Why Robin Nievera moved to the US, dropped his first name 2
The change of name, says Robin, signaled the start of a new musical journey. “I wanted to take my whole family name…to take all of us wherever I go.”
Culture

Robin Nievera just dropped his first name and is having the time of his life chasing a dream

“If I'm just going to be someone's kid, and that's all you see me as—that's not a career. That's just a cool thing about me.”
RHIA GRANA | Aug 09 2023

When Robin Nievera moved to the US to work on his music career, he decided to cut his name short. One would expect he would drop the last name and just keep the first to assert his individuality—away from the shadows of his famous folks—but the guy went the opposite direction. The 36-year-old singer-musician now prefers to be called just Nievera

“I changed it in 2020 because no one really gets my name right anyway. People call me Martin, Ram. I’ve gotten a Gab [Valenciano],” he tells ANCX with a laugh. The change of name, he says, signaled the start of a new musical journey. “I wanted to take my whole family name…to take all of us wherever I go.”

Robin Nievera with his mom, dad, and brothers
Robin (left) with his parents and brothers

Many would remember this eldest son of Philippine concert scene royalty Martin and Pops for his video jock stints after winning the MYX VJ search of 2010. Later, he would be seen on the Sunday variety show ASAP performing acoustic numbers alongside Sam Milby and Ice Seguerra. He would also launch three recording albums thereafter.

In 2016, Robin shifted gears and became a DJ for Wish 107.5. He would help launch the radio station in the US in 2018. We haven’t heard much about the guy in recent years—until we chanced upon his interview on the vlog of Filipina magazine show host Jannelle So. 

Turns out the guy has quit deejaying over the pandemic in order to focus on his music. He’s currently based in Chicago. 

Nievera boys
Martin and with sons Robin and Ram. 

Last year, Nievera dropped the music video for an alternative rock song he wrote called “Bones,” which has been getting good reviews from music fans on YouTube. We shared the link to former music executive Tato Malay, who wrote back to us saying the song is a “delightful fusion of gentle harmonies and infectious rhythms, leaving a lasting imprint on your heart.” Tato continues: “With the catchy guitar riffs, his music possesses an enchanting quality that lingers in your mind long after the song has ended.”

Last March, Nievera also released the folksy “Delight” on Spotify. He'll be releasing two more songs in the upcoming months—“No More Light” and “Home.” He recently shot the music video for the song “Energy,” which will be released sometime in August. He’s also launched a Nievera clothing line, which people can purchase via https://nieveraonline.com.

Robin moved to the US specifically to make his own mark as an artist and a musician. It was difficult for him to do so in the Philippines due to expectations he needed to live up to. “It does sound like it's easy to just stay home and live off the Nievera-Fernandez name,” he said in Janelle’s vlog. “And it goes further than that. I’m also a Razon, I’m also a Lucban…”

In the Philippines, people expected him to sing like his parents. “A lot of people say that I sound like my dad when I speak. But when I sing, I don't have his range,” he said in the same interview.

Robin Nievera with Pops Fernandez
Robin Nievera and his mom Pops Fernandez

Nievera recounted to ANCX that there were instances where he’d be offered to do a concert to promote his music—but his parents would be requested to sing for free. “Of course, they will sing for free, they’re my folks. But they also work so hard to get the talent fee that they deserve.”

The singer-songwriter wants to be recognized for his own merits, his own talent, and his own sound. So when the opportunity opened up to launch Wish in the US, Robin volunteered to do it. He told his parents he’d be gone for three months. “[But] I knew that I wasn’t going to come home after that.” 

And then when the Covid crisis hit in 2020 and everything shut down, he took it as a sign to leave Wish and focus on his music.

Robin Nievera
Robin moved to the US specifically to make his own mark as an artist and a musician.  

Robin discovered his interest in music as early as his grade school years. “I wasn't the best in [our guitar] class, but I loved it,” he recalls. He sharpened his playing skills by watching and jamming with musicians in church. “There was no YouTube yet back then. So I would ask the guys older than me, and they would show me how to do things.” 

This interest led to a desire to write songs and a resolve to make a lifelong career out of it.

He considers guitarists Ric Mercado and Cesar Aguas, the musical director Bobby Taylo, and composer/music producers Louie Ocampo and Homer Flores as his musical heroes. “They didn't just teach me how to play. I watched them when I was much younger. I would watch my parents rehearse because I wanted to watch the band,” he shares. He also looks up to Bono, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, and Eric Clapton.

The Nievera music, he says, has an 80s sound to it, with a lot of alternative rock thrown in. “There's a little bit of that vibey feeling to it. I'm trying to make it sound ‘today,’ but I'm also trying to make it sound like me,” he offers. “It's not completely pop. If you listen to ‘Bones,’ that's the kind of sound I’m going for in the next few years.”

Robin Nievera
The Nievera music, he says, has an 80s sound to it, with a lot of alternative rock thrown in. Photo by Raymond Lacsamana

Working in MYX and Wish allowed Nievera to meet a lot of talented singers and musicians. But it also opened his eyes to the sad reality that not every good talent is getting the support and acknowledgment they deserve.

“With MYX and Wish, I heard so much good music. I’ve met good artists that never got anywhere because they didn't sound like Taylor Swift. They didn't sound like Ariana Grande. But their songs were beautiful.”

He could very well relate. He recalls having a mall show in the Philippines to launch his album and only a handful attended. “Maybe I’m not good at this,” he thought to himself then.

But when he did a couple of shows in Hong Kong, he was surprised with the audience reception. “I played the exact same way we did in Manila. They made me the main act so I played last. I thought [people] were going to leave before I even perform. But they stayed, they listened, and they danced to my songs. I did only one cover. Everything else was original!” 

In the middle of the performance, he remembers looking at his bandmates and telling them: “We're not doing anything wrong.”

Robin Nievera
Robin with his bandmates Melody del Mundo Lucas and Wolf Gemora; they call themselves “The Mellow Dees.” Photo by Raymond Lacsamana

This was followed by another epiphany. “Maybe Manila is not there yet for me. Maybe I'm another kind of sound that they'll get into soon.” That was when he made the decision that he was going back to the US to try his luck in the American music industry. 

What did he have to sacrifice by moving to the US? “Everything,” Nievera says, laughing. “Connections. My band—I miss my band so much.” He misses family and friends in Manila. He hasn’t been home since 2020.

Working on his music career in another country does have its ups and downs. “But I'm glad that I'm doing it. I'm learning so much. It's teaching me how to be humble, which is really important in this industry." His only regret, he told Janelle, was not having done it sooner. 

He admits he’s still trying to find his niche—and it hasn’t been easy. But being in the US also made him realize something important. “People think it's such a big deal to go meet a famous person or someone that we watch on TV. The way I saw it was, it was very doable. It's not some dream that people always talk about and wish for. If you can come here and decide that you want to do this here, you could totally bump into these [famous] people.”

Robin Nievera
Robin has a clothing line called ÑVRA.

He’s been in the studio where Bruno Mars and Justin Bieber record, and he’s had the privilege of meeting some great producers while in California. He had his first ever solo show in San Diego last January. In September of last year, he had a back-to-back performance with his dad at the Viejas Casino in San Diego. He also performed at LA County’s largest Philippine American celebration last year, and in the second annual Philippine-American Friendship Day last July 15.

The musician is also at a point in his life when he’s thinking of settling down with his Filipina girlfriend. “I'm 36, I'm getting old. I want to marry this girl and start a family. If I'm just going to be someone's kid, and that's all you see me as, that's not a career. That's just like a cool thing about me. So here in the States where I'm absolutely no one, I don't mind starting from scratch. I believe [achieving this dream of mine] is doable.”