Heart-on-sleeve lyrics jangle and float like the best indie folk in the world.
“Every morning I wake up thinking, Goddamn I gotta quit drinking. By the time the sun goes down, I’m fing sucking a cold one down. Every time I try to control it, sleeping demons just get emboldened. Then they keep on fing with me until I’m the drunk that they want me to be. And I know there is nothing that can save me, I’m going to have to save myself,” sings Bert Sperling on “Every Morning,” one of the twelve deeply personal, honest cuts on his latest offering, Renaissance.
“This is the most personal record I’ve ever made,” he says. “It represents me as a complete artist. And it uses a lot of my experiences in a lot of different kinds of bands, to find out what kind of things I wanted to say as an artist, both stylistically and with the lyrics.”
An entrepreneur and singer-songwriter, Sperling, who was born and bred in Portland, Oregon, but now shares his time between his hometown and Los Angeles, has quite a musical pedigree to boast about. He spent time playing in hard rock and punk bands in his younger years, fronted a traditional country band, and even dabbled in a little experimental soundscaping.
All that veering between styles and sounds only served to help Sperling find his own musical voice, and give him the confidence to step out on his own with the aptly-titled Renaissance, which lives up to the dictionary’s definition of Renaissance: A rebirth or revival.
“This is the culmination of me finding out what my sound is,” he says. “It’s so easy to mimic other people - people that you’ve heard before or can hear on the radio, but it’s almost a zen thing to be able to tune all that out and be yourself. All I can say is as long as you end up in the right place, it doesn't matter how long it takes to get there.”
Renaissance certainly does bear the marks of his musical past and influences. Songs like album opener “Trade Up” and “You Learn,” the second-to-last track on the album, ramble with the heart of a dusty honky tonk house band, all shuffling drums, bluesy guitar leads, and heart on sleeve lyrics. Sperling obviously has a deep love for a good ‘60s pop record, with the perfectly wobbly “On The Top” and the Beatlesesque “Walking in the Sun.” And what the painfully beautiful “Life Without Love” proves is that he can jangle and float like the best indie folk in the world.
“I try to write catchy stuff, because I believe in the power of music to make you feel good on a very simple level. Some of my favorite music is catchy oldies, or pop-rock, punk, and rap that is very melodic and catchy.”
He continues, “With [Renaissance] I wasn't trying to perform within a specific genre. All my music is very close to me, but there's so much pressure to fit into one genre - even subconsciously. With this record, I'm excited because listeners will get to hear my original music that truly represents who I am and where I’m at in life, with lyrics and melodies that knock around my head on a daily basis. This album is an extension of me, not just something I did for fun - although I did have fun making the record.”
The connecting thread for all of these tunes is not just Sperling’s poignant singing but also his singular, unclouded view of his life and the world around him.
“These songs are the truth that I’ve arrived at,” he says, “but with a humorous cynicism through a lot of it. I want people to get a picture of how I see life.”
The album makes an even stronger statement on behalf of Sperling’s vision as he played almost every note on it. He did bring in his old band mate Owen Grace to play drums and bass on four of the tracks, and his buddy David Lipkind sprinkles in a few harmonica melodies, but otherwise, it’s all Sperling.
“I loved being in a band, but I really love writing on my own,” he says. “I’ve always been a studio rat. So writing and working on songs by myself - developing the song and adding layers and spending a lot of time on the computer...that nerdy aspect of it comes very naturally to me.”
Sperling isn’t ready to leave the band life behind completely. He’s already talking about getting a group together to help play some of these tunes live. And he’s already mapping out what will be his follow up to this album. Until then, he’s just excited to get this music out into the world.
“It feels great to be moving forward,” he says. “I don’t want to waste people’s time or write songs designed to get on the radio or say stuff that’s been said before. I want to say it in my own way and hopefully keep a sense of humor about it.”
Summing up the record as a whole, Sperling says, “I can give you one guarantee about a Bert Sperling album: it will never be anything less than completely honest. I will always bare my soul, always be completely truthful with you. I won't write a lyric made to coerce you or fit into anything that I think that you want to hear, or that I think will induce you to part with your hard-earned money over it. It's an antiquated pledge and I don't think it will get me anywhere, but that's the way I feel.”
Which brings up the conversation between art and commerce, something Sperling knows too well in his profession as an Entrepreneur.
“As far as commerciality,” he says of the album, “I wouldn't say it's commercial. Unless, of course, we choose to redefine commercial in the near future as something which resonates with listeners on a very genuine and honest and straightforward way. I would much rather have five or ten or twenty fans who I talk to on a regular basis and give me detailed feedback on the music and really genuinely feel it, than one million casual fans.”
Renaissance is an album about growing up, about learning about behaviors, both your own and those around you. It’s a record about coming to terms with who you are and where you are in life, moving beyond fake smiles and simple pleasantries, and living life to the fullest, with honesty and integrity as the main objective.
“We find ourselves being forced to rebuild continually, to move toward the life that we want to have or the life that we want to re-create. Renaissance is about finding hope after the night has fallen and you go through the darkness and you realize that the sun does indeed shine, that a beautiful sunrise awaits you, and that life goes on. What you choose to do with that is up to you, and that is what this album means to me, and what I feel it’s about.”
Trade Up 3:000:00 / 3:00
0:00 / 2:55
Walking in the Sun 3:230:00 / 3:23
Let Her Go 3:310:00 / 3:31
You Learn 2:100:00 / 2:10
Every Morning 2:290:00 / 2:29
Revenge 4:280:00 / 4:28
On the Top 3:120:00 / 3:12
905 3:160:00 / 3:16
0:00 / 4:09
Find Me Holding You 3:000:00 / 3:00
Life Without Love 3:220:00 / 3:22