Villages’ own Fernando on verge of big break with new album, PBS special

Fernando Varela is on the verge of international stardom and a worldwide breakthrough album. Varela’s CD – called “Vivere” — was recorded at London’s famed Abbey Road Studios and is due out in April. Also, the singer will have a PBS television special set for later this year followed by a huge tour of North America.
And Wednesday, he starts a three-night stand at The Sharon L. Morse Performing Arts Center.

Fernando Varela's CD "Vivere."
Fernando Varela’s CD “Vivere.”

“I’ve worked hard for this success; I’m ready and it’s time,” Varela, 35, said this week. “I’ve had struggles. You work and work. You chase and chase. And you hope you get the break before you break.”

Nobody broke Varela.

Say it loud: Fernando is a star.

Still, when he gets back home to Central Florida with wife Susan and sons little Zeke and Jarron, forget about the budding superstar label – he goes by another title.

“I’m Mr. Mom today; Susan is at a conference and I’m watching Zeke,” Varela said.

 When asked if Susan still makes him take out the garbage, he replied with a laugh: “Of course.”

Watch video of the Varelas performing “Perhaps Love” below:

Fernando Varela and Susan Williams
Fernando Varela and Susan Williams

The famed singer who got his start in The Villages, will be headlining a three-day, five-show Valentine Concert with Susan, also a successful singer. It’s called “Amore” and will be held Feb. 10 at 7 p.m; Feb. 11-12 at 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. in The Sharon.

Also on the bill are pianist/composer William Joseph and violinist Caroline Campbell.

Varela believes the three-night stand is “a way for me to come back and share all the good things that have been happening for me with the people in The Villages who mean so much to me.”

He vows the shows will be unique, similar to Varela’s recent tour of Europe with a huge orchestra, dynamic stage settings and a stunning light show.

“We’re taking the production values for ‘Amore’ to a whole new level,” Varela said, adding a special stage will be built. Also, he promises new songs for duets with Susan. “We’re going to have a medley of love songs that most people in The Villages haven’t heard us sing before.”

Now, thanks to the new CD and PBS special, Fernando’s profile is about to explode in an entertainment universe far beyond The Villages. This is his career moment, and he can feel it.

Fernando Varela at Abbey Road Studios.
Fernando Varela at Abbey Road Studios.

“There’s more pressure and the stakes are higher but I can handle it,” Varela said. He records for Universal Music Group (UMG) one of the largest recording companies in the world.  Varela said he has about 20-30 people on his “team” working daily to promote his career and the upcoming CD.

It will be released in Europe first and then later this year in the States. The first single, “Vivere (to live),” should be released in March. It’s a lush, driving pop tune, highlighting Fernando’s tenor. Among the other tracks: a Spanish cover of Eric Carmen’s “All By Myself” and the operatic  “Nessun Dorma,”

To hear some tracks go to:

The CD was recorded at Abbey Road, best known as the studio home of the Beatles.

“It’s a special place,” Varela said. “There is a palpable sense of history in Abbey Road. You can feel something in the air. You think of the Beatles being there. It’s amazing.”

The CD was produced by Patrick Hamilton, known for his success crossing classical and pop sounds with such singers as Katherine Jenkins. Also, Varela had a 60-piece orchestra to work with, in addition to a choir of 40 singers.

“The magnitude of being there, recording there and working with such an orchestra and singers was overwhelming. It was the most amazing musical experience of my career.”

The CD will be released in a few weeks and each day, the pressure mounts.

Fernando Varela with his mother at church.
Fernando Varela with his mother at church.

“I’ve been doing this a long time,” said Varela, who got his start singing at The Church on The Square nearly 15 years. That’s where he met Susan and also learned to perform with mentors like Maestro Bill Doherty and the late Oscar Feliu.

Back in those days, record deals, TV shows and big concert tours were just dreams. But that’s what drives Fernando.

“Fernando is a dreamer, and his confidence and faith is unwavering,” Susan Varela once told me. “He visualizes what he wants and he goes after it. He makes things happen and he makes dreams come true.”

Susan and Fernando share the dream.

“All this travel can be hard on a family, but Susan and I work hard to keep balance in our lives and try not to be apart too long,” Fernando said. He took Susan and Zeke to Europe for about a month on his last tour. “Susan’s a singer and she understands what this business is all about. We love each other and I couldn’t do it without her.”

The Villages also played an vital role in his life.

Varela grew up in Puerto Rico and came to the U.S. when he was about 8 years old. He was about 20 when he started singing in The Villages.

A few years ago, Varela’s big break came with the group Forte, which appeared on “America’s Got Talent.” Varela caught the eye of world famous music producer David Foster.

Through it all, Varela learned there is a business side to show business. He has promoted shows in The Villages for the past few years, including much of the past year in The Sharon. He brought in such big names as Johnny Mathis.

Fernando Varela sings with the Temptations.
Fernando Varela sings with the Temptations.

“Promoting shows at The Sharon has made me a better performer,” Varela said. “I understand what performers have to go through and how to help them. As a promoter, you have to deal with marketing, hospitality, the press and just about everything else.

“It’s a challenge to divide the performing side from the business side. When I’m on stage, I’m focused on singing and performing. When I’m off stage, there are a million small things you have to think about. You have to be able to do both performing and business, to be successful.”

Success, however, can sometimes be as challenging as failure.

The music industry is filled with one-hit wonders or singers who just couldn’t handle the money, fame and adulation.

“That’s why I’m glad this is happening now, because I have a lot of life experience and I can deal with it,” Varela said. “I’m grateful and humble to have this opportunity.”
No matter what happens in his career, there will always be a special place in Fernando’s heart for The Villages.
“I owe so much to the people here,” Varela said. “For me, performing in The Villages is like coming home.”