Danny Fernandes Talks Going Independent & His Love for Mickey Mouse

Lane Dorsey
Danny Fernandes

For the most of his recording career, Toronto pop/R&B artist and award-winning dancer Danny Fernandes was with CP Records and Management, the company created by artist Belly and entrepreneur Wassim "Sal" Slaiby, who now manages The Weeknd under Sal & Co. Belly co-wrote a good many of Fernandes' songs, dating back to his 2008 debut album, Intro, and follow-up, 2010's AutomaticLUV, and was featured on hit singles "Private Dancer" and "Hit Me Up."

But after his third album, 2013, Breathe Again, which focused on a tumultuous period of his life, Fernandes broke ties with CP and is now entirely DIY, taking him back to his beginnings when his 2003 song "Curious" was leaked online and got his music career rolling. In 2016, he had an unexpected hit, he says, with the single "Dear Life," which he didn't promote traditionally but pressed 15,000 hard copies, sold online and offstage, and ended up with a gold certification in Canada.

Armed with a new manager and a two-person digital team, he has just released another single called "Missing," co-written with Andrew Scott (Fantasia, Michelle Williams, Trin-i-tee) and Paul J. Falcone (Justin Timberlake, Katy Perry, Pharrell Williams), while he works on an EP and creates a second line of "Love Out Loud" clothing for Disney focusing on an older demographic.

Fernandes, now a married father, talked with Billboard about going it alone, his fashion line, the "Missing" single and his EP's sound.

Just because you haven't had an album out in five years, doesn't mean you haven't been busy. You became a dad, a husband, created a fashion line, toured Asia and Canada, and released a single.

I'd say in the last four years I've achieved some pretty important milestones in my career from the Asia tour to the clothing line. Also being independent has not only been challenging, but a great learning experience for myself.

You were with an independent label.

Yeah, but they were also signed to a major label. I'm independent independent now.

What's the challenge in sustaining a career after a decade in today's pop world?

I'd say just the consistency. In this game, you can't leave. I wouldn't say I had left, but I'd say from radio I was gone for a little while. Now to come back into it, I have to stay and stay consistent and give them song after song after song and be in their face.

When you released "Dear Life," you talked in the media about needing a break.

That song also did a lot of good for me. I didn't want to commercially release that record, but it still went gold. When I release the last album, I was in a dark place, so that's why I didn't want to release that song, I knew my fans were going to love it because it's a good song. After that, I said I want to go back to that dance and that poppy upbeat music that my fans know me for.

Fortunately that's still what's relevant today.

Exactly. So I'm like, 'I can't go back through that. I want to move forward. I want to go back to what they knew me for and what they loved, and I want to bring that back to them so.' That's where I'm doing this now.

In the bio, "Missing" is described as a lust song.

That's what my life is, to be honest. I wanted something upbeat and infectious that people can sing to. I'm very happy with the way it turned out. It's a good summer song. The producers, I met Andrew and Paul through my manager. Andrew sent me the instrumental, and I ended up writing to it, and then Paul got involved when it was more towards the end; he heard the song, and he wanted to be a part of it. I was completely honored because he's worked with my idol, Justin Timberlake. So to have that guy be a part of my record, I was like, 'Wow, this is huge.'

It's interesting times. We've got the #MeToo movement, women speaking out against harassment and assault. You have a little daughter. Do you have any views on that?

I'm not one to really speak on that area because I was someone who was out a lot partying, you know what I mean, so I feel like I'm at a point right now where I'm giving women my full respect. I have a daughter now, so I want her to grow up in a good household with respect, so I'm trying to teach her all the best things that I possibly can. As a father of a daughter and husband, I have a lot of appreciation for the movement.

How far along are you with the other material for the EP?

I would say I'm almost half done. Like I said, I'm going back to my roots. It's more upbeat songs and stuff that my fans will love. When someone hears a song from me, I want them to be like, 'That's Danny Fernandes.' I want to have that sound that people know.

Every artist has that core group of loyal fans that no matter how long you're gone for, they're still there for you.

I have a lot of those. I keep contact with all my fans. I appreciate every single one of them because if it wasn't for them, there wouldn't be a me.

How was it going over to Asia?

It was probably one of the best experiences of my life. Most of the people don't speak English but they know your songs. They'll sing your songs in English. It's just like, 'Wow, you don't know a word in English but you're singing my song.' They're so kind and so appreciative of the music. They don't care who's singing it. They just love the music.

We've all watched your former label and management heads rise to the top globally with The Weeknd. How have you tried to break into the States?

Honestly, when I was signed to that record label, I feel like they didn't give enough push. They did so much for me, but I feel like there could have been a little shove in there because they knew the people.

Do you think the timing was off a little bit?

Yeah, it could be that. They're great people. I'm so proud of what they've done. I am so happy for them. 'Kudos to you guys because you guys deserve it.' They came from the bottom from what they were to what they are now, it's incredible, like 'Wow. Congratulations, like holy.'

How is the fashion line Love Out Loud going?

We're doing another one. I am a Mickey Mouse fanatic. I have a collection of Mickey Mouse comic books from the 1930s. I have a tattoo of Mickey Mouse on my hand. Since I was a kid, I've loved Mickey Mouse. He's just the happiest little creature. I've been to Disneyland like 15 times. I just took my daughter there the beginning of this year. She loved it.

What was your intention with Love Out Loud? It's not a charity line, is it?

No, it's not a charity line but it's just to create awareness to what's happening. I want to promote compassion because these people are not paying attention to anything else but their phones. There's a lot going on in the world, pay attention to it. There are people out there that need help.

How does a fashion line do that?

There was a heart on the sleeve, so the way I promoted it was I did television, I did radio, and tried to tell people, 'Listen this is what's happening. We need to start paying attention to these things.' I did as much as I possibly could for it.

Are you rooting for anyone in the World Cup?

I'm Portuguese. We're doing pretty well right now.

You're also doing a dance competition for your upcoming concert at the Mod Club (July 21) in Toronto.

We're choosing a few kids. I'm headlining a show at the Mod Club. I have done every venue at least three times, but I've never done the iconic Mod Club, so I'm very excited. We're putting on a contest for it. We have hundreds of submissions emailed and posted online. It's an inclusive contest open to absolutely anybody and it's a chance to give these inspiring dancers an opportunity to dance for me. I will choose them personally.