Bernard Fowler has been an integral part of the Rolling Stones for so long now, that it’s hard to remember when they last toured without him (1982). Providing backing vocals on the largest stage in live music, Fowler has won fans the world over with not only his subtly textured voice and wide vocal range, but his stage presence and charisma as well.
Fowler’s resume outside of the Stones, reads even longer. In addition to scoring hits with the New York Citi Peech Boys in the 80’s, fronting highly acclaimed bands in the 90’s, and releasing two solo albums of his own, he has lent his voice and arranging talents to dozens of artists, ranging from Alice Cooper and Bonnie Raitt, to Motorhead and Michael Bublé.
In our conversation, Fowler talks about meeting Keith Richards as a teenager, overcoming performance anxiety, receiving encouragement from Harry Bellafonte, touring with Steven Seagal, and never forgetting the lessons his mother taught him.
Robert Ferraro: Bernard, spanning more than 30 years, you have written, produced, and sang on solo projects for every member of the Rolling Stones, and have performed on every Stones tour and album except one. I think you’ve got the gig.
Bernard Fowler: [laughs] I hope so. The solo stuff is how I came to them in the beginning. I met Mick first, and eventually ended up singing on his first solo record (1985’s ‘She’s The Boss’). Then, I just happened to run into him at a rehearsal studio a few years later as he was planning a solo tour, and he asked me to join him. A bit after that, I started touring with the Stones (1989’s ‘Steel Wheels’).
RF: When Mick asked you to do all of those things consecutively – his album, his tour, joining the Stones on the road – you must have been flying high.
Bernard: It was definitely a big moment, but it almost wasn’t! It didn’t go down as easily as I just said. Mick actually requested that I audition for his solo tour, and that struck a bad note with me because I had already worked with him on the record. My feelings were definitely getting in the way for a minute. Carmine Rojas (bassist for David Bowie, among others) spoke to me though, and he made me go in and do the audition. I killed it and got the gig, and I am forever grateful to him for having that talk with me.
RF: That changed the direction of your career, to put it mildly.
Bernard: Absolutely, and thank god for Carmine, because I’m still hanging around the Stones.
RF: Hanging around is understating it a bit. Whenever they play music, they ask you to play it with them.
Bernard: [laughs] And I love that.
RF: You sing mostly rock ‘n roll with those guys, but a look at any other part of your career reveals a list of musical interests that could make someone dizzy. Rock, Metal, Blues, Soul, Reggae, Funk, Jazz, etc. When you record or perform a genre of music, it sounds like you belong there. Is there anything in your background that explains this?
Bernard: That’s a great question. I don’t know for sure, but when I was very young, I became a product of the radio. I grew up in a predominantly black and Puerto Rican neighborhood in New York City, so most of what I heard while walking through the streets was soul and salsa. My Mom would play the radio all day though! And she didn’t listen only to the stations that played what I heard in the streets – she listened to rock stations, and even the occasional classical station. She’d play me that stuff to put me down for naps [laughs].
RF: You were absorbing a lot of different sounds.
RF: How about when you got older?
Bernard: When I started singing and had my first big single (1983’s ‘Don’t Make Me Wait’, with the Peech Boys) I was introduced to (bassist and producer) Bill Laswell. Bill opened my head up! He introduced me to music that I would have never come across if I hadn’t met him. I spent a lot of hours listening to all kinds of music with that man. He had a lot to do with my musical education.
RF: When I was young, the songs that attracted me tended to be upbeat, and most of them were sung by black artists: ‘Off The Wall’ by Michael Jackson, ‘Stomp’ by the Johnson Brothers, ‘Lady (You Bring Me Up)’ by the Commodores, ‘September’ by Earth Wind & Fire, ‘Celebration’ by Kool & The Gang, etc. But one of my favorites from that mix was elusive, because I never heard it on the radio. I only heard it on a cassette my grade school classmate would play on his boombox, and neither of us knew who was performing it! It was called ‘Life Is Something Special’, which I now know was recorded by the Peech Boys, and written and sung by you.
Bernard: Wow, you just blew me away with that. To this day, that song is one of my favorite things that I have ever written or performed. And it’s funny because not too long ago, I ran into someone who told me how that song pulled them through a really bad time. Even today, my daughters, who are in their 20’s and living in New York, tell me, ‘Dad, that song of yours was on the radio again today.’ It means a lot to me, and I’m very proud of it.
RF: Right around that period, you also had a big performance scene in a major motion picture, ‘Beat Street’, thanks to none other than Harry Belafonte. How did that happen?
Bernard: They originally called me to do a duet with someone, and it was not working out very well. Harry was the director, and he pulled me aside one day, and we went for a walk around the set of the movie. He said, ‘Mr. Fowler, there’s a different song that I want you to sing.’ At the same time, he was also telling me, ‘Mr. Fowler, you would be a great actor.’ He told me that often.
RF: Yeah, but what does he know? [both laugh]
Bernard: I seriously thought about acting later on, partly because of talks I had with Harry. But at that moment, I was there to sing a song. Harry introduced to me the new song, I recorded it, and went about my business. A week or so later, he called me and said, ‘Mr. Fowler, your song is going in the movie, and I want you to appear in the movie. You’re going to be a preacher leading the choir, and you’re going to sing the song in the movie.’
RF: It’s a really fun scene, and just like with your music career, you were offered a unique opportunity and dove right in. What is it about you that causes you to try so many things?
Bernard: I think that most people, when they are out of their comfort zone, tend to step back from it. When I am presented with something that’s outside my norm, my natural reaction is to step towards it. I don’t know exactly why that is, but I’ve never been afraid to fail, even though I’ve heard the word ‘No’ God knows how many times. Even if I’m unfamiliar with a genre of music, it doesn’t matter. If I can feel it, I’ll try it.
RF: In setting up this interview, your assistant told me, “You’re going to want to call him by such and such a time, because he’s in the studio, and sometimes when he’s recording, he gets on a roll”.
Bernard: [laughs] She’s right.
RF: Being aware of your reputation for constantly working and creating, that was perfect – like hearing that I can talk to Santa Claus, as long as he’s not busy with his naughty and nice list.
Bernard: A few years ago I realized that I had been spending so much time on the road, yet not enough time in the recording studio. I constantly get ideas that I want to work on, but I also have bills to pay. That takes me back on the road again and again. But lately, I’ve made a decision to spend more time in the studio, working on my ideas. Whether they ever come out is not as important to me as just being creative and leaving something for someone to listen to.
RF: You’re not old by any stretch, but live performance is a fleeting moment, while studio work is permanent. Did your age influence your decision?
Bernard: It did. That is exactly what I was thinking.
RF: I get the sense that if your talents were never in demand and you were working at Home Depot all these years, you would still write and play every chance you got, and list yourself as a musician on your taxes.
Bernard: You are absolutely right. That’s spot on.
RF: So did you have any mundane jobs before you made it in this business?
Bernard: There were a few, and one of them actually caused me to meet Keith Richards for the first time. I was working at a bottle making company in New York, designing bottles for perfume. One day I stopped in a store to get a sandwich after delivering one of those bottles, and Keith was in there. I was excited, because I was listening to ‘Tattoo You’ in my Walkman all the time. I walked away at first, but then I stopped and thought, “No, Bernard, you have to say something to him”. So, I went back and stood outside the store until Keith came out. I yelled out to him and he looked at me, shook my hand, and said, “Thank you, little brother”, and jumped in his limousine.
RF: [laughs] That’s an incredible chance meeting, considering what your future held. How old were you?
Bernard: I was probably 17.
RF: When you were working these jobs, did you consider, even for a second, that you could be happy doing those types of things for the rest of your life?
Bernard: Absolutely not. The best part of my day was getting out of there. The only job I liked was the last regular job I held, refinishing pianos. I ended up working there for almost 2 years after the Peech Boys had some troubles. I was good at it. My friends would send their guitars over for me to refinish. That was a cool job, even though I still wished I was in the studio and on stage, making music.
RF: That was also quite awhile ago?
Bernard: Yes. I was at that job, refinishing a 7 foot Bosendorfer piano when the news that John Lennon had died came over the radio.
RF: Your function with the Stones is usually referred to as ‘background singer’, but you’re a percussionist on stage as well, and that factors into a lot of Stones songs. Word is that you can play a bunch of instruments, but I’ve never seen you perform with one.
Bernard: I don’t really play, as much as I fiddle. When I’m recording or performing, I leave the real playing to the real players. I do always have a guitar in the house, and my first instrument was upright bass. When I was young I needed another class on my school schedule, when the music teacher saw me and pulled me aside. He said, “ You’re big and tall and have long arms. You should come in here and learn the upright bass. You can get your hands around this instrument.”
RF: [laughs] I can definitely see you rocking the upright.
Bernard: I played it for awhile and moved on to trombone, but eventually realized that my vocals were a lot better than my trombone playing. I said, “Bernard, you need to concentrate on singing.”
RF: You said that you let the real players play. On your own projects, those players include names like Slash, Chuck D, Steve Lukather (of Toto), members of Living Colour and even Ronnie (Wood), among many others. Most of these people are your friends. You seem like one of those musicians who prefer to have people around.
Bernard: Yes, absolutely. I enjoy the energy of other people. Also, I don’t know it all, and everything that I come up with is not great. I might have an idea, but someone else could have a better idea.
RF: Strength in collaboration.
Bernard: I’m a firm believer in that.
RF: Many other musicians apparently do as well, because they all seem to collaborate with you. [Bernard laughs] You’ve worked with artists as diverse as Willie Nelson and Yoko Ono, AC/DC and Duran Duran, the late Michael Hutchence, and most interestingly to me, Steven Seagal.
Bernard: You had to bring that one up didn’t you? [laughs]
RF: Of course [laughs]. You’ve worked with a number of musicians who have a reputation for being difficult, but Seagal sounds like he’d be a special case.
Bernard: Well, it was maybe 25 years or so ago. I was in need of a gig, and he had some really cool people playing in the band, one of which was Rhonda Smith (of Prince fame). So I took the job, but it got a little strange.
RF: How so?
Bernard: He asked me to come to his house, and when I got there, things just felt very weird. There was this buddhist guru type guy there, and (Seagal) seemed to be adhering to a calm, eastern philosophy. But when the man left, he immediately turned into somebody else! The best way to describe it was that he was Jewish while the rabbi was there, but the minute the guy walked out, he had a pork chop in his mouth.
RF: [laughs] Did you tour with him?
Bernard: I did, but that was strange too. At one point we went down to play a show in Jamaica. When we got there, we discovered that the Jamaican people were very angry with him and were protesting our gig! They weren’t going to let us play. He had done a movie (Marked For Death) where all the villains were Jamaican, and he was killing all of them off. He had to have a sit down meeting with Rita Marley and receive her blessing to play. She had to speak to the Jamaican people before we could perform. It was a scary experience for awhile there,
because, you know…
RF: Because you were there with him.
RF: A difficult guy who is not your friend, and someone I assume you were unwilling to take a hit for.
Bernard: That is definitely someone that I would not take a hit for. My brothers in the Rolling Stones? I’d take a hit for any of them. But I wasn’t taking anything for him.
RF: Why is it that so many vastly different artists, who think so differently about so many things, all agree on you?
Bernard: Wow. [long pause] Well, I’m grateful to do what I do. Everybody has a little bit of ego, but I’ve always been one to keep mine in check. When I first started going on the road with my music, my mother said, “Honey, stay humble. Don’t believe everything that people tell you, and don’t believe your own shit, because the minute you do, it all goes away.” That advice has always stayed with me.
RF: Good advice for anyone, but great advice for an artist.
Bernard: It was, and is. When someone calls me to do a job, I come in, check my ego at the door, and make it clear that I’m there for them. Then I work very hard at trying to give them what they’re asking me for.
(This is best evidenced by a YouTube video titled, ‘Bernard Fowler, Session at Studio City Sound’, that shows Fowler working in the studio for another artist, bringing an otherwise pedestrian song to life by rapidly creating, arranging and recording vocal lines)
RF: You mentioned hard work. Many people consider sports and entertainment the toy departments of society. In reality, it can be fun, but it’s rarely easy, no?
Bernard: There are times when it’s easy, and it can be fun, but even when it’s both, you still work hard to create that. When I’m working for someone else, I work hard because I want to move them. I want them to be smiling when I leave there, and I want them to call me again.
RF: It sounds like common sense, but just like in any profession, I’m sure there are people who don’t pay any mind to it, or your mother’s lesson.
Bernard: Ask anyone that knows me or who has played with me when I do my solo trips. I don’t care how good someone is, or how good they sound. If they’re an asshole, they stay home. I don’t want anything to do with people like that, personally or professionally.
RF: Your voice and your professionalism have taken you in a lot of interesting directions. I would consider working for Lemmy of Motorhead and Johnny Rotten of the Sex Pistols as two of them. What did you do for them?
Bernard: For Motorhead, I doubled all of Lemmy’s lead vocals on the ‘Orgasmatron’ album. Bill Laswell was producing the record, and called me down to the studio to give it a shot. I have no idea why Bill asked me to do that, but we both discovered that it was something I was really good at, and I’ve done it for other artists.
RF: How about John Lydon?
Bernard: With Johnny Rotten, I was originally hired to be his vocal coach, which sounded like a challenge for me, because John is John. I wasn’t going to turn him into Frank Sinatra overnight. But it turned out not to be about that – it was simply to get more range out of him. I spent a week with him on his range, and when it came time to do his vocals, I showed him a few tricks and some things in regard to phrasing. I also doubled some of his leads and handled all of the background arrangements. We had a great time. I loved working with John.
RF: Did you like the finished product?
Bernard: Oh man! I love that record! They call it ‘The Generic Album’. It was just called ‘Album’. Or ‘Cassette’. Or ‘CD’, depending on how you bought it. Ginger Baker played drums on it. I also remember standing outside the studio and hearing some insane guitar being played, to the point where I said, “ Who the fuck is that?” I walked in the studio to see, and sitting in a chair was a young Steve Vai.
RF: There are artists out there that push back against their greatest hit, whether it be a song, an album, or even a band. Does it bother you when an interviewer or fan meets you and wants to talk about the Stones primarily?
Bernard: You know, it used to bother me a whole lot more. Now it doesn’t. I wear the badge with honor. I’ve done a good enough job that they want me with them whenever they go out, and I’m proud of that.
RF: It’s certainly their gig, and they’re an English band, but fans identify you as a key part of the Stones, and they expect to see you there – evidenced by the way they took notice when (fellow longtime Stones backing vocalist) Lisa Fischer suddenly wasn’t there.
Bernard: You think they took notice? Shit, I took notice too! [Robert laughs] I knew Lisa years before we started working with the Stones. She’s one of my oldest and dearest friends.
RF: You and Lisa, and to some extent, Blondie (Chapman, famed Beach Boy and Stones collaborator) have brought the Stones to places they would have never gone without you. Songs like the stripped version of ‘Slippin’ Away’, and the studio versions of ‘How Can I Stop?’ and ‘Thief In The Night’. Your contributions on those three records are tangible.
Bernard: You are very perceptive. I take a lot of pride in ‘How Can I Stop?’ in particular. I was lucky enough to be in the room when they were creating that song. I was listening to Keith write it one night, and started arranging a background treatment in my head at the same time. So when Don Was (producer) was trying to get the background vocals down and it wasn’t quite working, I stepped up and said, “I got this. Let me do this.” I gave everybody their parts and we went to it and I honestly still get goosebumps when I hear it.
RF: It also has one of the great Keith Richards vocals. If the Stones had parted ways for good in the 80’s, I could envision Keith spending part of his career singing ballads and standards.
Bernard: There’s no doubt about it. What I don’t think a lot of people know about Keith, is that not only is he the baddest man in Rock ‘n Roll, but Keith is a balladeer. He loves a great love song.
RF: Have you ever made a mistake or two or three onstage with the Stones, that you can remember?
Bernard: There’s been more than a few. You know, even though I’ve been with them such a long time, I’m still a fan of theirs. So as a fan with the best seat in the house, there are times where I just get caught up watching them operate. [laughs] Sometimes I’ll be watching Mick too long and miss a cue. Stuff like that.
RF: I’m not sure if many people notice when something like that happens, but even if they did, they probably wouldn’t mind. The Stones are all about beautiful mistakes and happy accidents.
Bernard: That’s a great way to put it. There’s a feel to the Rolling Stones, and when you are up there playing with them, you feel it even more. You’re constantly on the edge of your seat. And if something does go wrong, I’ll sometimes wonder, ‘How the hell are they gonna get out of this?’, but you know what? They always do.
RF: Keith has described them as escape artists.
Bernard: They always do escape. I guess I should say we always do, and when we do, we look at each other with a quick smile or a laugh because we know.
RF: Even though it might be unpredictable in that way, a Stones show doesn’t have a whole lot of improvisation. Whatever unscripted moments do arise, usually involve you. For instance, some nights Mick will sing the coda of ‘Beast of Burden’ on his own, and other nights he’ll motion for you to come to the front and help him bring it home. It seems like you don’t have any idea as to when that is going to happen.
Bernard: That’s very true. I never know.
RF: Would you prefer that you knew?
Bernard: Either way is good, but I like riding on the edge, so no warning is fine. Just throw me in the middle of the fire. Let’s burn!
RF: [laughs] The friends I have who don’t enjoy the Stones, usually prefer their rock more aggressive or precise. If that’s what you’re looking for, admittedly, the Stones are not your band. I always felt that the loose and imperfect way that they play their music accentuates the heart inside of it.
Bernard: Oh, man. See, that sounds like something I would say! For sure.
RF: Jagger and Richards have written most of that music, and nearly 40 ‘Top Forty’ hits to date. From your close vantage point, what makes their partnership work?
Bernard: I’ve never met anyone who has his ear to the ground as much as Mick does. He is constantly listening to and appreciating new music, and looking for the next cool thing. Keith will like something new if it moves him, but he’s more of a traditionalist. The glue for those guys is all the music that they grew up on, and the history of it. They share that, and I think it helps them work together.
RF: It also might help that they’re a little Yin and Yang.
Bernard: They are definitely Yin and Yang, and that can help when you’re writing, but there have been times when that Yin and Yang has had them at odds with each other as well. Now they know they can’t do it without each other. I came to the Stones when they first started working together after a long feud between them…
RF: “You’re not the only one with Mixed Emotions”
Bernard: That’s right. And the the fact that they were able to get past it and work together (on Steel Wheels) and continue this thing for so long, is amazing.
RF: To continue for so long, and at such a high level. Prince, AC/DC, Bon Jovi, Rod Stewart, The Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dave Matthews & Kanye West have all opened for the Stones. They have no fear of being upstaged.
Bernard: It’s always been like that. They are incredibly confident people, onstage and off.
RF: Guns N Roses opened for them when they were, hands down, the hottest band on the planet.
Bernard: Absolutely. That’s right. I’ll never forget when we had Motley Cruë open up for us as well. Everyone knows the reputation of The Cruë, but it was amazing to see them turn into children when meeting the Rolling Stones. Children! Eyes wide, like little boys. I’ve seen that occur with many a band.
RF: There are almost 4 billion human males living on earth, and you work with one of the 20 most famous among them. Having known and traveled with Mick Jagger for over 30 years, are there aspects of his life that you wouldn’t want?
Bernard: There are a few. Absolutely.
RF: What part would you like the least?
Bernard: People taking my picture everywhere I go. They take a million pictures of Mick when he’s out somewhere, and some random woman he doesn’t know will be in the shot, and they’ll print, “Who is Mick Jagger’s new girlfriend?” on the front page. That stuff is ridiculous to me. I wouldn’t want my privacy invaded the way his is constantly invaded.
RF: Still, you have some renown, and you stand out in other ways. You’re a tall, handsome, African American guy with cool hair who just looks like an artist. Do people come up to you while you’re grabbing a cup of coffee and say, “I know you. Are you famous?”
Bernard: Yes, I get that a lot. It comes with the territory. Even though it’s nowhere close to the level of a Mick Jagger, I do trade off some of my anonymity in order to be involved in what I love. It’s part of it, and I accept that.
RF: What is the biggest misconception you hear about the benefits of being associated with the Stones?
RF: Can I throw one out at you?
RF: That record companies will simply bankroll and promote a solo project of yours as a result.
Bernard: [long, loud laughter] Let’s just say that in some ways being with the Stones works to your great advantage, and in others it does not. That would be one of the ways it does not.
RF: In 1993 you fronted Charlie Watts’ jazz band, and sang the old standard, ‘Time After Time’, on the Conan O’Brien show. It’s a beautiful version, and my favorite recorded performance of yours, across your career. On that night, with Charlie on the kit way in the back, you were the front and center focus for a national television audience. The spotlight could be intoxicating. Did you think, “I’d love to have this type of attention all the time?”
Bernard: It was nice, but no. I’ve always had a solo career of sorts, and I love what I’m doing. It’s been part of my mindset since I was singing with the Peech Boys. When I’m not working with the Stones, I’m always doing something with Bernard. It just hasn’t taken off as of yet. One day, they’ll get it. [laughs] And you know what? One day “they” may not get it. But as long as the people who choose to listen are getting it? I’ll have to be satisfied.
RF: It’s interesting that you say that, because there are two things that can be said about the fan reviews that appear online for your solo albums, ‘Friends With Privileges’ and ‘The Bura’. One, is that there aren’t nearly enough of them. Two, is that the reviews that do appear, give both records high marks.
Bernard: I appreciate hearing that. This may sound corny, but I promise you it’s true: I don’t sing for the label, I sing to get that reaction from my fans. My fans are who I’m singing for.
RF: I think both of those albums are strong, but ‘The Bura’ seems more focused.
Bernard: Yes, it absolutely is. See, you really are very perceptive. Friends With Privileges was something that I needed to get off my chest. I just needed to get comfortable with doing a record, so I put a bunch of material together, recorded it with my friends, and put it out. It had no overall focus.
RF: Why was ‘The Bura’ different?
Bernard: ‘The Bura’ was not supposed to be what it became. I was out doing a lot of gigs, and I never had any product to sell after after the show, so I said, ‘I’ll go into the studio and record a fast record so that the fans will have something to go home with.’ But once I started writing the original songs and they were turning out the way that they were? I said, ‘Oh my God, I can’t do this quick. I need to slow down and make a proper record’. Some of the songs took weeks to do, and some of them took five minutes, but all of them received the attention they deserved.
RF: Those are just the songs that you wrote. Some work went into your cover choices as well, like having Chuck D rap on the Stones’, ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’.
Bernard: It’s funny, because I participated in a tribute concert for the Stones at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, with a bunch of other great musicians. One of them was Chuck. The word was that he was going to perform a rap on ‘Can’t You Hear Me Knocking’, but in rehearsal, he wasn’t doing anything at all. He was just listening. So, come the night of the show, I was eager to see what he was going to bring. He came out that night and did a rap on that song that took my head off! Chuck was thrown in the middle of all this Rock ‘n Roll royalty, and rose to the occasion and then some.
RF: So you said, “Let’s get my record some of that.”
Bernard: That’s what I said [laughs]. Chuck and I didn’t know each other, but we had many close friends in common. I called him up and asked him if he would rap over the same song for ‘The Bura’, and he said, “Sure Bernard, send me the track”. I sent him the track, he sent it back with his part, and I’m still smiling. He killed it.
RF: In addition to your solo records and all the studio work, you’ve been a full fledged member of some critically acclaimed bands as well, like Nicklebag and Tackhead.
Bernard: Nicklebag I did with the great guitarist, Stevie Salas. We were strong. That was probably my best project as a frontman. Tackhead actually had a record deal, which caused me to move to London. We had incredible players in that band, and were a little ahead of our time. Unfortunately, the same year that our label signed us, they also signed Wilson Phillips and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles.
RF: Safe commercial bets.
Bernard: That’s right. Were they going to spend their money on music that they really couldn’t get their head around, or were they going to spend it on Wilson Phillips? They eventually dropped us, and everyone went on to different projects. It took the wind right out of our sails.
RF: One thread that runs throughout your career, is the confidence you have in your abilities. The very first time you worked with the Rolling Stones in the studio, you told Mick you had an idea for an experimental intro for the song ‘Continental Drift’. He let you record it, and it made it onto the Steel Wheels album. Have you always had that type of confidence?
Bernard: Not at all. Early on, I had a real anxiousness about performing. I was very shy, and I would get really nervous in recording sessions. Having some nerves is normal, but mine were getting in the way of me being able to do the things that I was hired to do.
RF: That could have been a career killer. How’d you get past it?
Bernard: I was asked to sing for (famous composer) Philip Glass, whose career was at its zenith at the time. So now here I am, this young kid, being asked to sing for him. I remember walking to the studio with my girlfriend, and telling her that I was really nervous. Being that nervous made me angry at myself. So, I finally got tired of it and said, ‘Fuck it. I don’t care what happens. I’m going in there, and I’m gonna do this’. It was like my mantra. ‘Fuck It’.
RF: You obviously overcame the crippling anxiety, but do you still get nerves?
Bernard: Oh, absolutely.
RF: At this point, after having performed with everyone, everywhere, what causes the nerves? The size of the audience? The type of people you’re playing for?
Bernard: It’s a little bit of both. I’ll get a rush of nerves and adrenaline running through me before live shows, and I’ll have to get a little angry, calm myself down, and just act like no one is out there. If a singer doesn’t control that before they hit the stage, it will wear them out early. I’ve seen it before with rock singers. They’re so pumped up that they’re huffing and puffing, and it’s only the first song! They’re not out of shape, it’s just that the adrenaline has grabbed a hold of them.
RF: Does seeing Mick trot out there and front a band in front of 70,000 people ever put your nerves in perspective?
Bernard: You would think [laughs]. With my solo stuff, maybe. When I’m with those guys, I feel this energy coming from the crowd when I’m walking to the stage, and I experience a few nerves. But once I’m on my side of the stage and ready to do my thing, and I hit that first note? It all starts to settle. The machine is running!
RF: As is your career Bernard. The amount of projects that you are continually involved in is exhausting to keep up with, and the list of what you have accomplished is long and dense. I suspect that one day, when you’re in the old age home for musicians, you’ll look back and be very pleased with yourself.
Bernard: I imagine that I will be, but I think I still have a whole lot more to do. I know I do.
Follow Bernard on Instagram at: bernardfowlersings
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Bernard’s website is bernardfowler.com
Friends With Privileges and The Bura are sold at itunes.com
Robert Ferraro is a freelance writer and broadcasting school graduate, who has produced radio talk shows, and Major League Baseball broadcasts. In between, he has held over 50 menial jobs, all of which he departed when he couldn’t find anyone interesting to talk to.