Fernando Ortega Interview by Huffington Post Writer

Fernando was recently interviewed by Ryan Thomas Neace, writer for Huffington Post. See the interview below. 

 You can find the complete interview here.

Fernando Ortega is a profoundly gifted musician, singer, and songwriter, who grew up in New Mexico near the Rio Grande, and spent time in Ecuador and Barbados due to his father’s work with the US Department of State.  He is the product of eight generations of family hailing from Chimayo, New Mexico.

Ortega’s approach to music includes elements of folk, classical, Celtic, Latin American, world, and rustic hymnody, according to Wikipedia.  These roots are made possible both by his heritage and his formal training at The University of New Mexico.

Fernando graciously spent an hour of his time with me for a phone interview on December 19, 2014.  (In the interest of time and subject matter, some parts of the interview have been omitted below.)

Personal Connection

I can’t recall exactly when I happened upon Fernando Ortega’s music, but I can recall being deeply moved, and doing a lot of crying.  It was somewhere during a very rocky transition from my former life to my current one, which included bouts of mental and behavioral dysfunction, profound spiritual searching, and emotional upheaval.

I’ve never been a fan of Contemporary Christian Music (a subject we discuss below), so I had to look in different places for balm. Fernando’s music took hymns from my childhood and infused them with new life, and often rearranged or interpreted them in a way that spoke to my experience.  When I discovered that the bulk of his albums were about his own misgivings and struggles, I latched on rather furiously and began to follow his music with devotion.

In later years, his albums grew increasingly liturgical and mirrored my own growing hunger for richer and more robust approach to God and life.  When I was married to my lovely wife in 2008, some friends of ours in Nashville, TN, transposed his music by ear and allowed our wedding to be filled with its depth.   Each time I met him at concerts or corresponded with him (he actually helped point us in the right direction for our wedding when I wrote him on Myspace!), my admiration for him reached new heights.

For those looking for an introduction to his music, I would suggest the albums StormThe Shadow of Your Wings: Hymns and Sacred Songs, or his most recent album, Come Down, O Love Divine.


Thoughts About the Interview:

Key Words: Simplicity, Doubt, Authenticity

During our interview, I took great note of Fernando’s authenticity.  I like to think of myself as a rather keen observer of human behavior, so I was greatly pleased to detect no pretense or mask-wearing.  The depth of his words didn’t emanate from their length or eloquence, but from the opposite – it simplicity and straight-forwardness.

What’s more, much of the spiritual profundity expressed inboth his time with me and his lyrics and musical composition seems to be, by his own confession, strongly driven by doubt – the kind of doubt most “professional Christians” aren’t terribly comfortable admitting is present.  It takes guts to acknowledge that we live in the tension between hope and disappointment.

The Interview (Abbreviated Transcript)

RTN: When I introduce my friends to your music, perhaps, especially, Christian friends, one of the biggest barriers is the label that has — unfairly, I think — been thrust upon you – CCM (Contemporary Christian Music).  What do you make of that particular label?  Does it apply to you?


FO: When I was squarely in CCM music – I was in contract with Myrrhrecords, Word Records, and Curb Records – I was a relentless critic of the system.  So much about it seemed so silly, awkward, and contrived.  Each year, all the CCM artists attended “our” version of the Grammy Awards (the Dove Awards) and I always felt at odds with that whole scene.

Granted, there are some people I toured with that valued CCM Music, and I highly respect them.  So I can see why I would be labeled that way.  But I don’t think my music really fits the bill.  During that time frame, fifty percent of my music was “folky-pop songs” – songs about my grandfather, about traveling through the southwest, about walking along the beach, about a homeless lady.  They made no references at all to God.  

Even back then I struggled – perhaps more with the people within CCM who thought I was trying to be theologically vague, or who would refer to these folk-ish songs as my “secular” songs.  I always resented that label as well. Just because a song doesn’t mention God doesn’t mean it isn’t influenced by Christian thought.  I resent the labels for what they did to the Christian Music Industry.  CCM has come to its right end. 

I am comfortable making the distinction between “secular music” and “sacred music,” by which I mean music intended for the church. I’ve composed a lot of that stuff and I’m not remotely ashamed of that kind of label.  When I write a sacred song, it’s very specific, and there’s no guessing what it’s about.  When I do write about God, it is very obviously about God.  I’ve always felt it should be that way and still feel that way now.  

Since my daughter was born about 6 years ago and I’ve been so much more involved with the local church,  I haven’t been traveling as much.  I haven’t written many more folky-pop songs.  

.... To view the rest of the interview, please go here: