Meet Nashville’s Rising Stars: Cheaza Figueroa and Marriana Nevarez of HuneyFire

An Interview With Elana Cohen

Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine
12 min readMay 14, 2023


Trusting the process is over half the battle. Many things don’t really happen the way you want them to, but happen the way they should, and I found that out the hard way as we all do at a young age. A particular instance was when I auditioned for three different shows and didn’t book any of them. It was completely crushing and as you do, you question yourself as an artist when this happens. I got a phone call two days later asking if I would be interested in performing with Wayne Brady in Las Vegas. Everything happens for a reason. Needless to say, that gig was what started it all for me!

As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Cheaza Figueroa and Marriana Nevarez of HuneyFire.

The legacy of HuneyFire’s family musical history courses through their bloodlines. Cheaza grew up following in the footsteps of a big-time show business entertainer. Her mother, Stonye Figueroa aka Barbara Cook was an integral part of the legendary Ikette’s, the electrifying backing vocalists and dancers for The Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Among other dizzying career accolades, she was a part of the group’s powerhouse historic performance of “Proud Mary” captured in their debut appearance on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ in 1971. “I grew up under the musical influence of my mother, and Tina, of course,” says Cheaza. “I was also inspired by Whitney Houston, Dolly, Pat Benatar, and Shania Twain. So, my musical tastes are very broad.”

Daughter, Marriana, also claims musical royalty in her bloodline; her father, Alfred Nevarez, is a founding member of the pop vocal group, All-4-One, best known for their mega-hits, “I Swear,” “So Much in Love” and “I Can Love You Like That.” “I draw musical inspiration from Miranda Lambert, Maren Morris, Demi Lovato, Miley Cyrus, Paramore and Caitlyn Smith, among others,” Marriana states.

Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story.” Can you tell us the story of how you grew up? Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

Cheaza- Both of us actually started performing at the same age of five years old. It was definitely inevitable. My mother saw my love for music at a very early age, as I did with my daughter, Marriana. Throughout my years in the music industry, I was blessed to sing with Wayne Brady, Jon Secada, Marie Osmond, Barry Manilow and many other amazing artists that’s helped build my confidence to continue to pursue my dreams in the music industry.

Marriana- My mother and I have been performing together since 2011 and finally made the decision to become a country music duo in 2021. She was working on her solo Country album and I was also working on music and acting at the time. She called me and asked if I wanted to form a country band together, seeing we were already doing it solo, it just felt right. So here we are!

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

Marriana — We would both agree that the most interesting story would be how we made our album and how our entire team of amazing musicians and producers came about. It’s truly nothing but God.

Cheaza — Both of our schedules are very hectic. You know that thing called life, haha! I perform on major cruise lines around the world and don’t have the luxury of being at every recording session with the musicians as I’d like to be. Marriana is also very busy. I strongly believe that through prayer, we were introduced via text to some of the most amazing musicians in the industry. Our good friends Caitlin Evanson, who tours with Kelsea Ballerini, wrote our latest single ‘Manswer’ and helped co-write many songs on our upcoming album, along with Jerry Vandiver who has a song on our upcoming album and has written for Tim McGraw, Gene Watson, Phil Vassar, Lonestar, The Oak Ridge Boys, Lee Greenwood, Barbara Mandrell, Dusty Drake, just to name a few, made a few Nashville calls and boom we had Eddy Dunlap on steel! He’s recorded with Luke Bryan, Mickey Guyton, Jon Pardi, Parmalee, and Clay Walker. Jerry also introduced us to Wanda Vick Burchfield who plays banjo on our album. She has been featured at the Country Music Hall of Fame twice and has played on recordings for Phil Keaggy, Toni Jolene Clay, Gary Smith, and many more! We also have amazing musicians based in Las Vegas, including Denny Mishler and Michael Vittima who jumped on board without a question. We would then send all tracks to our engineer Hugo Castillo, so we could later record our vocals and send it to our co-producer Jason Pennock in Florida. It was well worth the crazy journey, and we feel blessed to have some of the best musicians in country music on our album. Not a conventional way of recording most would say but it was a slam dunk for us!

It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Cheaza — Well this is easy, hahaha! I remember a time my mother told me at the age of nine, “Cheaza, practice how you’re going to sing your song and don’t pull any tricks live on stage that you haven’t practiced.” Well, young Cheaza loved pulling tricks out of her hat and I did just that in a live performance with my mom. I literally hit some God-awful notes and was so embarrassed. It taught me to listen to mom and practice, hahaha! I’ve kept that with me through my entire career!

Marriana — So, belting out notes isn’t my strong suit but, I can do it once I’ve warmed up, like you should do anyway right? When I was first starting to find the way my voice moves, I definitely thought I could just belt notes out like nothing because I idolized women that could do that. What I knew but was stubborn about was warming my voice up. When I would practice at a young age I would just go for those strong notes and BOY!!! I would land myself in a coughing frenzy that would leave my throat in shambles. What I learned was that my mom wasn’t just “telling me what to do,” she was trying to help me not blow my vocal chords out! And from that stubbornness I have definitely learned how to take care of my voice.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

Marriana — Well this is easy… my mother haha. She is the one that has never stopped picking me up when I felt like I wanted to give up. Even when sometimes I did, she supported me through that but never stopped believing in me and the gift God gave me. She gave me support while I gained my “why”, and both of those combined is the reason I’m here still going.

Cheaza — All credit of support goes to my mother. My mother supported every direction of my career and life. She allowed me the chance to be my own artist and to dive into what made me “Cheaza.” I love her truly for allowing me to venture into unknown spaces, to help bring out and better what was already in me. I was also an athlete growing up in grade school, high school and college. My mom would wake up sometimes at 3:00am fixing lunches for a track meet on that same day and spent all day at the track meet helping coach. She did this with dance classes, acting classes, talent shows I was in, and all of my sports. She was involved and always there.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

Cheaza — “I know the Lord is always with me. I will not be shaken. For he is right beside me.” Psalms 16:8

My grandmother was a very huge supporter in my career and in life in general. She would always drop biblical knowledge that today I appreciate so much, and I’ve taken with me with everything I’ve done.

Marriana — “A dream only becomes overrated when not perused by the dreamer.”

I found this quote when I was in high school, and it’s actually still on my Facebook headline! It’s pretty straight forward. Growing up I loved to live “safe” but, it made it very hard for me to trust my dreams sometimes. This quote was just harsh enough for me to say SCREW IT!! I will not be “overrated!”

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

Marriana — We’ve finished our freshman album which will be releasing this year and also we’ll be on set filming new music videos! Lots coming this year!

We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?

Cheaza and Marriana — When there is only one kind of anything, not every idea and interpretation can be fulfilled. Allowing different backgrounds the same opportunities, creates versatility in performances across the board.

Having diversity in all aspects of the entertainment business, facilitates the acceptance of different cultures and of one another. The performing arts is a highly valued symbol of connecting people around the world. This very specific connection through music, is how some define themselves and their relationship to the rest of the world.

Having a very diverse industry helps smooth the way for acceptance upon one another. It’s about self-expression, and everyone has a different story to tell, and this should be important. That should matter. Whether it be women, children or men, from many different backgrounds, we all have something authentic and special to give in a different way.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why? Please share a story or example for each.


  1. Speak up. — I’m a quiet person… most people who know me now would disagree, and that’s because I’ve learned to speak up. Growing up I felt shy or nervous to be outgoing, and now that I’ve experienced the industry for myself and have gotten older, I’ve realized no one cares if you’re loud or opinionated… people and the industry love that kind of energy.
  2. BE PATIENT. Now I knew from watching my parents that “no” wasn’t an answer in the industry but, when I got a “no” I would get SO frustrated because I felt like I was giving every audition my all… but now I truly know that if something is meant to happen it WILL happen, be patient.
  3. Stay HUNGRY. So many times I had just waited for an agency to find the work for me but, what I found out was that… I didn’t have to wait. I could find the auditions or opportunities I wanted, I just had to stay hungry.
  4. Do YOU. I am going to be honest. I definitely tried mimicking the steps others made to their success and it just didn’t work for me. I either felt overwhelmed or over compared myself or made excuses because of frustration. FIND YOU! Do what works for you. Organically being yourself always wins in the end.
  5. Remind yourself about you “why?”In the chaos of just about anything you’re shooting for, it’s easy to feel defeated and lose your “why.” How I kept myself from losing that, I made sure I disconnected from distractions and I spent time giving back to myself and sing/write a song or do a monologue just for myself, as a reminder to myself as to why I love it so much.


My mother was a great teacher and filled me with plenty of forewarnings but it’s inevitable to run into things that can’t be helped. Especially in an industry like ours. I wish someone would’ve told me:

  1. 1000 doors slammed in my face means that 1001 could definitely be the ticket. I remember endless auditions that I would go to as a kid and as a young adult to be told no and on that thousand and one time, that yes meant the world so it made it all worth it.
  2. The script you get for a film audition is necessarily not the script you will do at your callback. Some may laugh at this, but I particularly remember learning a 15-page script off book for an audition, and they changed the entire script the day of the audition when I got there. Was not prepared for that. Yep wish I would’ve known that could’ve happened. Haha!
  3. No matter what happens with whatever you do, stay positive and persistent because everything happens for a reason. I remember being upset about many outcomes in my career but, it always showed why something didn’t happen or why something did happen.
  4. Trusting the process is over half the battle. Many things don’t really happen the way you want them to, but happen the way they should, and I found that out the hard way as we all do at a young age. A particular instance was when I auditioned for three different shows and didn’t book any of them. It was completely crushing and as you do, you question yourself as an artist when this happens. I got a phone call two days later asking if I would be interested in performing with Wayne Brady in Las Vegas. Everything happens for a reason. Needless to say, that gig was what started it all for me!
  5. Working with my daughter would be one of the coolest experiences to date. We laugh, and we get to create so many amazing memories together. It is a true blessing!

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Cheaza and Marrina-

Knowing when to say no, and when to give back to yourself is very important in not burning out we’ve found. Taking time and giving back to yourself is key to longevity in any career.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)


If I could start a movement, that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I would definitely start a movement called “National Disconnect Day.” Not too long ago I was talking to a friend who I grew up with out here in Vegas, and she told me that she never realized that Vegas was surrounded by mountains like a bowl. That took me back because Vegas, is in fact, in a bowl of mountains. I think if we could disconnect, just for a day, we could discover SO many things about us and our surroundings. #NDD


If I could start a movement, that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, I would definitely start a movement called “Right To Just BE.”

I think that it’s very important for people to understand that it’s OK to be who you are and live the life you see yourself living. I envision “Right To Just BE” movement being some thing that you can use as a platform to express what makes you authentically you whether that be an expression in music, who you choose to love, or how you live in this world today. Uniting and excepting people as they are IS love, and we need more of it.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)


Shania Twain! I’ve been a huge fan of not only her music, but her tenacity as a woman in the music industry. She’s proven to do things her way and man I just love that! I can’t lie, I would have to invite, Janet, Jackson, Chaka Khan, Kelly Clarkson, and my Mom too because I mean man, how can I not invite all my favs! Lol!


Demi Lovato. Omg!!!!! I have met SO many people but Demi?! You would see me turn into a 12-year-old girl! Hahaha same with Taylor Swift… just sayin, hahaha!

How can our readers follow you online?

You can follow us on all of our socials at HuneyFire. You can also keep up with what’s happening on our website at

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!



Elana Cohen
Authority Magazine

Elana Cohen is a freelance writer based in Chicago. She covers entertainment and music