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Nicolas Bearde
  Nicolas Bearde  
Nicolas Bearde [August 2nd 2007]

Dwight: Thank you for doing this interview with me. You have been a busy man lately. What have you been up to?
Nicolas Bearde: Just recently returned from the last leg of this years touring with Bobby McFerrin and Voicestra. We taught a variety of disciplines to about 120 students of all ages in Basel, Switzerland and closed out our stay there with a performance at the Stimmen Festival. We then did a series of concerts throughout Luxembourg and various cities in Germany, including Munich, Stuttgart and Mainz.

Dwight: You've shared the same stage with greats such as Bobby McFerrin. How did that come about and how is it to be on the same stage as him?
Nicolas Bearde: I met Bobby through a good friend, Molly Holm here in Berkeley, CA. Bobby had decided that he wanted to try something with multiple voices in an improvisational, a-capella format and he put out a call to people he knew who were working in a-capella and vocal groups. I happened to be a part of Molly's vocal ensemble and she recommended me. I've been a part of the ensemble since 1986.


Dwight: I must say your voice is great! Your voice has been compared to the likes of Lou Rawls and Jon Lucien. How do you feel being compared to such legends?
Nicolas Bearde: It's a tremendous honor to be spoken of in such esteemed company! I've loved Lou's work every since I heard his record with Les McCann and of course the first Lou Rawls Live album, circa 1967. And Jon Lucien... in my mind Jon set a new standard for male vocalists in any category. The first piece I remember hearing from him was "Rashida". What a magnificent piece of music that is!!! The composition, the arrangement, the performance, everything is just magnificent! And then, of course, Lady Love and another favorite, his cover of Jobim's Dindi... So much of what Jon has done has raised the bar on what a male vocalist should be. So it's very nice to hear such a comparison.

Dwight: You are coming out with a new album. Tell us about your upcoming album.
Nicolas Bearde: Well, I'm still putting it all together but it's leaning a bit more toward the jazz realm than my last CD. Having said that, I can never really let go of my Soul roots so it will definitely be colored by that. As I'm closer to completion though, I'll give you an update. Cause, you never know... All About Love started out one way and wound up a lot different than my initial concept. But I'm feeling a bit more acoustic of late, so we'll see...

Dwight: Your music and songs seems to capture the grassroots of soul and R&B music. How do you feel about soul music today? Do you think we need to go back the grassroots to recognize what real soul music is?
Nicolas Bearde: Music and art are reflections of the culture and the times. I guess you can say it's definitely moved to a place where a lot of it doesn't necessarily reflect how I'm feeling. But then in hindsight you see how a certain piece fits into a period. Look back at the music of the eighties, you can see and hear the edgy-ness of the times in that music. When I listen to that music it brings to mind the changes that the industry was going through, such as the shift to electronic tools to create music-MIDI and advances like electronic drum sounds and the early sampling technology. People were really beginning to believe that live players could be replaced in many situations.
You can also hear in a way, how society was changing at the time, the drug culture, political changes, the emergence and urgency of hip- hop, even the changing moral landscape. You can hear and see all of that reflected in the music. So yes, I'd like to recapture some things about the past but art has to grow to remain vital.
I am a product of my community, how I was raised and the music that I loved-so that will always be in my work. But I don't know that we can re-claim the music of that era. Soul music is just that: music from the soul and I think that it's possible to do soulful music without trying to re-do the past.
The artists who laid all of that incredible music down did so out of love and passion. They learned their instruments and sang songs through without the aid of pitch correction and other technological tricks, they wrote honest lyrics and they delivered honest performances. Maybe that's what real soul music has always been, honest songs and performances from people who really gave a damn about what they were doing. There are still a number of artists that do that today-I think you can hear the difference.

Dwight: I've noticed lately that a number of older artists such as Denice Williams, Gregory Abbot, Charlie Wilson from the Gapband, the Bar Kays and Icognito just to name a few are now releasing latest studio albums. Do you think that this is a sign that Soul music is evolving or do you think these artists are still trying to hold on a piece of their pie?
Nicolas Bearde: The fact is, these folks can BLOW!!! I'm not so sure that any of it is about evolving, so much as folks just want to work! This is what we do! These players are not ready to lay down! They want... no, they HAVE to perform and they need to be heard! They're the ones who brought us here and they have quite a lot more to say.

Dwight: Besides soul music what other type of music do you like?
Nicolas Bearde: I'm a lover of too much of everything. I've got everything on my iPod from Puccini to Muddy Waters to Donny Hathaway to Stravinsky to Alison Krauss, James Taylor, Gnarls Barkley Sly Stone and beyond. I'm all over the place.

Dwight: Who would you consider your music idols and mentors?
Nicolas Bearde: As I said, I'm kind of all over the place musically and I am in awe of so many great talents. Artists like Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Jon Lucien, Johnny Mathis, Sam Cooke, Al Green and James Brown still amaze and inspire me. So many in Jazz take me to different worlds with their interpretations and compositions-Miles, Coltrane, Pharoah Sanders, Lonnie Liston Smith... Bjork, James Taylor, Alison Krauss, Martin Luther... Man, the list is LONG!

Dwight: Who and what inspires you to write your songs?
Nicolas Bearde: Anything could be the basis of a song- a rainy day, an imagined romantic situation, an actual romantic situation, watching kids interact. It just depends on the day and what's on my mind.

Dwight: Your previous album "All about love" I must say was a superb album. I am still trying to get my copy back from my friend who "mysteriously" borrowed it from
Nicolas Bearde: I could get you a copy.. I know people...

Dwight: How do you feel about people possibly classifying your music as baby making music?
Nicolas Bearde: Nothing wrong with making babies. Nothing wrong with practicing making babies. As matter of fact, I don't see nothing wrong with a little...

Dwight: So how did Mr. Nicolas Bearde get involved in music and singing?
Nicolas Bearde: It was born in the blood... from the womb.

Dwight: Any finals words you want to say to the JustSoul readers?
Nicolas Bearde: Thanks for listening to my work and for loving music in general. Get out and see your favorite artists live. There's nothing like the real thing.

Dwight: Mr. Nicolas Bearde, on behalf of the readers and staff members of I would like to thank you for doing this interview with me. We wish you all the best in your career and many success.
Nicolas Bearde: Dwight. Many thanks to you for including me in your program. Hope we'll have a chance to hang sometime soon.

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