Marking the rhythm of success

The story of Fernando Jaramillo

Between 1973 and 1990 Chile was under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet. He was 9 years old when Fernando moved with his family from Chile to California.

He then returned to Santiago to move back to Los Angeles in 2007.

He has been playing the drums for about 32 years. He started learning drums and martial arts at an early age as hitting things has always been something he enjoyed. The first song he learned to play on drums was Van Halen’s Jump. He also learned to play Tabla which he describes as a very demanding instrument. It is an Indian percussion that requires a different approach from what we are used to in the western world. Fernando is very respectful of the history and culture of his country of birth. He loves everything it offers, from fine wine to fresh fish dishes and delicious seafood. Above all, he loves the friendship and hospitality that characterizes the Chilean people.

Although he lives in California, he has fond memories of Santiago, a bustling city with many restaurants, nightlife, natural and historical beauties everywhere. Every year on September 18th he tries to celebrate Chile’s independence day and although he has a strong rock streak he still likes listening to old Chilean songs and folk songs. At 17 Fernando was already a professional drummer playing in front of 20,000 people. In the 90s he joined the Chilean band Alter Ego, distributed by Sony Music Chile, with which he tours throughout his country. In 2001 he joined the band Exssimio, distributed by Musea Records, Mylodon Records and Lizard Records, and with which he later also toured Europe performing in famous progressive rock festivals.

Today Fernando is a Grammy Award winning drummer working with Nick Carter, Beto Cuevas, Ready Never, Kamran and Hooman. Alongside this he also has a project of his own, a pearl, among the many plastic pearls, born during the covid lock-down. It is a progressive rock band called R3D LEAD3R 3. A dynamic and energetic trio who also aim to raise people awareness about autism. Fernando has made himself known and respected both in the American, Southern American and Middle Eastern music scene. As a drummer he is a very reliable engine, a real power and he is also a nice, passionate and very friendly person.

You will realize this by reading the anecdotes and the feelings he shared in the interview.

Fernando Jaramillo drum

Can you briefly describe your story as an immigrant?

F.J.: ”I was 9 when emigrated the first time in Los Angeles and I had just started playing drums. I would just play drums as much as I could, driving my parents, and the neighbors crazy at times. However everyone was very supportive. The challenge was going to school and knowing very little English, kids would teach me all the bad words, and of course, when I would say them out loud they would laugh. I was put in a special class to learn English faster, the funny part is that nobody in that class spoke English so we didn’t really advance faster. Finally they decided to put us back on regular classes and it worked. When necessity kicks in you learn very fast! Another thing to point out is that my level of math was way higher than my piers, and teachers really didn’t know what to do with that, also considering that my methods coming from Chile were different than the methods used here, so they wanted me to use their method, but me being a stubborn kid, I would just say that the result was what mattered. The next time I came to the United States was in 2007. I was already an adult. I was speaking English and came with the mission to make it in the music business. One challenge kept happening. It is my last name that seems to be hard for Americans to pronounce it. Something that I don’t understand. They have no problem saying Schwarzenegger, but Jaramillo is a problem!?!”

What memories do you have about your childhood?

F.J. :”I was born and raised in Santiago, Chile. As a kid I would enjoy simple things, like going outside and play football on the streets with my friends, it was all about playing outside with friends back then, I would say I had a very good childhood, lots of great memories!

When I moved to Los Angeles. Things were a bit different here. There were no kids playing on the streets. All playing would happen in school or at friend’s houses. I was lucky, I had a Russian friend that lived in the same building I did. We were always outside playing. We had good times. After a few years we moved back to Santiago, so I spent my childhood in these two big cities.”

What do you keep of Chilean cultural heritage?

F.J. : ”I still listen to Chilean music, I like the oldies and the folklore. The radio was always on at home, so it is embedded in me ’and brings me back some great memories. There is one particular band called Los Jaivas. It’s a rock band that did a fusion with Latin American folklore and progressive rock. I would recommend everyone to listen to them. Also, there’s some Chilean dishes I like to eat once in a while, one to mention is actually a hot dog that we call Italiano, because it has mayonnaise, avocado and tomato, so it resembles the colors of the Italian flag. I try to celebrate the independence day, September 18th, here in Los Angeles there are a few good Chilean restaurants where I get myself some empanadas. One more thing that I like to keep from my culture is the value of friendship, to us it is very important. For example, in Chile, if you get a call from a friend that needs to talk or just to have a drink, you stop everything you are doing and you meet with your friend, that is something that you don’t see much here in Los Angeles. When I was a child in Santiago the population was about 4 million and as the population grew, so did the buildings. They have to be constructed by following a strict earthquake code. Yes, we get plenty of those. They are so many that you start giving them less importance, it’s just what it is! As a side note, back in 2010 I was playing with Beto Cuevas, and we were going to perform at the Festival De Viña Del Mar, one of the most important festivals in Latin America. It was broadcasted live to more than 60 countries. Many Italian artists would come. One of my favorite was Raffaella Carrà. She is still important to me because she has a song called Luca, and that is my son’s name! Anyways, back to the festival, we arrived the day before and that night an 8.8 earthquake hit. It lasted almost 4 minutes. A crazy thing! Many Italian artists were running at the hotel asking production to get them out of there, screaming “mamma mia!” I was outside, so I didn’t get to experience it inside the hotel. I was told that was very scary! We didn’t perform the night after because of the structural damage caused by the earthquake. However we also have good things in Chile, great wine, fish, seafood, and we are very friendly and giving people!”


How would you describe the beginning of your journey through the music?

F.J. : ”When I was a child I wanted to play guitar. Then I heard a drum solo from Neil Peart (drummer for Rush) and it had a huge impact on me, right there I decided that I wanted to be a drummer. Hitting things has always been something that I like. I guess it has to do with the vibration that happens when I hit the drums that moved me at the very beginning. Later when I started to study more, it also became a challenge, and my competitive self likes that! At 14, back in Chile, I went to a live concert of Jean-Luc Ponty with Rayford Griffin on drum. Griffin blew my mind, and I felt that I wanted to inspire others the way he inspired me that night. The first big concert I played was when I was 17 years old, in front of 20.000 people. I remember my dad was there and he mixed in with that crazy rock crowd. It was very funny to see my old man pushing people around at the mosh pit! That was a key moment for me, I saw myself as a professional and as a rockstar for the first time.

How about R3D LEAD3R 3?

F.J. : ”The idea of this project started while I was on the road with Nick Carter. The music director and I started talking about how bands like Rush, Genesis, Yes, The Police, are disappearing. Nobody is making music like that, so we decided to start a power trio. Zoux is the singer, the bass player and also the producer, there is Orbel Babayan on guitar, and myself on drums. We met at a rehearsal room to see if the chemistry was there, and it was! So over Covid we met 52 times at a rehearsal space and wrote the album. Then in 3 days we completed the recording process in studio. We recorded mostly without a click track to make it organic, to make the music and the songs move. The album is out on all streaming services, go check us out! Another thing that motivated us to start this band was to raise awareness about autism, it’s something that moves us as well. You can check out at”

Few years ago you have been to southern Italy. What are your impressions about it?

F.J. : ”I’ve been to Italy, one of my favorites places in the world. I’m 20% Italian myself, my grandfather, at the age of 17 departed from the port of Genova, in Italy, to south America on a boat called Conte Verde. He escaped from the nazis and landed in Argentina. He hated the Buenos Aires weather therefore he moved to Chile. I have been to Napoli. It has the best espresso, period! Also, it is chaotic, but in a beautiful way. I love the landscape,the narrow streets, the crazy traffic, the food! But most of all, the people, and how proud they are to be from Napoli.”

Fernando Jaramillo

Have you noticed any similarity between Chilean and Neapolitan culture?

F.J. : ”The main similarity I see is how warm-hearted people are, how important family and friends are, how lively they are. How passionate they are, especially when it comes to football, we definitely share that.”

About football how about Diego Armando Maradona?

F.J. :”To me Maradona is the best player that ever lived, very inspiring to watch, the impossible things he would do, but also how his presence was felt on the field, he was a great leader, very passionate. To me, he was crucial for Napoli to win the “scudetto”. He was a total rockstar! I remember following the 86’-87’ Italian league as a kid.

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