West Orange singer releases EP

Puerto Rican native and singer Fabiola Rivera is following her dreams with the release of her new EP, “Clean.”

Photo by Annabelle Sikes
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When West Orange resident Fabiola Rivera was only 18 years old, she left her longtime home to travel to the continental United States in pursuit of her dreams.

Growing up in Puerto Rico, Rivera never thought music was something she could pursue as a professional career. 

But now, at 27, Rivera is defying expectations and living out her musical dreams with the recent release of her first EP, “Clean.”

“It was how I felt singing that inspired me to want to do this as a career,” Rivera said. “I grew up really shy, and I was always isolating myself. I found when I was singing or writing, I felt most like myself — the most comfortable and the most able to connect with other people. It became a tool for me to be able to become that and escape for a little bit. That was really the moment when I knew nothing made me feel the way music did.”


Rivera grew up listening to 1980s music. Her father loved rock ’n’ roll, while her mother preferred salsa and Latin.

Rivera said she remembers watching “High School Musical” when she was a child and re-enacting songs with her friends, which drew her to deciding to pursue theater and music.

“To me when I was younger, a career doing music was completely implausible,” she said. “I didn’t grow up even thinking that was a possibility. So when all of that started happening, and I saw younger people releasing music, I was like, ‘If they can do it, then why can’t I?’”

Rivera remembers listening to Kelly Clarkson’s “My December” album when she was about 14 years old and said she was obsessed with it. She sang along to the album frequently and started researching how to get into the music industry.

Rivera’s brother used to take keyboard classes, and she taught herself songs by ear. She also taught herself to play guitar.

She was active in her school’s theater program and took ballet lessons.

Wanting to pursue a bachelor of fine arts in theater, Rivera applied for a school in New York. Although she got in, she said she was unable to afford the tuition. 

Despite not knowing anyone besides a cousin, Rivera moved to Orlando to pursue more opportunities involving her passion. 

Rivera attended Seminole State College for two years. There, she took theater classes and was a member of the school’s show choir, Seminole Sound. She earned her associate’s degree in arts before beginning to work.

She has participated in many theme park shows, including “A Totally Tomorrowland Christmas” and “Awesome Mix Live!” at Walt Disney World; and “Sing It,” at Universal Orlando, which she has done since 2017. She also sings with Nfusion and the Matt Winter Band.

Through networking and singing constantly, Rivera began to build her musical platform.

“It became a huge way for me to be able to express myself and get my feelings out,” she said. “I started writing out of what felt like a necessity. I wrote poetry first before I started writing music, but it was just out of this deep, really profound need to get whatever was happening in my head out and make something out of it rather than just letting it fester inside of me.”

Rivera said her biggest wish is to put an experience of hers down on paper and have someone connect with it.

“I feel like when you’re the most in need of writing something out is when you’re really sad and going through something that we can all relate to like a heartbreak or family issues,” she said. “That’s when people really want to connect, so they know they’re not alone and there are other people out there who feel the same things they do. I can only hope that somebody listens to my music and is like, ‘Oh, I’ve felt like that, I’ve been through this, I’ve had someone make me feel this way.’”


Rivera’s social media posts and single releases caught the attention of Dan Fontana, Ty Fy Records owner, in July 2021.

“I just believe in her as a storyteller and an artist,” Fontana said. “When she sings, you feel like she’s talking directly to you. We just had to have her on the label.”

Rivera was the company’s second artist.

“I knew they had the right intentions and they weren’t going to screw me over,” she said. “They’re an indie label, so they’re smaller, and I knew I would be given the time, energy and effort it takes to break through and do what I wanted to be doing. I chose them because I knew they saw me as the person, not just what they could get out of me.”

Rivera said she has a melancholy soul that comes out in her music. Her music is typically sad and portrays a darker tone, based on intimate life experiences.

Her musical inspirations include Lizzy McAlpine, Phoebe Bridgers, Stevie Nicks, Brandi Carlile and Joni Mitchell; anyone who is a storyteller or that moves her.

Recently, Rivera started to work with Ellis Martinez, her label manager. 

Martinez said it’s been an honor to work with Rivera.

“When I heard her music, I was sold,” he said. “Before I commit myself to anything, I have to believe in it. She’s so authentic. You could tell she’s singing something she believes in, and it comes across as very organic.”

Rivera worked with Ty Fy Records to release her EP in February. 

The EP has five songs, plus an additional four acoustic and unplugged variations. 

Rivera said “Clean” is about the different emotions and experiences of being in love.

Her favorite lyrics on the album reside in the song “Clean,” and the song that means the most to her on the EP is the one she wrote last: “Permanent.” 

Rivera wrote the song when the war broke out in Ukraine. The song describes the strong sense of helplessness she and many others felt. 

“It was a really introspective and difficult song for me to decide to put on the album, so I love that one,” she said. “If you’re trying to get to know me, I feel like that’s a great song to listen to.”


Rivera only started gigging a few years ago, but she already is enjoying success.

Her first three singles have garnered a combined 250,000 streams in three months. She is trending on music platforms such as Spotify and Apple Music and recently was featured on OrangeTV.

Although she is a freelance artist and completes contracts for a lot of people, she said she would like to gig more as herself. 

Currently, she is working on playing more local live shows for people she doesn’t know.

She is exploring the possibility of opening for groups out of state, as well as traveling to Los Angeles to get involved with writing circles and collaborating with other artists. 

In the future, she said she would love to release a full-length album and write a song for another artist. 

Throughout her journey, Rivera said the relationships in her life have been everything.

“This was an endeavor that was hard for my family to accept at the beginning, but as time went on and they saw it become more possible, they became more accepting,” she said. “It’s been amazing to see that belief in me grow.”

Although she does not have her family anchor in Orlando, she said her friends have been her extended family.

“I wouldn’t be able to do any of this without them,” Rivera said. “They encouraged me, they held me while I cried. They heard me rant; they told me I could do it. Their faith in me allowed me to truly look at myself and ask myself, ‘Why can’t I — out of all people — do this? Why would I be somebody that’s incapable of doing this?’ And the answer was I could do it. Everything I do, everything I write, I am constantly being held up by the people who love me, and it’s unbelievable. This EP is only mine in the most basic of ways; it belongs to every person in my life.”



Annabelle Sikes

News Editor Annabelle Sikes was born in Boca Raton and moved to Orlando in 2018 to attend the University of Central Florida. She graduated from UCF in May 2021 with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and a minor in sociology. Her past journalism experiences include serving as a web producer at the Orlando Sentinel, a reporter at The Community Paper, managing editor for NSM Today, digital manager at Centric Magazine and as an intern for the Orlando Weekly.

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