Bert Sperling is a singer-songwriter who used to sing in a country band in Portland. He also recently appeared on a compilation that was a tribute to George Jones. His new album Renaissance isn't a pure country album, but you certainly get a good taste of his country background with some of these songs. One of those songs is "Every Morning" - a song with the classic-country theme about drinking too much and the regret that can go with it. The song begins with the lament of a lot of drinkers - that every morning you think you should stop drinking. The trouble is that the resolve to quit drinking is frequently short-lived. The same is the case in this song. Sperling's vocals are filled with ache and regret as he sings about the cycle of drinking and regret. It's an amazing song that is especially powerful for anyone who has ever said he or she wants to quit drinking. Life without Love" is another song where Sperling's country background comes through. Thematically it's definitely a country song - with lyrics about being alone and crying because a certain someone is gone. Even Sperling's vocals are what you'd expect from a country song.That being said, you can't really call it a country song. There is a lot going on here, and it's certainly more complex than any song you'll hear on a country-radio station. Let Her Go" is one of those songs that makes you take notice. It features just Sperling's vocals and a piano, which makes the song hit even harder. It's hard not to think about the early songs of Tom Waits when you hear this one. Yes, it's that good. Another song that falls into that category is the closer "Walking in the Sun". It's one of the songs that show Sperling's talent as a songwriter. It also shows that he is pretty adept at creating songs even with no band behind him. Renaissance is an impressive album although it is difficult to classify. Sperling has obvious talent as a songwriter and storyteller - and that is probably the best way to describe this album. It is quite simply an album of 12 well-written songs. He has created an album that is pensive and feels a bit like he is singing thoughts from his journal (assuming he keeps one). It's rare that that an artist can create an album that feels as personal as this one. Renaissance will be available on June 24.” - Gary Schwind

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 to get ready for Renaissance, as well as prepare for Sperling’s next album – a suite of songs inspired by choice quotes from his favorite movies. Click away…of course, right after reading all of the answers to the XXQs below. XXQs: Bert Sperling (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.” - Richie Frieman

Pens Eye View

George Jones Gets Alt-Country Tribute This past Saturday marked the one-year anniversary of the passing of George Jones. Since his passing, several artist have given the covers treatment to several of his biggest hits, however there's one Jones-related collection that stands apart from the rest.  Deer Lodge Records, a Portland, Oregon-based independent label has just released a two-CD set entitled "Deer Lodge: A Tribute To George Jones." It pays homage to the music of the "Possum," but isn't your typical country-related tribute. While there are some down-home versions of Jones classics, the set also features nods to bluegrass, punk, rock, and some Americana sounds, as well.  According to the label's Bert Sperling, the project is a labor of love to Jones. "(Label co-owner) Ezra Meredith and I were listening to George Jones records, and I just blurted out that we needed to do a George Jones tribute album. It just started out with us, but then we decided to get some friends from the Deer Lodge on it," he told Billboard. "It just blossomed to asking people who weren't even in the genre around Portland and in L.A. Meredith echoed Sperling's sentiments, saying "We are huge George Jones fans, and have all of his records, and spent countless nights listening to his stuff. His passing marked the end of an era."  Once the decision was made to cut the record, Meredith said that he and the label's roster started to brainstorm about what songs would be included on the project. When asked for a little more information about the label, he told the 615 "Basically, it's my house. We've got a recording studio, a stage in the backyard that we have shows on during the summer. I've converted the garage into a dive bar. It's private, but a lot of musicians in town hang out there, and we swap ideas. The set includes many of the Hall of Famer's biggest hits, but also goes deep into the Jones catalog, with such lesser known favorites as "I Just Don't Give A Damn," "Must've Been Drunk," and "You Couldn't Get The Picture." Sperling said that the unique song collection was something that he and Meredith came by honestly – with both being huge devotees. We will sit down and dig into things like Shine On or Yesterday's Wine, the album he did with Merle Haggard. We love that random stuff that you're not going to hear every day. Choosing the deeper tracks embodied the philosophy of what we were trying to do – to widen the audience of what George Jones is. Of course, the collection wouldn't be complete without "He Stopped Loving Her Today," which gets a dramatic reading from Stephanie Lynn. Believe it or not, her version was one of the last cuts recorded. It was getting down to the wire, and we knew that we had to have it on there. Nobody had stepped up to take it yet, perhaps because it is such a daunting song. It took a young artist like Stephanie, with that youthful naivete to step up and do it. We were happy with her performance on it. She did it justice....if you can do that song justice. Kati Claborn, part of the five-piece group Hook & Anchor – who cut the Jones and Wynette classic "We're Gonna Hold On," said that his voice definitely has an appeal to fans in – and out of country music. I think his voice so easily reaches outside of the genre," she said. "Whether people are huge fans of country music or not, I think when they hear him sing and the way he communicates, that resonates with people. I think that's why there were so many different directions on the album."  Another buried treasure from the Jones files was "The Selfishness Of Man," recorded by Drunken Prayer, aka Morgan Geer, who said that Jones' appeal comes down to the most obvious aspect – his voice.  What can't you say about George Jones? I am kind of evangelistic when it comes to him. He's got the greatest voice I have ever heard. It will make you cry. It feels like he's walked in your shoes. His life story was like a Tarantino movie, it's so intense.” - Chuck Dauphin

Billboard Magazine

Deer Lodge Records releases a new tribute record this weekend. It's a collection of thirty songs by artists — mostly from the Northwest — in tribute to the late country music great George Jones. Producer Bert Sperling and Deer Lodge owner Ezra Meredith decided to pull the record together after Jones' death in April. Sperling actually met Jones briefly about ten years ago. "He could still hit the notes," Sperling says. "He was very humble, very nice. Really cool guy. Sperling says many of the artists on the record are one or two generations removed from the prime of Jones' career, but the emotional depth and humor of Jones' work still compelled great performances. Sperling says, "The music does resonate. These artists gave it a hundred percent as far as what they were feeling for the track(s). Sperling is a musician and writer working in Los Angeles, but he comes back regularly to visit the Deer Lodge which is both a bar and a recording studio. The record can be ordered from Deer Lodge now, and is scheduled to hit iTunes in January.” - April Baer

OPB State of Wonder

Producer Bert Sperling: The L.A. Sunshine Helps Songwriting Bert Sperling is a musician and producer. He produced the Deer Lodge tribute to George Jones, which also includes L.A. duo The Wellspring. By email, he discussed the origins of the George Jones tribute album, the best thing about the L.A. music scene, and what he'd be doing if he weren't making music. Give me the elevator bio of Bert Sperling. I was raised in Portland, Ore. I am an Ivy League-educated philosophy major, based in Los Angeles for nearly a decade. I've fronted punk and country bands over the years. As I've found my voice, the roots, country and bluegrass music I grew up around always seem to find a way into my music. As a producer I draw from many styles while at the same time starting with a blank slate for the artist, always beginning with their voice and building on that. How did the George Jones tribute album come about? My childhood buddy and Deer Lodge Records founder Ezra Meredith and I were hanging out listening to George Jones albums, really missing him after he had passed away recently. He and I had seen George several times, and I got to meet him. He's always been our favorite. I blurted out that we should do a George Jones tribute album, and it snowballed from there. If you were going to incorporate one George Jones song - aside from the one on the tribute album - into your set, which one would it be? Why? Definitely one of his up-tempo drinking songs. I used to play "The Corvette Song" a lot live. Now I think I'd like to do "Bone Dry". It's wonderfully hilarious and catchy. What do you think is the best thing about the L.A. music scene? The traditions and the history, the overall quality of the musicians, and the diversity. Driving by all the classic studios and venues constantly fills me with inspiration. And the sunshine helps songwriting too! What would you be doing if you weren't making music? Making films and choosing great music for them, like they used to do in classic cinema. Or teaching. I know how much impact a teacher who "gets you" and inspires you can have on one's growth. It stays with you forever. The tribute to George Jones is a 30-song compilation of various artists. It is available now from Deer Lodge. If you're a fan of George Jones, it is definitely an album you should add to your collection.” - Gary Schwind

One of the late, great country legends is getting a West Coast salute with Deer Lodge: A Tribute to George Jones. Drawing on talent from the Pacific Northwest, the eclectic collection ensures that the Possum gets a rousing, heartfelt send-off from the area’s admirers. The Portland, Oregon-based duo Copper & Coal chose to record the sentimental classic “Walk Through This World With Me” for the project. Leslie Beia, the red-headed “Copper” member of the group, told CMT Edge she is often drawn to Jones’ saddest songs but decided to take a different approach. “As a huge George Jones fan, I am especially fond of the really, really heartbreaking tunes,” she said. “‘Things Have Gone to Pieces’ is a song I’ve been singing for years that I love to pull out around 3 a.m. when I’m picking with folks. … ‘The Grand Tour’ is another wrenching favorite. So when asked to pick one song, it was hard not to go there. But I decided it would probably provide a nice contrast to do this really sweet, no-holds-barred love song.” The duo lend a distinct feminine touch to the tune, which was a No. 1 hit for Jones in 1967. “I’m not sure I could make an argument one way or another as to whether George is more suited to heartbreak songs or love songs, but if I had to lean one way, I’d say his voice is just unmatched for the former,” Beia said. “And female harmonies have a certain innate sweetness that I think is really suited to this type of tune.” Although “Walk Through This World With Me” was written by two women — Kay Savage and Sandra Seamons — it is unusual for a female artist to revive the romantic song. “I guess I haven’t heard any women cover it either. I wonder why that is? In any case, covering George is a formidable task, and even though we keep the instrumentation and feel very similar, if I were a solo male singer, I don’t think I’d even try to carry it off!” Beia stated. “Just by virtue of being who we are, we are able to lend the song a slightly different feel without veering too far from the original.” Beai said she came to learn about traditional country through old-time and bluegrass music, while Carra Stasney – her brunette “Coal” counterpart – discovered it through folk music and singers like Gram Parsons and Emmylou Harris. Together, their admiration for the golden era country is evident. Check out Copper & Coal’s rendition of “Walk Through This World With Me.”” - Craig Shelburne

CMT Edge

George Jones was a rare breed of country artist for several reasons--not the least because his music transcended the genre and inspired artists of every conceivable stripe and hue. Now that he's in hillbilly heaven, we can anticipate a slew of tributes, but it's hard to envision one as eclectic, comprehensive, and weird as the two disc effort coming from Portland, Oregon's Deer Lodge Records. If you known anything about George Jones, though, he could be (at turns) eclectic, comprehensive, and weird himself--so, in a way, this tribute is fitting. Disc one kicks off with a drunkenly defiant take on "White Lightning" by Northwest stalwarts Sassparilla, then abruptly switches gears to a saccharine-sweet pop reading of "She Thinks I Still Care" by The Wellspring, establishing par for the course of the two discs. Any fan of The Possum isn't going to be content with mere mimicry of his songs, and the good news here is that none of the 30 artists on this collection try to sound anything like him. Most of the highlights on the Deer Lodge tribute come via the artists who depart the furthest from Jones' renderings. Drunken Prayer delivers "The Selfishness of Man" through a lo-fi lens that still captures the song's essence. Elsewhere Brush Prairie transforms "Tennessee Whiskey" into vintage AM radio psychedelia, Owen Grace inflects "The Door" with sunny West Coast indie pop, and Neon Renaissance give "Golden Ring"  a dose of reggae. There's plenty of standardized alt-country, courtesy of Hank Sinatra and Countryside Ride to attract roots fans, but this is likely to appeal mostly to the indie market--which isn't necessarily a bad thing. The songs of George Jones possess a frankness and sincerity noticeably lacking in modern music, and the hipster nation would do well to listen up. Hopefully this tribute will lead them in the right direction--to the man himself, and maybe to an earnest appreciation of country music. ”

Wild American Radio

A Deer Lodge Records Tribute to George Jones – Album Review One of my favorite George Jones songs–a track that actually wasn’t featured on Deer Lodge Records’ recent anthology of tribute tracks to the late, and greater than great, country singer–is “The King Is Gone (So Are You).” Jones didn’t write that song–Roger Ferris did–but it fits so seamlessly into his catalogue. All Jones’ signature elements are there in the track: the drinking and the darkness, the regretting, the memories of soured love, the clear, steadfast voice that takes lead over the instruments but stays unadorned enough to let you read story into its plain-ness. Maybe even more than the checkered backstory that colored every song Jones sang, even if he hadn’t written it, the clarified-butter translucence of his voice stands out, a lens to see the music through that asserts itself, but doesn’t exclude an imaginative listen. Jones was good at hitting that balance on the hairline. “The King Is Gone” is an organized little number, too. Three verses, a simple gimmick: a freshly dumped guy sits down at a table with a full bottle of whiskey that looks like Elvis and an empty Flinstones jelly jar for a glass. The girl he’s drinking over took all the real glasses with her, plus the furniture, too, except for the small table he’s drinking at as he sits on the floor. He gets into conversation with Elvis and Fred, his haphazard companions drawn together out of the wreckage of his relationship, as if they’re real people. Sure enough, by the time the song’s over, that bottle’s empty, Elvis’ nose smashed off. Each of the three verses ends with the same line: “Yabba dabba do, the king is gone, and so are you.” George Jones might have been a sad sack, but at least he was eloquent. All of his performances were like that: there was always some flourish, a bait and switch that turned the story of the song on its ear. Born in 1931 in Texas to musical parents, Jones listened to the Grand Ole Opry and playing harmonica and guitar at an early age. He busked and worked as a traveling musician, but it wasn’t until “White Lightnin” hit Billboard charts in 1959 that Jones became a commercial success. He steamplowed through the sixties with twenty-eight charting records–not counting the ones that didn’t make the Billboards–but trailed off later, once the drinking and methamphetamine use that had dogged him since his first appearances in recording studios began to hamper his prolificity. He became famous for no-shows, dragging out recording sessions with drunk antics. He forgot lyrics and slurred lines; other musicians snapped and walked out of the studio. By the end of the seventies, he’d been absent from music for so long that the industry had all but written him off. But in the last third of his life–for the course of his third marriage–Jones was mostly sober. In fact, he still had some pretty memorable career milestones ahead of him, starting with 1980’s wildly successful “He Stopped Loving Her Today.” Part of what’s remarkable about Jones is the sheer length and consistency of his career–though his personal life was rocky at best for much of the time he spent in a musical spotlight, his commitment to the country style, his vocal timbre and storytelling approach didn’t waver. That’s why you can put a song like “He Stopped Loving Her Today” next to Jones’ first hit “White Lightnin’.” The latter has a jumpy rockabilly quality whereas “He Stopped Loving Her Today” is so somber that Jones reportedly refuse to sing it to the correct tune at first and then complained, all through the recording process, that nobody would buy such a mopey single. But despite the chasm of time and personal problems between the songs, they don’t seem out sequence with each other–no easy feat, because they were written by different people, neither of whom was Jones. Both tracks reek of signature George Jones storytelling style.” - Carena Liptak

Buzz & Howl

Portland, Oregon-based indie label Deer Lodge Records has released a two-CD, thirty-track George Jones tribute album, which you can stream here.  Producers Ezra Meredith and Bert Sperling cherry-picked their favorite West Coast bands to record  songs from Jones’ lengthy back catalog, resulting in interpretations that range from punk and bluegrass to art-pop and reggae. “George Jones is a lifelong hero of mine, as well as one of the best singers of all-time in any genre,” says Sperling, who adds that working on the album “was one of the most rewarding and transcendent of my life.”” - Evan Schlansky

American Songwriter

Former Portlander and now LA producer Bert Sperling and his friend Ezra Meredith from Deer Lodge here in Portland, teamed up to sing the praises of one of their most favored guys. Actually they let a great group of musicians do the singing for the most part. Local-centric and LA musicians have gathered to offer up their touches to the George Jones mystique. In this conversation, Bert talks about the how and why and Kevin Blackwell of Portland's Sassparilla offers up the unique approach they took to use Jones' first number one hit. ” - Inessa Anderson

Portland Radio Project

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