets to our readers to the show at
👉🏼 The Vanguard in Newtown (Sydney) for Friday 7th June.
To be in the running all you need to do is share the interview and take a screenshot of where it was shared to. Email us the screenshot with your full name and phone number to
Too Easy! 💜