Interview: Paul Bergmann

Los Angeles-based crafter of forlorn folk Paul Bergmann grew up in rural Massachusetts; he says his influences came from growing up in the country, yet admits, “It’s funny because I didn’t actively listen to a lot of folk or country growing up but it was always there.  My parents liked a lot of the 60s folk stuff. I’d always kind of written it off as my parents’ music. Then I realized how much I liked it and related to it, it’s very down-to-earth and poetic.”

Bergmann ventured to California for college, returned to Massachusetts afterwards, formed a surf-punk band, and made his way to Los Angeles to fulfill his “big rockstar dreams”; the surf-punk band  ran its course, and the singer found himself lured back to his folk foundations.  He eventually joined forces with legendary Fairfax Recordings to release his new 5-song EP, Romantic Thoughts.  “It was interesting to work with a label. I’ve been pretty DIY and it took some getting used to to work artistically with someone else, but it’s been good.  I worked with some producers I might not have worked with otherwise.  I’m used to being a little more lo-fi, it’s been interesting to do stuff with a little better production quality.  It’s cool to see my music portrayed that way,” he says.

Bergman finds inspiration in his surroundings in Los Angeles; “It’s this sunny city on the outside but there’s something kind of sinister, like a dark underbelly that you can’t really see that is bubbling below the surface.  I’ve been playing on that; my first EP has some gothic, country-type stuff on it.  It feels very “L.A.’ to me,” he explains.  Even a cursory listen to the EP’s offerings reveals a  meandering melancholy, the perfect soundtrack for a trip across a dark desert.

Produced by Kevin Augunas and Nick Waterhouse, the music conjures up the sonic specters of Woody Guthrie, Johnny Cash, and even a little touch of Willie Nelson–“[The producers] gave it a full band sound; the one song I worked with them the most on has a signature Waterhouse sound.  It’s a nice collaboration.  I had a melody and some lyrics and he helped me flesh it out and gave it a big cinematic sound.  They had faith in my voice and in my songs and pushed it all toward a bigger level,” says Bergmann, who says of his own musical stylings, “I think a lot of it seems from a longing; I’m one of those people who is perpetually unsatisfied. the grass is always greener elsewhere, and I’m alway longing; it’s not meant to be sad music, but it is a little rooted in nostalgia.  On the EP, I think “Ocean Song” is a good example of that.  I’m really into lyrics and my favorite songs are the ones that are sort of repetitive, emotionally and dynamics-wise they build over time, by just telling a story and by just the way they’re played.  I feel like it really captures the essence of all the feelings i put into my music, every sentiment I’ve put forth.  It’s all passing metaphors and abstract thought. when I play it live, i never have to say anything, and people come up to me afterward and tell me it’s their favorite.  It resonates with people.”

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Susan Hubbard

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