Portland, Oregon born and LA-based, singer/songwriter/story teller Bert Sperling has seen many sides of this music industry as an veteran of this modern scene. Starting off his career as a member of the alternative punk outfit Drone Offensive, Sperling has made a multiple of stops across a soundscape of genres, most recently taking on a more folk stance – music he describes as “catchy yet rootsy, and the vocals are very intimate and close to the listener. It sounds like I’m singing to you – very natural.”
Bert has been on National Public Radio and featured in Billboard magazine, and we promise more attention with the release of his latest album, Renaissance. A record that comes from some deep places in the soul of one Mr. Sperling, he finds satisfaction in the duality of honest words, told with a mixture of optimism and cynicism. We asked him to tell us more about the effort – he said, “Expect an ‘album’ in the classic sense – something you throw on and listen to all the way through. I hope it becomes something listeners revisit and reflect on often, to put them in a contemplative and personal space. The writing process was painful, because it forced me to admit some hard truths about myself and my world. But I’m happy I faced those things, because the work became authentic and memorable…something I’m proud to share.” Click to http://www.bertsperlingmusic.
XXQs: Bert Sperling
PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what makes you stand out from others in your genre?
Bert Sperling (BS): My sound is catchy yet rootsy, and the vocals are very intimate and close to the listener. It sounds like I’m singing to you – very natural. What makes me different is the authenticity and honesty of the songwriting, as well as the clever wordplay and mixture of optimism and cynicism. I love that duality.
PEV: What kind of music were you into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?
BS: I was into punk music, Nine Inch Nails, KMFDM, etc. My father introduced me to bluegrass, like the Stanley Brothers and Bill Monroe, which I still love and am very thankful for. The first concert I remember was Chuck Berry and Hank Ballard in downtown Portland with my parents. It was a great show, outdoors at Pioneer Courthouse Square. I remember they were giving out toasters. Chuck Berry was a great showman and it was great seeing him live.
PEV: Born and bred in Portland, Oregon, what was the like trying to break into the music scene when you first started? What was your first show like?
BS: The music scene in Portland growing up was very rich. I went to shows nearly every night. Breaking in was a bit of a mystery for me. I didn’t know how booking worked, and the best venues always seemed out of reach. However, I did get to play at the legendary Satyricon and won the gong show there with my punk band Drone Offensive. That was probably the highlight of my early career in Portland.
PEV: What can fans expect from a live Bert Sperling show?
BS: A lot of energy, a connection with me. I want to be entertaining, pushing myself to make things exciting, even if it means making mistakes.
PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage to perform?
BS: The first that comes to mind when I step on stage is, “here we go, it’s go time, let’s go for it. Let’s leave everything on the stage. Give them all you have and make them remember the night.”
PEV: What is the best part about being on stage in front of an audience?
BS: Looking into people’s eyes and smiling at them and having them smile back. Connecting with people is so special, and all it takes is a little extra effort. That’s why I do music.
PEV: What was your underlying inspiration for becoming a musician?
BS: Music is the one thing that I think makes life worth living. When I’m happy it makes me happier, when I’m blue, I find solace. I always told myself growing up that it’s the only thing worth doing. And growing up around my dad’s music equipment always filled me with curiosity and inspiration. My favorite philosopher Nietzsche said that “art is the proper task of life”- it has always seemed true to me.
PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?
BS: I do think about my earlier days a lot. I had no idea about how the industry worked. I’m proud that I was always trying new things, different genres of music, because it really helped me hone in on exactly who I am as an artist. I’m proud of how far I’ve come, and the young me would actually be really impressed because I’ve done things that I never thought I would accomplish – I’ve worked with artists who were my heroes in high school, been on National Public Radio, and produced an album that was featured in Billboard magazine.
PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about you?
BS: I almost got kicked out of Dartmouth College for telling a security guard to go fuck himself when he told me to take my sculpture down from where I had hung it from a tree.
PEV: What do you do when you hit a brick wall in your writing? What are some methods to get over that?
BS: I stop trying. After that, something will pop up in my head unbidden. If you force it, it never works.
PEV: How do you think the music industry has changed over the years?
BS: Music production is so accessible these days; for a couple hundred bucks you can make a great-sounding album. I love that. I think the industry is in a shithole right now, because artists don’t get paid fairly for streaming content. I hope we figure out a way to remedy that. But I’m happy fans have easy access to so much great music.
PEV: What can fans expect from your latest release, Renaissance? What was the writing process like for this album?
BS: They can expect an “album” in the classic sense – something you throw on and listen to all the way through. I hope it becomes something listeners revisit and reflect on often, to put them in a contemplative and personal space. The writing process was painful, because it forced me to admit some hard truths about myself and my world. But I’m happy I faced those things, because the work became authentic and memorable…something I’m proud to share.
PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?
BS: Europe for sure. I’d love to connect with people over there through my music, and hear their thoughts and reactions, what resonates between us. I know there’s some common ground – I just don’t know its character or hue.
PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career?
BS: My friends and family are impressed and very supportive. They’ve been great cheerleaders, and I’m happy that other people are starting to take note…so that their good taste is validated!
PEV: What can we find you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?
BS: I love filmmaking. Music and film have always gone hand-in-hand for me.
PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?
BS: Definitely Roger Waters from the present – I’d love to do one of his amazing concept albums with him. And Beethoven from the past. I’m hard of hearing like he was, so we’d commiserate and come up with some really moving stuff.
PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?
BS: I’m afraid I’m pretty blissfully ignorant of up-and-coming artists. One band that I really like is Carpark North from Denmark – great songwriters and a great, catchy sound. But they’ve been around for a while.
PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what would you do for a career?
BS: I plan on taking over my father’s company Sperling’s BestPlaces and carrying on his awesome legacy of helping people find their best place to live.
PEV: So, what is next for Bert Sperling?
BS: My new album which is in the nascent stages is a suite of songs inspired by choice quotes from my favorite movies Dune, Color of Money, American Me, Colors, and Carlito’s Way. They preface each song and provide a really cool jumping-off point for me creatively. I’m dealing with some big themes that I can’t wait to explore and share with people.
For more information, click to http://www.bertsperlingmusic.com/.