I had the opportunity to interview mother-daughter Afro/Latina country duo, HuneyFire, who just released “Manswer,” the first single from their upcoming album.The song was written by Nashville songwriter Caitlin Evanson and puts a unique and humorous spin on the art of “mansplaining.” HuneyFire features lead and harmony vocals from mother Cheaza Figueroa and daughter Marriana Nevarez, both of whom have musical legacies in their bloodlines.
Cheaza’s mother was a member of the legendary Ike and Tina Turner Revue, and Marriana’s father was a founding member of pop vocal group All-4-One. The duo’s blend of country, rock, and pop come together perfectly in “Manswer,” which was co-produced by Cheaza and Jason Pennock. In the interview, we talked about their musical influences, the story behind their name, and what they enjoy doing outside of music.
❖Congratulation on your new single. Can you tell us about the inspiration behind “Manswer,” and what made you decide to record it?
Caitlin Evanson who wrote “Manswer” and co-wrote many other songs on the album, told us she “had a song she felt was perfect and says ‘HuneyFire’ all over it.” We listened to the song and instantly agreed. The groove was insane and so were the catchy / wordplay lyrics! We were hoping she wouldn’t change her mind, haha! It was an easy sell from the beginning!
❖ How has your experience as a woman in the music industry impacted your journey as an artist, and what advice would you give to young women hoping to pursue a career in music?
Being women in the music industry has given us tough skin. Being raised by very strong women ourselves has been a head start to living in our truth, and never bowing down from that. We were taught to be persistent, and that’s what we will hold strong to.
The advice we’d give young ladies looking to pursue a career in music would be to know your purpose, know your why, and know your worth. Always live in your authentic self and never take “no” for an answer. When one door closes, another opens, and when someone tells you “you can’t do” something, go prove them wrong! We are a living testament to that.
❖ Can you tell us a little bit about how you both got started in music and what inspired you to pursue a career in the industry?
Cheaza: My mother was the driving force of support when she saw that I could sing, she wanted to do nothing but that. As a small child, she would put me in talent shows, I actually auditioned for Star Search many times as a child. Never made it on the show, but it was a great experience as a child. I was in a bilingual singing group called the Beaware Girls. The group toured the states performing in front of huge crowds. I then started to perform with my mother when I was nine years old. I learned so much. I feel like I learned from one of the best!
Marriana: I got started in the music industry not just because my parents sang but because I felt like life always brought me back to it, almost like it’s what I’m supposed to be doing. Of course, the plus is that my parents are in it and that helped me understand how the industry works, and at the same time, it’s a natural gift that I know I’m supposed to use. I chose this path because it’s the best way I can express myself, and if I can make it my career, that’s a HUGE bonus. My parents and my grandmother are my inspirations to keep going and never give up.
❖How did the idea of forming HuneyFire come about, and what was the process like working together as a mother-daughter duo?
We’ve been performing together since 2011 and the talks of forming a band, came up several times. Because of schedules and the demands of life, we weren’t able to, but we took charge and made Huneyfire a thing in 2021. At the time I was working on my solo country album with Jason Pennock, the co-producer on our album and Marianna was also working on writing and recording a country-pop album and diving into what she wanted to do. I went to her and said, “How about we finally do this thing together and make it a THING!” She said “Yes” and that was the start of HuneyFire! Timing is everything and it was the best decision! Working together is just like living together lol! Mariana is in control of making sure my head is crewed on tight lol!
Marriana: And Mommy is in control of making sure I have coffee and food, haha! We know each other so well, it’s easy to live in each other’s space! Laughing is what we do all the time! Just that alone makes it worth it!
❖ Your family has a rich history in music – how does this legacy influence your work today, and what do you hope to pass on to future generations of musicians in your family?
I didn’t realize as a child that my surroundings were molding me as a singer and the singer I am today. My mother had been a lady Ikette with Ike and Tina Turner, traveling the world as she did, and having the work ethic she had, was a gift from God. She released a single that still plays in the UK today. She worked hard and that’s what I saw as a child.
Her example on how to have a shot at having a great career has stayed with me. I also grew up around Johnny Otis who discovered Etta James, Rick James, Charlie Wilson and The Gap Band, Lakeside, George Clinton’s Bride of Funk-Dawn Silva, Bobby Brown, and so many more. They were a huge influence on me. To me, I only knew them as “aunts” and “uncles,” I later understood the value of the life my mother worked so hard for me to see and experience. It was everything.
Marriana: I grew up watching my father (co-founder of All-4-One) singing from the time when I was a small child. Traveling the world and experiencing exactly what I get to do today. It’s life-changing and confirmation all at once.
We truly hope that we can pass on to future generations in our family, our love for music and our story through music. Music is timeless and we pray that our music is nothing less than that. Sometimes music has a way of saying perfectly what you cannot.
❖ Your debut album is set to release in 2023 – can you give us a sneak peek of what fans can expect from your music and what themes you explore on the album?
We’re so excited that we’re finally able to release our freshman album this year. It was nothing but God that orchestrated it all to happen. Fans can expect to get to know us a bit better through good ol’ country storytelling. The truth of our feelings through life up until now. From a bluesy vibe to rock ‘n roll, we’ve been influenced by some of the best and it’s just in us to tell it our way. We’ve been exposed to a wide variety of music in our family and we’re excited to let everyone hear how we’ve used those influences to shape the sound of our album.
❖ What has been the most memorable moment in your career so far, and what goals do you have for the future?
Cheaza: Hands-down, the day that Marriana and I decided to start HuneyFire officially, has been the best moment in my career. As I did with my mother, it’s just a true blessing to be able to do the same with my daughter.
Marriana: Being able to do what I love is the highlight of my career! Singing and acting has always been my first loves!
Our goals for the future is to be happy, and successful, and to be honest with our fans. We just want to share our love for country music and music as a whole, with the world… AND TOUR with Shania Twain, hahaha! GOTTA ask for it and believe it can happen, hahaha! Just putting that out there Shania!!!! But if we can just meet Demi Lovato, I think all of Marriana’s dreams would be a wrap, hahaha!
You both have extensive experience as performers. How do you approach live performances, and what can audiences expect from a HuneyFire show
–Marriana: Our preparation for live performances is pretty different between the two of us! Mommy is hyper, cracking jokes, and working out right before she hits the stage, and I am pretty quiet, all “Zen“ and laughing at her! It works for us! We love how different we are. That’s what makes us a HuneyFire! You can always expect a good time when you’re at a HuneyFire concert! The energy on all levels!
❖ Can you tell us about any upcoming projects or performances that your fans can look forward to?
We’re getting ready for summer performances and videos for upcoming songs. We’re also prepping to start recording our Spanish album! We’re very excited to share more of both sides of our backgrounds and culture!