Finally ready to dig into the tuna salad in front of him, an hour after being whisked through the front doors of La Bodegita Del Medio on Coral Way to meet an awaiting visitor, Marlon Fernandez's publicist warned that the clock was ticking.
"We have to go, we have to be at the radio station by 3:30," said publicist Johnny Minaya in an agressive, booming voice, reminding Fernandez he has yet another commitment before calling it a day. "They're waiting [on us]."
Eating on the run is habitual for the Cuban crooner considering the upwards path his career has taken after recently paying homage to Latin music icon, and childhood idol, Juan Luis Guerra with the appropriately titled Homenaje A Juan Luis Guerra.
His high-pitched chops and emotionally-stirring delivery ring through in Homenaje as Fernandez takes some of the Dominican singer/songwriter's greatest hits for a hip-shaking spin, ala a salsa-rhythm, by slightly altering Guerra's bachata and merengue originals.
"Its a dream come true," says the 30-year-old Fernandez alluding to the tribute, his second album under La Calle Records, a division of Univision Music Group.
"Mi Sueno, My Dream," Fernandez's first album, which included Usted Abuso, a duet with La India of Celia Cruz's multi-rhythmical 70s classic, reached number 7 on Billboard's Latin Tropical chart.
Although it is odd that anyone would create a tribute to Guerra, who is still going strong, Fernandez says he was presented with the opportunity of recording the album by the record label and quickly obliged.
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Totally in his element, the part-time Miami resident and 2006 Objetivo Fama winner, pleases the ears with an infectious rendition of Si Tu Te Vas, complete with improvisational lyrics in which he calls out to his wife and one of nine brothers.
Fernandez sounds even more comfortable interpreting Bachata Rosa as he pours into Te regalo un rosa, la encontre en el camino with the emotional fervor of a man deeply in love.
Such a trait is partly why Fernandez is making a name for himself in South America in addition to his growing adopted-son status in Puerto Rico, where he resides most of the year and has already shared the stage with salsa icons Victor Manuelle and Gilberto Santa Rosa.
Not bad at all for a guy that just three years ago was still dragging around his own equipment and putting up posters to plug his own performances on South Beach. "I'm blessed," he said. "I'm blessed." -- Fernando Ruano Jr.