It’s hard to believe Erny Nunez is only 16. Blessed with the soulful, jazz voice of yesteryears– even executive producers at America’s Got Talent refused to believe his age after his recent remote audition. Little over a month since his debut TikTok video (31st January 2021), the teenager has received over 46,000 followers and over 600,000 views on a single video – something he seemed humbled about during a zoom interview from his home in Florida, earlier this week. ‘I honestly just want to be treated the same – I don’t want there to be any differences.’ Nunez explained with a bona fide smile, fixing his beige suit; a mirrors image of Michael Caine in ‘The Italian Job’.
Nunez’s surge to TikTok fame is a result of his early exposure to the world of jazz from his family. He told us: “Well, my Father, he’s 80 years old – and I’ve been listening to it since I was very little.”, a Father who boasts an infectious spirit, who wished his son luck on one of his first interviews. Sharing his fond memories of his childhood growing up in New York, Erny reflected on his extended family’s influence on his style – with the maternal side of his family host to musicians and singers of a variety of genres. Nunez also touched on his fondness for his theatre group at his previous school – the freedom of expression allowing him to embrace his talent in front of others.
After careful consideration, Nunez decided to create a TikTok account earlier this year to spread the word of jazz to the younger generation. He said: “I feel like new music has lost its original touch – I’m trying to bring it [jazz] back… I think bringing it back would change the music industry.” With only his mobile phone and a voice straight out of a 1950’s radio, Nunez embraced the online world and began his journey to stardom.
Even with a grounded confidence and plethora of supportive relatives, Nunez explained his initial fears of sharing his talent and exposing his face online during his primary days on TikTok – with its army of internet trolls and lashings of negative comments. “Before this I had another account, but I was very afraid to show my face because I was insecure of how I looked, until the beginning of February” Nunez accounted, a moment of deflation and grief flashing across his face.
Nunez’s courageous decision to show his face on the app unleashed a wave of positive comments from viewers, some of which stating: “You’re going places with that raw talent,” suggesting his likeness to Muhammed Ali and his incredibly old soul. Bashful, the singer continued: “Whenever I get those comments, I laugh… I do think that I have an old soul. Something that has probably been with me for a long time.”
Armed with support from across the Globe, Nunez has recently auditioned for America’s Got Talent remotely. During the process, Nunez was contacted by Executive Producers at the show, expressing their disbelief of such a talent from an adolescent. Laughing at the irregularity of the situation, Erny still displayed his modesty and genuine gratification for the experience.
It’s difficult to comprehend that such a mature, seasoned individual is still only living through his school years, confined to home-learning due to the pandemic. With his rise to early fame this year – I pondered whether the switch back to in-house teaching would be a difficult adjustment for him. Nunez admitted: “Not a lot of people know what I do… I’ve seen a lot of people trying to contact me from school – I didn’t know anyone and now I’m starting to talk to people”.
Nunez is yet to hear if he has passed his audition for America’s Got Talent, an opportunity he hopes will make jazz more accessible and mainstream. As well as this, he hopes to study music in college and pursue a career in the industry, of which he believes will be life-long. This teenager’s mission to share his talent and spread the word of jazz is nothing short of ground- breaking for his age. His extraordinary voice will undoubtedly propel him forward in the world of music – unquestionably making his hero, Frank Sinatra, proud.
Written by Simone Harrison.