Perth based singer/songwriter Bernardine has just released her self titled album. Tomatrax caught up with Bernardine to ask a few questions.
What inspired you to become a musician?
I feel like I never really became a musician, I just always was one. Music always made perfect sense to me even from when I was very little, it was normal like breathing or talking. Actually, myself and all of my siblings are musicians. I think it was because our parents played in bands (still to this day), and I have a very musical heritage on both sides of my ancestry – my Filipino grandfather was a prolific Spanish guitarist and my uncle on my English side is a classical pianist, it really is in the genes. From coming from a very large musical family I think that I always knew I would take it to the professional level after seeing live music performed in my city in my teens. I saw singer/songwriters performing in venues and I knew that it was my calling. I was so fortunate to gain agency representation when I was 21 and my performing career really took off from there. It has taken me to places I could never imagine.
Given you are classically trained what made you decide to take the alt/pop route?
I have naturally gravitated to alt/pop as it is an honest reflection of what I have to offer musically at this point in time, but I couldn’t live without my classical training as it has helped me with my songwriting immensely. I love that I have a deep understanding of my compositions on a scientific level and that I can create exciting music by having a plethora of compositional techniques at my fingertips. I think as I continue to write and release more music my true essence will solidify more and more so I am not sure if the alt/pop route will be my destiny. I am really taking my music journey as it comes and am absorbing new knowledge and art forms for my next chapter.
Have you thought of doing classical music as well?
I think rather than heading down the classical path or the alt/pop path I am melding them together. At the moment I am obsessed with writing lines for orchestral instruments. The cello features strongly in my latest release and I loved writing these lines and seeing them come to life. My dream for later down the track is to perform my original songs with a full orchestra using orchestral arrangements that I have composed myself. My main classical training is in concert piano, I really hope to incorporate this part of me into an album somewhere down the line.
What made you decide to go under a single name?
My dad named me after a 1957 film titled “Bernardine” – a real vintage classic. The film features a song called “Bernardine” sung by Pat Boone. When my partner and I first met, upon finding this out he bought every version of the song on iTunes and played it to me which I thought was so funny and sweet. I think I started to like my name as a stage name as I began to appreciate it for its individuality so used it for my project for which I’m really glad. I think coming to like my name was a hurdle I needed to overcome in order appreciate myself as an artist.
What inspired you to make your second album self titled?
The album depicts a very personal account of my life, in particular my journey in overcoming depression and anxiety. I meant for that to be reflected in the name and artwork by using just my name for the title as the album and by having a black and white illustration of me as the artwork. It is also is helping me to establish my brand as an artist, as people will get used to seeing and saying my name, as it is rather unusual.
There is an earthy atmosphere to the album, was this hard to achieve?
The earthy atmosphere just happened naturally. I was just doing what I knew what to do with what I had at the time. The sound is really an evolved version of my past project in duo Fox Cat Rabbit. I took the very basic instrumentation of my past project and developed it further into something more full by adding in extra instruments. This earthy sound is what was created. I am truly proud of the sound as creating it did stretch me musically, I am looking forward to adding to it in many ways and developing my art further. I enjoyed recording drums and bass guitar as I had not done it before. I have a much deeper appreciation of how to write for these instruments and their roles in creating a groove. I plan on experimenting with grooves further and coming up with a really unique sound for my next record.
What made you pick I don’t mind as the single from the album?
It was very hard picking a song for the single as I could think of a few that I would have wanted, but I am so happy I went with this one. Out of all of the songs it has a great commercial sound but captures the soul of my journey. It specifically pinpoints a time in my journey when I could put the worst behind me. It was an enormous achievement overcoming my demons and my life has been so different since I wrote that song as it closed the door on a negative time and allowed me to move on.
You’ve just done a show launching your latest album, how did that go?
It was definitely the highlight of my career. My band played spectacularly and I felt so privileged to share my music and story. I was particularly nervous because it was the first time I was to speak out publicly about my mental health journey to family, friends and people I did not know. But it was something I had to do as the album to me represents moving on to a new chapter of life where I can put depression behind me. The Ellington Jazz Club was a sellout and I was blown away by the amount of people who came and bought the album and spoke to me after about their similar experiences and how they were really moved by my performance. Many people bought 2 albums so they could give one to a friend. All in all, I received amazing support and I couldn’t have asked for a better night.
You’ve previously been busking in Melbourne and Perth, what was that like?
Busking is fantastic. I love it with my heart and soul. I love pulling out my guitar, mini amp and my chalkboard sign and meeting people and sharing music. I have always found people to be very generous whether in Melbourne or Perth but I found more opportunities arose in Melbourne. I often had people inviting me to auditions or shoots. Once in Melbourne a passer by organised for me to meet Mark Holden. At the meeting Mark gave me some amazing career advice which was to check out Feist and her music and model myself on her. I certainly do – she is one of my favourite arists. I still busk to this day at the Fremantle markets – I will probably do it forever.
Do you ever listen to your own music?
I always listen to my songs before I perform so that I have the arrangements fresh in my mind and this is quite regularly. But I had to give listening to my voice a rest after recording so that I could do the mixing with fresh ears. I am learning to love my voice, it has taken me a long time to be able to listen to it without being judgmental. I think I could still work on this some more. The hard thing is I am not sure who I sound like so I have no one to compare it to. I am still searching for my vocal doppleganger if they’re out there!
What music do you listen to?
My taste is all over the place. When I want to relax I listen to world music like Astrud Gilberto, Harry Belafonte, Jimmy Cliff, local artist Grace Barbe and others. I just never get tired of the rhythms and the colour in the music. I also have a collection of 90’s rock albums which I pull out regularly when I am cycling (Soundgarden, Queens of the Stone Age, Nirvana, Stone Temple Pilots etc) and more recently I have been studying jazz so I have been buying jazz albums like crazy just to get used to the language and the different styles (Antonio Carlos Jobim, Frank Sinatra, Billie Holiday, Idea of North etc). I also buy music from local artists to support their art and be inspired by local musicians. Standouts are Stoney Joe, David Craft and the The Eduardo Cossio Quintet to name a few.
Now that the album is out what do you plan on doing next?
I am booking a UK tour for September and filming a music video for I Don’t Mind. Stay tuned.
Check out Bernardine’s website to find out more!