At just 22, Andrea Ferrero has had one of the most remarkable career trajectories of any young session guitarist.
She picked up guitar aged nine. By 14 her first band, Luar, was playing festivals in her native Venezuela. Two years later she was a session guitarist for top Venezuelan artists, and a year after that she earned a scholarship to Berklee College of Music in Boston.
Now she’s working for Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison production company, placing music in Netflix films. But along the way she’s overcome personal disaster and lost almost everything.
Andrea’s guitar journey started like many teenagers, smashing out Metallica riffs. It went rather better than it does for most of us, though. Here she is at 13 ripping through the solo to One.
She formed Luar, and the prodigious teenagers soon picked up festival slots around Venezuela. She decided it was time to get more serious about studying music.
“I could play chords and the pentatonic scale and all of that, but I wanted to learn more about music and theory, so I started going to this music school, Taller de Jazz,” she says. “This was the first time that I listened to jazz in my life. Before that I was just playing a lot of rock.”
At Taller de Jazz she picked up the first jazz inflections that have become a trademark of her playing.
Meanwhile, she continued to rock out with Luar, who attracted TV and radio appearances. “I had some problems because I was in high school at that time,” she laughs. “I was missing a lot of classes but I knew from the very beginning that music is what I wanted to do. I was very lucky that my family were supporting me.”
Then came the all-important big break: on the strength of her performances with Luar, and at Taller de Jazz, a friend, recommended her for session gigs.
“The first one was with an artist called Sixto Rein,” she recalls. “It was the first time I played for so many people I couldn’t even believe it. I think they called me three days before the gig. I had to learn everything in three days!”
Calling an untested teenager for a major gig was a gamble for both Sixto Rein and Andrea, but it paid off.
“I guess they were like ‘If he’s recommending this person it’s because she can do it,’” she shrugs. “I was very grateful they gave me that opportunity. I got so many gigs with so many artists after that.”
For many musicians, that would have been it: career made, right? Not Ferrero. “Even though I was very happy with all of this, I wanted a little bit more. The world is so big I didn’t want to stay in Venezuela for the rest of my life,” she explains, adding simply, “The situation in my country was not good.”
“My dream since I was 12 years old was to study at Berklee College of Music,” she adds. “I wanted to come to the US and look for opportunities.”
Berklee is so prestigious that its list of alumni has its own Wikipedia page. Even with all Andrea had achieved, this looked a stretch.
“It was difficult for me because my family didn’t have enough money to pay for Berklee or moving to the US,” she says. “I would tell people ‘Yeah, I’m gonna graduate from high school and then I’m gonna go to Berklee!’ They were like ‘What are you talking about? How are you gonna do that?’”
Unsure how she could attend, Ferrero applied anyway, auditioning online. Months later, she received a letter informing her she had been awarded a full scholarship.
Andrea is still effusive about her time at Berklee. “It was an amazing experience! I met a lot of amazing musicians,” she says. “I was having lessons with one of my favorite guitar players, Tomo Fujita, who also taught John Mayer when he was at Berklee. I was meeting all these amazing and super talented people.”
Among her Berklee highlights was playing in the house band at a tribute night to Aretha Franklin with Aretha’s longtime bassist Chuck Rainey.
At Berklee, her reputation among musicians in Venezuela stayed high, and she was asked to play guitar on Neutro Shorty’s hit single Susurros. The sparkling clean tone and jazzy chords she provided have become her signature.
Further sessions followed with fellow Venezuelans 3AM. Canadian TikTok sensation Stacey Ryan also enlisted Ferrero’s help on her viral hit Don’t Text Me When You’re Drunk. “Playing live is my favorite thing in the world but I love to be able to record guitars for people and leave a little bit of me in every song,” she smiles.
Despite her recording success, Ferrero admits she still gets red light fever. “It happens to me all the time! I can play the song perfect and then when I click record I mess up everything. I was able to record Sussuros remotely, so I was able to take all the time that I needed.”
There is a definite Latin groove to some of her rhythms, but she doesn’t see this as a major influence.
“I used to play [Latin American music] a lot in Venezuela with some artists. They would have songs that were salsa or merengue. It’s very hard to play! Probably I have a little bit of that in my playing and I love that, but it’s not my main thing. I love recording more pop, R&B, neo soul. I want to be known for doing those things.”
At Berklee, Andrea made the most important contact of her career so far, the actor and filmmaker Adam Sandler.
“He was looking for someone to teach guitar to his daughters. I couldn’t do it at the time because I was starting at Berklee,” she says as though this is the most normal thing in the world. “After I met him I kept in touch. I would send him videos of me playing and he was like ‘Can you show me how to how to play that?’ So sometimes we would FaceTime and I would show him some things.”
Just as it was looking as though Ferrero’s life was completely charmed, however, disaster struck.
“My apartment – well the whole building where I used to live – caught fire,” she recalls, grimly. “I lost all of the guitars that I had. When I moved to Boston from Venezuela, I tried to take everything with me, so when that apartment burned down I lost everything. It was horrible.
“Not only the guitars, it was literally everything – all my clothes, my computer and my speakers. It was a new country and a different language, and I missed my family. So I was having a hard time anyway, and then I lose everything. Insurance gave us, I don’t know, less than $1000.”
Ferrero, however, was unstoppable. She graduated from Berklee and used her contact with Sandler to gain a job at his Happy Madison Productions, where she now works placing music in Netflix films.
She recorded guitars for Sandler’s latest flick, Hustle, working alongside composer Dan Deacon. She is understandably full of praise for her employer. “Adam changed my life my life because after that I played with him. He also feels a huge passion with music.”
Andrea is active in LA’s live music scene, making her own music and performing alongside new talent – “I love to play with them and support everybody I can.”
She met Venezuelan compatriot Jorge Aguilar in LA, and together the two have produced Ferrero’s debut single, Mr Charles, named “for the Charles river in Boston. I’m working on an EP with him called Sounds of my Memories.”
Mr Charles is a slick slice of neo soul with a guitar tone reminiscent of Tash Sultana.
Gear-wise, Andrea is currently playing mainly her America Ultra Luxe Telecaster, an all-black affair with two humbuckers.
“I love it so because it has the Floyd Rose. Every time I play in a guitar and it doesn’t have a whammy I go there to look for the bar you know? I’m so used to that. Almost all of my guitars electric guitars are Fender. I also have an Orangewood acoustic. A friend of mine is the owner of Orangewood and I love them so much.”
She’s also digging her Acoustasonic Jazzmaster. “I got that one probably a year ago or a year and a half ago and I fell in love with that,” she enthuses. “It’s so versatile. It can sound very acoustic but you can put some distortion on and it sounds amazing as an electric guitar.” Like many of LA’s sessioneers, she is a Fractal convert: “It’s so easy to go to a gig and just take my guitar and the FM3.”
Having achieved so much, Andrea remains driven to do more. “I am very happy at Happy Madison, but I would love to go on tour all over the world. That’s what I really want to do. It’s hard. You think ‘Oh I’m going to move here, get all these gigs and become famous.’ There are so many people that have been doing this for years, and it’s hard to break into that bubble.”
After what she’s done so far, though, you’d be a fool to bet against her.