Fernando Silverio Solis eloquently raises his voice, holds his head high and advocates for solidarity amidst a sea of recurring racial, social and political struggles.
The Flint indie folk singer-songwriter and guitarist speaks volumes about the lingering injustices against people of color and the Black Lives Matter movement’s ongoing fight against an oppressive state on his latest gripping single, “Keep Your Head High.”
“I was just reflecting an expression of what I felt or thought during so many of the Black Lives Matter demonstrations and watching the news of people being murdered by police and then watching the police violence unfold. It was also in reaction to the past four years and what the previous administration brought out of people,” Solis said.
Throughout “Keep Your Head High,” Solis thoughtfully shares those reflections as contemplative acoustic guitar, somber pedal steel and placid cello echo his raw, honest sentiments. He quietly sings,” When did we justify to look each other in the eyes/And decide we are strangers/When all is said and done/And we’re sent to kingdom come/Will we see we weren’t so different.”
“I didn’t want to overstep any boundaries with making it about myself or attempting to speak on behalf of anyone. I really did my best to try to present it from a perspective of ‘I’m here, I’m watching, I do have my own reactions, and these are my thoughts regarding my own reactions as to what I’m seeing happen,’” Solis said.
Solis teamed up with several talented collaborators to bring a wistful Americana flavor to “Keep Your Head High” while recording it at Chesaning’s Oneder Studios with Nick Diener. Australian pedal steel player Jy-Perry Banks lends his virtuoso guitar skills while cellist Ian Legge brings a delicate string sensibility to the track.
“After I did the Wake Up Slow EP, there was a window of time before everything got really crazy. I was able to record more music with Nick, and I have another seven songs that haven’t been released yet. At that time, I came across (Banks) on Instagram, and I saw that he was open for sessions,” Solis said.
“I said, ‘Nick, I’ll record these songs with guitar and vocals, and then let’s flesh out the rest.’ That’s when we got to talking and said, ‘Let’s get this real country feel to it.’ Those songs were finished, and then they sat. We had to mix and master them, and as that was happening, the world shut down.”
The Beginning of the End
Pensive acoustic strums, thumping bass, hopeful electric guitar and serene drums prepare listeners for the slow demise of a longtime relationship on “I Couldn’t Love You Forever.” Solis quietly sings, “Drive for six hours/You like sleeping on the beach/Feels so alone in the company that we keep/Don’t tell a soul about why we never speak/Drop you back home/Yeah that’s where I used to sleep.”
“It’s a weird thing to reflect on a relationship that you knew wasn’t going to work, but you tried anyway. You try to convince yourself of something even though everything is telling you to run. At the same time, you build these relationships with people, and they’re valuable for whatever course they run,” he said.
“The song is almost like an apology in a way. You’re pretending as you go along with dates and go on trips with friends, and you’re trying out these different versions of yourself with this other individual. It’s like, ‘Ah, this isn’t it.’”
While accepting the end of a relationship on “I Couldn’t Love You Forever,” Solis also prepares for the eventual collapse of society on “Quarantine 2020.” Solemn synths, pulsating bass, frantic cymbals and intermittent electronic drums create the ideal sonic backdrop for a pandemic-induced shutdown.
Solis calmly reflects, “Will you be around when the end of the world is over/Will you still let me down when the end of the world is over/We’ll pick up right where we left off/Maybe I’ll finally get a job/That pays better than Amazon/When the end of the world is over.”
“I totally empathize with people not knowing what’s going on and not knowing what to believe, and ultimately, every single person is doing what they feel is best for their family even if they’re following a political narrative that I disagree with and that’s not factual,” he said.
“I’m not afraid to say I’m very left leaning, or I would say liberal because it’s the most digestible thing for people who aren’t into politics. I have conservative friends, and I see them talk about certain things, so I thought, ‘I’m going to go find out where they’re getting their information from.’ I wanted to see all these random things that were promoted on mainstream news and then randomly disappeared into the internet ether.”
The Introduction of Fernando Silverio Solis
Consequently, Solis first appeared into the internet ether with his introspective, emotive debut EP, Feeling the Same, in 2010. The three-track indie folk project reveals a younger, more vulnerable Solis with raw songwriting and acoustic soundscapes akin to Conor Oberst and Bright Eyes.
“I got married in my early 20s, and we had a kid. I took a break from doing heavy music, and I started to explore a little bit of the singer-songwriter stuff. I was just trying to figure out how to put songs together by myself and making noises in my house to see what would come out,” said Solis, who previously played in post hardcore, punk, emo and nu metal bands.
Two years later, Solis released the intimate, tender Sufjan Stevens-esque EP, Fernando, which deeply explores self-identity and personal growth against a folky, atmospheric backdrop.
“That’s what I was experiencing back then. I wanted to be better than myself or seek out the potential that I could as an individual, but I wasn’t confident that I could get there at the time. I wasn’t sure if I would or when I could,” said Solis, who’s influenced by The Suicide Machines, Less Than Jake, Mustard Plug and Flogging Molly.
By 2019, Solis collaborated with Nick Diener (recording, mixing and additional instrumentation) and his brother Jonathan Diener (drums) to record the Wake Up Slow EP at Oneder Studios. The introspective, confident project seamlessly showcases Solis expanding his indie folk sound into a rocky full-band powerhouse.
“It was completely unexpected, but it shaped how I approached recording more stuff down the line. We fleshed out some songs in a way that I think Nick and I both heard them,” Solis said.
“We weren’t sure in the beginning of that how the end product was going to be because it was only the second time I’d gone to record with Nick. He let me guide him into the full-band sound, and we just keep building on stuff.”
Together, Solis and Nick Diener continue to record new material, including releasing the seven new tracks currently in reserve. Solis also will perform a live set Saturday at The Avenue Café in Lansing.
“I’m hoping for a fall release. The plan is to put out those tracks that I’ve finished into three separate EPs, and I have the artwork ready to go from a friend of mine,” Solis said.