Rochester Magazine: So have you officially given up on your dream of being an astronaut?
Fernando Ufret: Yes. How’d you know that? Yeah, I went to space camp as a kid. I was a student interested in science. And I was really turned on to being an astronaut. But I have officially given up on that dream.
RM: What if they came to you right now and said, “We want to have a musician in space.”
Fernando: Yeah! Let’s go! If I don’t have to do special training other than getting ready for zero gravity and that stuff. Because right now to be a legit astronaut I would have to go through a lot of schooling that I really don’t have the patience for anymore. And I would have to get in shape.
RM: Tell me about the moment—I think you were 12 or so—when you knew you wanted to be a musician.
Fernando: So when I was 9 [and growing up in Puerto Rico], I found a guitar in one of my grandma’s closets. She said it was my dad’s, but my dad never learned how to play it. He knew a couple chords, but it’s not like he was a musician. I loved that guitar. Played a lot. When I was 12, we had a band and we played Green Day’s “Basket Case” at our Boy Scout Jamboree. My brother had his three-piece drum set with a little cymbal in the middle. I played my acoustic guitar. As soon as we started playing that song the kids in the crowd were like, “Yes! These little kids rock!” And we’re like, “Holy crap, this is what we have to do for the rest of our lives now.”
RM: What brought you to Rochester?
Fernando: My wife [Stephanie Silva]. She’s an immunologist and she moves me around the country with science.
RM: I was told to ask about your addiction to meat.
Fernando: Who gives you all these questions? Yes. I love steak. Not only to eat it, but to prepare it differently. Different types of cuts and aging process and stuff like that. My family loves cooking, and we try different techniques and rubs.
RM: Speaking of rubs, how much do you spend a year on beard oil?
Fernando: Quite a bit. Keeping a beard is not easy. And if you use cheap products your beard is going to suffer. I’ve had at least a goatee since high school. And then around 2017, I started going full beard. I was saying, “You know, I think I could pull off the full beard.” This beard is three years thick, 10 months in length.
RM: Does the beard technically qualify as an N-95 mask?
Fernando: Oh, man. I wish. I have to use two masks at least. I use this surgical mask to just gather this thing under my chin and then I use an N-95 on top of that.
RM: So, 110,000 subscribers on YouTube. Not to be too crass, but what does that do for you monetarily? Is there a direct correlation between subscribers and YouTube money?
Fernando: No. It’s just prestige. The money comes in when the ads work, when people click on them. I rely on revenue sharing on YouTube. When I cover a song, I share a check with YouTube, with the original artist, and then the remaining 29 or 28 percent goes to me. So if my channel makes $1,000 a month, I only get about $280 that month.
RM: And you’re used to playing a few hundred shows a year all over the world, right—before COVID, of course?
Fernando: I normally play 300 to 310 shows per year. I’ve been to 23 countries. I keep a list. We had a big South American tour lined up. Two months. We had a UK tour. I was booked out eight months in advance. But you just keep in touch, keep the relationships alive and do the best you can.
RM: OK. Since we haven’t had enough time to self-reflect over the last five months, I’ll give you a cheesy psych test. I’ll tell you what the answers represent later.
Fernando: Well. Okay.
RM: Give me your favorite animal and three words or phrases to describe it.
Fernando: My favorite animal right now is dog. Faithful. Loving. And intelligent.
RM: Give me your favorite color and three words or phrases to describe it.
Fernando: Black. It looks cool. It’s very neutral. And comfortable.
RM: You’re in an all-white room. No windows or doors. How do you feel?
Fernando: I feel confused. Did I die?
RM: OK. Here are what the answers represent. The animal is how you see yourself. You said “Faithful, loving, intelligent.”
Fernando: Oh, wow. That’s on.
RM: The color represents how you think others see you. You said “Looks cool. Very neutral. Comfortable.”
Fernando: I hope that’s true.
RM: The white room is supposed to represent your feelings on death. And you said “Did I die?” So, yeah, that’s pretty insightful.
Fernando: So when I die, I’ll be wondering if I died.
RM: Yes. So you’ve got that going for you.