It’s been a while since his debut album, and Adrian Bourgeois can hold it back no longer. Adrian returns with a massive collection of songs, 24 tracks that feels like an anthology. Richly melodic, the singer songwriter covers all the bases here.
Opening with the delicate ballad “New December” that swells to a full orchestral production. Another early standout is “Everybody Knows Its Me” a sweet combination of both Todd Rundgren and Nilsson. Then the album veers into folk singer mode with “Pictures of Incense” and “Jonah.” Comparisons to Robert Harrison (Cotton Mather) come out on certain tracks, “Waterfalls” slide guitar goodness and the sharp lyrics on “Hanging Day” stand out. The Phil Spector wall of sound approach works well on “Aquarium” and the yearning ballad “Don’t Look Away” is another winner.
And although not every melody sticks with you, so many pop styles are explored its hard to find an outright flop here. More gems include the “Shot In The Dark” which is a memorable duet with Paige Lewis. “Sunflower” is another epic love story in pop form. He explores a roots rock sound with “The Howling Wind” and bouncy electronica on “Better” and “Parachutes,” but Adrian really shines with the orchestral ballads throughout. There is a lot of music here, so give yourself time to drink it all in. Highly Recommended and it gets added to my year end list. Available on Bandcamp and Adrian’s web site, plus you can pick up his debut for free.
6 p.m. Sunday
Luigi’s Slice & Fungarden
Truly a labor of love, “Pop/Art,” Adrian Bourgeois’ new 24-song double album, was recorded in the singer’s bedroom over a two-year period. Actually, it was a couple of different bedrooms, as Bourgeois left his native Sacramento for L.A. last year. “Pop/Art” centers on the singer’s wholesomely inviting delivery set against lush melodies and crafty arrangements – the kind of wild-card album that easily sneaks into conversations about standout offerings in the 21st-century, post-Beatles pop-rock genre. Speaking of the Fab Four, Sunday happens to be the 50th anniversary of the famed Ed Sullivan appearance – Bourgeois (along with openers Ricky Berger and Paige Lewis) has some plans to mark the occasion, also the first time copies of “Pop/Art” will be available locally. 1050 20th St. $7. www.facebook.com/luigisfungarden
Posted on 29 January 2014 by Barone
Words by James Barone • Photo by Caitlin Bellah
The digital music revolution, with its emphasis on EPs and singles, has set into motion the extinction of the traditional long-form album, but local singer/songwriter Adrian Bourgeois says not so fast.
On Feb. 4, 2014, Bourgeois is set to release his latest work, Pop/Art, a 24-song double album. It will be his first release since his self-titled debut, which he put out in 2007.
“You keep hearing that the album is dead and people have such short attention spans and nobody wants to listen to more than 30 seconds of a song… So what’s the logical response to that? Make a double album,” Bourgeois tells Submerge over the phone. “There are really no rules to this thing anymore. Why not just do the absolute worst possible thing to do? You might as well, right? If you love it, if it’s what you want to make, then make it.”
Bourgeois says he’s been working on the songs that appear on Pop/Art for “seven years or so.” After the release of his first album, he’d come to something of a crossroads in his musical career. His debut was getting good reviews and seemed to be generating interest in the industry, but things weren’t quite happening for him just yet. He was unsure whether or not to keep working his first album or start working on a new one.
“I started talking to a couple of different people about the prospects of making a record, and a couple of opportunities came up, but they got postponed,” he says. “All the while, I was writing more songs. At some point along the way, I decided I got to make another album at some point, and waiting for another opportunity to come around is not really getting me anywhere these days, so I should probably take matters into my own hands and do it myself.”
So, Bourgeois armed himself with $500 worth of recording equipment that he says he’d purchased with Christmas money and took a route that many indie musicians have done in the digital age: He started making an album in his bedroom.
While this may sound like a very personal, intimate process (and it was for Bourgeois), the songwriter says he focused more on the craft of the songs as opposed to the feelings behind them.
“A lot of times when I’ll write a song, the first thing that I’ll hear is the track. I’ll hear the finished product before I’ve ever written anything, and then it’s almost like learning the song,” he says.
“It was kind of liberating to sit down and bring them to life.”
He worked on Pop/Art for two and a half years, mostly on his own, playing almost all of the instruments. However, as he said to Submerge in an email, the album wasn’t entirely a one-man show. Cake trumpeter Vince DiFiore and Probyn Wilson (the Brian Wilson Band and many others) both make appearances, as do local colleagues Autumn Sky and Ricky Berger. Bourgeois’ father Brent also pitched in. Bourgeois confides that Berger’s contribution to Pop/Art extended beyond just lending her vocal talents to the record.
“There were some songs on here that I sent to her and she said, ‘You’re better than this. Keep working on it,’ and I trust her enough to hear that from her,” Bourgeois says. “The album would not be as good as it was if not for her.”
Pop/Art is an instantly gratifying album highlighted by Bourgeois’ creamy vocals and lush arrangements. Songs such as “Jonah” provide a grittier rock punch while the piano-driven opener “New December” harkens back to pop’s grand, vinyl past…you know, back when people actually listened to albums en masse. At 24 tracks, it’s impossible to find one that’s simply filler. However, though the album certainly stands as an accomplishment, setting a high bar for Sacramento’s 2014 local releases, Bourgeois remains humble.
“I almost consider this double album to be a complete underachievement because in the amount of time it took me to make this, The Beatles recorded Rubber Sole, Revolver, Sgt. Pepper, Magic Mystery Tour and The White Album, so this is me slumming it I guess, when you think about it, in comparison,” Bourgeois says.
Bourgeois lends further insight into the making of Pop/Art in the following interview.
Were you shopping your debut album to labels?
Yes and no. A label is one potential tool that I considered and flirted with over the years. My goal is to get my music heard by as many people as possible. There were people along the way who have helped me a lot and have provided opportunities. Any musician will tell you this: You get a lot of people with great intentions who say they love you and the music you make and they’re going to make things happen for you, and then you never hear from them again. There’s a lot of that, and that’s fine. I understand there are all sorts of factors that need to be taken into consideration. The good thing about today is that it’s a lot more possible than maybe ever before to say, “I’m going to put it out myself, and I’m going to distribute it myself.” The tools I have to do that really aren’t that much less than what anyone else has. They might have the relationships and the contacts to get it heard by, quote-unquote, the right people…but I don’t even know what “the right people” means anymore. At this point, I want people who like the music to hear it, and those are “the right people.”
It was six or seven years since your last album. Were you getting disillusioned at any point?
I grew up in a musical family. My dad was in the music industry for a long time… I kind of had a balanced view and a realistic view of how everything worked, but it was frustrating sometimes, definitely. I think “Shot in the Dark” [from Pop/Art] was written about that… But I understand. The music industry is a place of short attention spans. They hear you and they love you, but then they hear someone else that they love. There are just so many different factors that I stopped analyzing it too much and took a proactive approach. What can I do to make the life that I want for myself.
Did having a father in the music industry help you gain that perspective?
Yeah, absolutely. It’s definitely given me a lot of experience without necessarily having to experience it first in a lot of ways, if that makes sense.
On the other hand, I feel like I know too much because I’m quicker sometimes to not try something because I know it doesn’t work that way. And then you see some band that knows nothing about the music industry and does something extremely rash and stupid and it makes them world famous. There’s that Catch 22. But overall, he’s great to have around for advice and his years of experience.
You said these songs were written over a seven-year period. You must have gone through a lot of growth as a songwriter and as a person in that time. Do you hear that when you listen to the album? Does it almost sound like a scrapbook of the past seven years of your life?
It’s interesting, because I don’t think I’ve changed all that much as a person over the course of my life. If you’d known me as a 6-year-old, I’m pretty much the same guy, I think…maybe a little wiser, maybe a little less. I think it’s the same thing with my music. A lot of people at some point go through this radical transformation, but that’s never been me. I’ve just evolved over time and refined who I was, but I’ve always been at the core the same person. That’s why I think songs from six or seven years ago fit just fine next to songs I wrote even in the process of recording [Pop/Art]. But it is interesting hearing that growth. It’s almost discombobulating when I imagine what these songs were written about. One song on the record might be about meeting somebody, and the next song is about being in a relationship with that person, and the song after that is about breaking up with that person…
At the end of the day, if nothing else happens, it’s something that I’m always going to appreciate having. It’s like a diary or anything you have in your life that just captures this period of who you were. I’ve never been one for tattoos, but this album is my tattoo, I guess. This is me and who I was and the imprint I made at that point in time.
You said you hear the whole arrangement before you even start writing a song. Have you always listened to music that way? Do you think, “OK, this is how this was put together?”
When I listen to music—I overanalyze everything—but with music, I expect it to be really good. I don’t listen to a wide variety of music. When you ask them what kind of music they like, most people will say they like a little bit of everything, but I’m the exact opposite of that. I like a lot of a few things. It’s less necessarily important to me as to how it makes me feel or if it relates to me, I’m like, “Is this a really great lyric? Is this a really great melody? How is this arrangement brilliant?” And if it isn’t, I don’t listen to it. If I was stuck having to listen to just The Beatles or The Beach Boys for the rest of my life, I probably wouldn’t complain too much.
Celebrate the release of Pop/Art at Luigi’s Fungarden at 6 p.m. on Feb. 9, 2014. In the meantime, pre-order a copy of the album today at Adrianbourgeois.bandcamp.com, and you’ll be able to download a digital copy of the entire thing immediately. Pop/Art will be officially released on Feb. 4, 2014.
Hailing from our own Sacramento area, Adrian Bourgeois is set to release his new album, Pop/Art, early next year, and the result certainly lives up to his aspirations for the album. Bourgeois has said the title “is as much a description as a statement of intent” and says that the goal was to bridge the gap between pop music and music intended as high art. He has done so quite effectively, alternately inspiring the listener to contemplation with thoughtful lyricism and composition, and making you want to simply enjoy the musicality. More than anything though, my experience with this album was that it encouraged me to share it with others.
Though the artists Bourgeois has been compared to have never been on my personal list of favorites, something about the way in which Bourgeois takes cues from artists such as the Beach Boys, Elvis Costello, Ben Folds, and Rufus Wainwright, and adds his own personal touch creates a musical quality that is immediately attractive. His work is accessible and diverse, the album sounding “sort of like a greatest hits collection,” in his own words. The material used for the 24-song album spans a long period of time, some songs being written years prior to the release, just after Bourgeois completed his first album in high school. With so much time and opportunity for influence, it is no wonder that there is a wide range of sounds in this album.
In his mid-twenties now, Bourgeois recently made the move to Los Angeles, where he continued working on Pop/Art, almost entirely independently. Bourgeois mentioned there being a few offers from recording companies to help produce his work, but found that “all the ‘almost’ offers” were only putting off what he could produce himself. With only a few key guests assisting with harmonies and orchestral instruments, Bourgeois finished Pop/Art, knowing it was more important that the album be heard, rather than wait on offers that never quite came through. In order to take on such an endeavor, Bourgeois taught himself how to play many of the instruments heard on his album, sometimes taking days to get down a single part. Bourgeois says the challenge was “not just to get the part right, but to capture the imagined chemistry of a band.”
Bourgeois describes the effect of having only himself to answer to creatively as a positive one, being able to make his music in the most honest way, rather than trying to keep commercial success at the forefront. In listening to the finished work, it is easy to hear the earnest quality of a performance and the harmony of a polished composition, created and captured by one artist with a mastery of his art.
After completing his long-term project, Bourgeois said, “It’s really scary to finally finish what you’ve been working on.” Having enjoyed the work of making music, the task now lies with getting it heard, something that is central to Bourgeois in his career as a musician. The singer spoke fondly about past tours and expressed a desire to possibly go on tour again in the spring or summer with his band, See How They Run, though he hasn’t announced official plans so far. For now, Bourgeois is settling into LA’s music scene, enjoying the atmosphere of being surrounded by other motivated artists.
As a musician and as an individual, Adrian Bourgeois shows a kind of enthusiasm for his work and life that is a delight to encounter. His work in Pop/Art shows that passion for the different sides of the musical world, embracing both the simple and deep paths that music can take, and combining them quite beautifully. In all, my take on this album and this artist is that he has provided music that will be enjoyed by any who come to it willing to find enjoyment.
The official release for Pop/Art is February 4, 2014. You can also pre-order the album now at adrianbourgeois.bandcamp.com and get an immediate download.
Paige Lewis (left) and Adrian Bourgeois have been friends since they met as kids in Nashville, Tenn.
PHOTO COURTESY OF ADRIAN BOURGEOIS
Catch See How They Run at 8 p.m. on Thursday, November 14, at Harlow's Restaurant & Nightclub, located at 2708 J Street; cover is $5. Ricky Berger and Autumn Sky are also on the bill.
Just five months ago, Adrian Bourgeois said bon voyage to Sacramento and jumped with both feet into the unknown.
Or, as some people call it: Los Angeles.
Now the singer-songwriter is back—for one night, anyway—to show off his new band, See How They Run. While the band is technically only a few months old, the project has been many years in the making.
Bourgeois and bandmate Paige Lewis, who will perform Thursday, November 14, at Harlow’s Restaurant & Nightclub, have known each other almost half their lives. Over the years, the pair has collaborated on songs and performances—even though they’ve rarely lived in the same town long enough to give it much time.
Then, this past June, the twosome ditched their respective towns—Sacramento for Bourgeois, and Houston for Lewis—and met up in Los Angeles to give a joint venture the old college try.
“It’s always been kind of frustrating, because I feel like whenever over the years we’ve collaborated and performed together, it’s been the best combination,” Bourgeois said. “We always thought throughout the years, ’Wouldn’t it be great if we could actually do this full time?’ [But] we never had the opportunity until this year.”
Part of what makes See How They Run work so well lies in just how different the two musicians’ influences are.
Bourgeois grew up on a steady diet of the Beatles, Bob Dylan and a garden variety of ’60s-era rock ’n’ roll.
Lewis’ influences, in contrast, include more modern-pop singers such as Sheryl Crow and Alanis Morissette, with a subtle undercurrent of country. Together, the duo creates moody, lush pop arrangements that take elements from both worlds. Their voices pair to create gorgeous and sometimes haunting harmonies.
“When we work together, it tends to be more experimental and esoteric than [the kinds of songs] either of us comes up with individually,” Bourgeois said. “We take each other to a different place.”
The two met as kids in Nashville, Tenn. The Bourgeois family moved there in 1994 and stayed until 2002, when they moved back to Sacramento. Bourgeois’ father, Brent, himself a former musician with a few 1980s-era Top 40 hits under his belt (including “I Don’t Mind at All” with his former band Bourgeois Tagg) moved the family to Nashville for his new job as a record producer and head of A&R at the Christian label Word Records.
Lewis was one of the artists he discovered and ultimately signed. She was 15 at the time, and Bourgeois was 12.
As he got older, Bourgeois followed in his dad’s footsteps, honing his craft as a singer-songwriter. In 2008, he released a Beatles-influenced self-titled debut album; currently, he’s readying to release a double album, Pop/Art, in February 2014.
Lewis, who has released several records, including the 2011 album One Good Day, didn’t see her career take off with Word Records. So the singer headed to Los Angeles where she made a go as an indie artist before moving to Houston.
Whenever the two landed in the same city along their travels over the years, they worked on songs and performed during each other’s sets.
“Even with just that small amount of time, those shows always felt like the best that I was ever a part of because I felt that our voices blended so well together,” Bourgeois said.
Now, although each is still working on solo material, they’ve been able to give more focus to their joint project. Here, both sing and play guitar and the sound is fuller, enhanced with looping pedals and backing tracks.
“Both of us have spent 10 years playing bars and coffee shops as solo artists. Now we can create a full-band sound with just two people,” Bourgeois said. “I think we’re both thinking, ’Wow, I wish we thought of this years ago.’”
This is an album that took a long time to review. Like the album cover, full of galaxies and nebulae, Adrian Bourgeois’s new album, Pop/Art, is a big concept. Really big. In the 24 songs, Adrian’s laid it all on the line. And in the end, after the last note echoes into the distance, that’s a good thing. It’s a bit messy, full of beautiful lyrics, catchy melodies and great production, and it’s well worth a listen.
There are a lot of ideas and tones dancing through this album – catchy love songs reminiscent of the Beatles (‘Everybody Knows It Was Me’), aching ballads (‘Don’t Look Away’), songs full of angst-filled questions about the purpose of life and being lost and found (‘Waterfalls,’ ‘The Lost and The Free’). Some of them resonate stronger than others, but the more you listen, the more you realize every song is a piece of the tapestry that is Adrian Bourgeois. Almost every song has a different style to it, and each track is fully produced, from the western ‘Waterfalls’ complete with wailing harmonica solo and bouncing piano to heavy rock anthem “The Lost and The Free,” which has a taste of both The Killers and Bruce Springsteen.
Immediately, the lyrics stand out as the strong point of the album. Adrian has a spectacular way with words; he paints a picture clearly and knows how to hit the heart at just the right moment. Some of the best moments of the album come when he turns a common phrase unexpectedly into a piece of poetry:
She makes him laugh and he laughs like a child
Who would’ve thought laughter could grow in the wild
You’re only as strong as what your hands can hold,
And what your hands can’t hold,
You can’t claim as yours
(As Your Hands Can Hold)
This isn’t an album for all audiences. This isn’t trying to be. Adrian is putting everything out there, and it’s raw, personal, multi-faceted and sometimes messy and sometimes beautiful – hey! Like life! But for those that want to listen to a good story of epic proportions, told by a poet whose skills will only get sharper, this is the album for you. There’s no better karma then supporting an emerging artist. Also – it’s only $15 for all 24 tracks!
Favorites: Waterfalls, Don’t Look Away, As Your Hands Can Hold, My Sweet Enemy, The Howling Wind
PHOTO BY CAITLIN BELLAH
This could be your last opportunity to catch local singer-songwriter Adrian Bourgeois for a while. After Friday's show, he's making the trek down to Los Angeles, where he'll hopefully woo a music-industry bigwig into taking his already brilliant '60s AM-radio-inspired songwriting and getting it into more eardrums. While a lot of singer-songwriters are busy mixing folk and melodrama, Bourgeois writes pleasant, Beatles-esque melodies with a toe-tapping bounce and an Elliott Smith vulnerability. His dreamy, observational lyrics are both innocent and mature, tangible, yet filled with wonder. He'll be back at some point—on tour, no doubt. But by then, he'll probably have some fancy L.A. hairdo. 1400 E Street, www.adrianbourgeois.com.
One of the greatest things about music is its ability to both enhance and directly impact your mood. With the right mixtape, you can go through a whirlwind of emotions in just a few short moments. But what about when you’re looking for that same fluency with only one artist? Well, Adrian Bourgeois has you covered.
From the mellowest of tracks, to ambitious tambourine-enhanced duets, Bourgeois’ pallet is a wide array of offerings for even the trickiest of soundtracks. Between poignant mini-ballads to humble simplicities, you can be sure Bourgeois is a name to watch in 2013.
“How Sweet it is,” comedian Jackie Gleason would proclaim when presented with something He liked, and that is exactly how I would describe the recent performance of both Adrian Bourgeois and Ricky Berger for their return home show at The Refuge.
Both Adrian and Ricky recently returned home from a long two month tour of the States and decided to have a welcome back to Sacramento show for all of their local fans. (Image by: Holly S. Howard)
However, this was not the first time I had seen these two together. Last January I had the good fortune to be invited to see some Rock Icons as well as some newbies perform at, of all places, Tex Wasabi’s on Arden in Sacramento. The party for Fantasy Campers and local music industry professionals was hosted by Mitchell Koulouris, the wizard behind Digital Music Group, Inc. and now a principal in Gigatone Entertainment, a recording label and entertainment company that works with a number of classic artists, such as musician and producer Todd Rundgren, Mickey Thomas (Starship) and Micky Dolenz of The Monkees. Koulouris also promotes My Record Fantasy, a rock camp for wannabe musicians who covet the opportunity to not only play, learn and perform with some of their rock heroes, but possibly record on an album with one of these icons. (Image by: Holly S. Howard)
I knew Rundgren and Thomas and a couple of other musical geniuses were going to be there. But, to my pleasant surprise, a young pair of melodious treats played that evening as well.
Ricky Berger and Adrienne Bourgeois, son of Brent Bourgeois (hometown producer, writer, musician as well as one of the members of the 80’s rock group, Bourgeois- Tagg,) were two of those surprise talents, that thankfully, Mr. Koulouris, recognized and added as that evening’s opening, “act.”
6-month's later and fresh off a U.S. tour both the young Bourgeois and Berger come back home to play for local fans.
Arriving, last Friday evening, at The Refuge, an all-ages concert venue in downtown, I was welcomed by Berger’s sweet-as-cotton-candy smile and voice.
(Image by: Holly S. Howard)
This artistic girl cannot help but delight her audience with not only her breathy take on pop, accented with folk, jazz and sincerity, but also her ability to whip out a different instrument from her bag of tricks, whether flute, keyboards or guitar and ply her abilities into a tune also fitting her personality.
“fluffy, frilly, flouncy, magical, girlish, sparkly, or studded with rhinestone, remembering to think, say, and do things only with love and kindness, productiveness, acting like a three year old, driving, ballet and dancing, curiosity, making people feel special” Is how Ricky describes herself, and her self-titled album demonstrates. (Image by: Holly S. Howard)
It was with this same lightheartedness and charm that during the show at the Refuge, Berger seemed to go out of her way to prove this statement true by accommodating her audience’s wishes as they shouted their requests and then, generously, both Ricky and her fans welcomed her tour partner, Adrian Bourgeois, who perfectly complement her on stage, while in turn, she also repaid the favor during his set.
Falling in love with Adrian Bourgeois and his music is easy. A Sacramento native with an adorable smile, who at 23 can count a critics' choice award for best local songwriter and grand prize win in the national OurStage music competition as accolades under his belt so far, performs songs that remind me a little of a sweet lullaby with some of the same grace, sound and production quality of Todd Rundgren, George Harrison and XTC. (Image by: Holly S. Howard)
Why shouldn’t he? After all Rundgren did co-produce one of his father’s best known albums, Yoyo, featuring one of Bourgeois/Taggs’ stunningly beautiful pop ballads, "I Don't Mind At All," – But unlike the strictly studio produced LP of his father’s time, Adrian’s, self-titled spin was recorded over a variety of times and places between his sophomore and senior years of high school. The first sessions took place at the recording studio at the old Lutheran church where, with the help of his father, he worked and also learned. Eventually he also received help of a local producer/engineer named David Houston who has been making amazing music since the sixties.
Like his father, Adrian is not just a good-looking and gifted musician waiting for a break, Bourgeois is also a honest soul who is not afraid to stand up for what he believes in. “U2 has been a big influence not only as incredible songwriters but in using their platform as the biggest band in the world to speak from about injustice, disease and poverty, and are true shining examples of individuals truly using their position as best as they can for the betterment of the world,” Adrian stated.
Bourgeois still has time to be heard but let’s hope we do not have to wait too long for a new Album. After all it’s been nearly 3 years since he put out his LP and though he currently has another fine tune, “Time Can’t Fly a Plane,” currently available for download on his website, http://adrianbourgeois.com/fr_home.cfm , Bourgeois, like some of the bands, musicians and writers he admires (The Beatles, Brian Wilson, Elvis Costello and Neil Young) is capable of putting some deeper, more thought-provoking lyrics into his recordings.
Image by: Holly S. Howard
For now, however, it’s nice to know there are places like The Refuge, where both young and young at heart can enjoy fresh contemporary performers like Berger and Bourgeois as well as other talented up-and-coming musicians.
Local Musicians Stage Home Coming Show
By Melissa Corker
Eleven weeks, 24 states and 53 shows after they pulled out of their Sacramento driveway, Adrian Bourgeois and Ricky Berger are home once again.
Bourgeois and Berger, close friends and self-described “musical co-conspirators,” spent the last two and a half months on tour, criss-crossing the nation from Oregon to Maryland and back again, taking their music to all points on the compass.
This weekend, they celebrate the end of their tour with a homecoming show at The Refuge, an all-ages club on L Street in Midtown.
“It was a wonderful experience,” Bourgeois, 23, said in a recent interview. “We are glad to be home, though.”
The two traveled in Berger’s Chrysler Town & Country minivan (affectionately called “Vanna White”), filling it with a variety of musical instruments “and lots of shoes,” according to Berger.
“Eighty percent of being a musician is hair and shoes,” Berger said with a laugh.
Planning for the tour began in late December and included arranging for accommodations across the country with a variety of family and friends – and the occasional benevolence of a acquaintance found on a website designed to put couch-surfers together with available couches.
“We really saw how generous people can be,” Bourgeois said. “We met a lot of people for the first time when we dropped in to sleep on their sofa.”
Both Bourgeois and Berger are talented and accomplished musicians in their own right (Bourgeois has two albums to his credit, and Berger is working on her second album this summer), and their musical styles are similar and strikingly different at the same time.
While they both have an acoustic, folk music undertone to their work, Bourgeois has a pop-music sound with a subtle Beatles influence. Berger, however (who plays no less than eight different musical instruments), has a style that evokes a smoky ’20s jazz club with a distinctly contemporary edge.
When they come together for a show, they each bring something different to the stage, making for an energetic and engaging performance.
“We haven’t written a single song together,” Bourgeois said. “(On the tour,) we played our own sets, and we also combined sets by switching off with each other every couple of songs.”
The mix worked, Berger said.
“The more time we spend together, the better we work together,” Berger said. “There’s a chemistry between us that helps when we get on stage.”
At some of the venues they were slated to play on the tour, they were met with a crowded house of appreciative fans; at other stops, they were lucky if the customers at the bar turned around to watch between sips of Miller Light.
No matter where they played, though, for Bourgeois and Berger it was always about the music, and it was easy to see when they struck the right chord with the audience.
“Once in a while, we’d play the same venue more than once and we’d get a good crowd both times,” Bourgeios said. “If people come out and see you play again, that’s how you measure progress toward success.”
Now that the tour is over and they’ve had a chance to reflect on the experience, Bourgeois and Berger said they are looking forward to putting on a great show for a hometown crowd in Sacramento.
“We want to (perform) at The Refuge because it’s an all-ages venue,” Bourgeois said. “Sacramento is really lacking in places that welcome everyone, so this is a logical choice for us.”
“We remember what it was to be under 21,” added Berger. “You can’t get in anywhere, but you still want to see a good show.”
Project: Aloft Star Is First Music Artist Discovery Program Powered by a Hotel Brand
The votes are in: Sacramento, CA singer-songwriter Adrian Bourgeois has topped the list of acts to win Project: Aloft Star, the musical artist talent search created by Aloft Hotels that has created major buzz among music fans. New Orleans crooner Jake Smith was named runner-up.
Bourgeois, whose “complex and lovely” songs “bring to mind a time when songwriters flooded the airwaves and all was well” (Pop-Rock Candy Mountain), will make a dream debut at “Live in the Vineyard,” a twice-yearly, three-day music, wine and food showcase in California’s Napa Valley, also presented by Aloft. With some of the music industry’s top moguls as his audience, Bourgeois will share the stage with stars like KT Tunstall, Zac Brown Band, and James Blunt.
An Aloft-sponsored tour will follow to give Bourgeois, 23, the opportunity to rock Aloft hotels across the United States
Launched in June 2010, Project: Aloft Star solicited artist music videos on Facebook (Facebook.com/AloftHotels, RockOut&Win tab). Aspiring “Aloft Stars” submitted a video of an acoustic performance of original material. The top three finalists were chosen based on a combination of votes from Aloft Facebook fans and judging criteria from Aloft insiders and Live in the Vineyard organizers.
Project: Aloft Star generated nearly 5,000 fan votes and hundreds of comments for submissions from around the world. “Aloft has been a launchpad for fresh thinking in our industry, so acting as a launchpad for other creative endeavors makes a lot of sense,” said Brian McGuinness, Senior Vice President of Specialty Select Brands for Starwood. “The Aloft guest is always on the lookout for what’s new, and I think they appreciate that we’re their partner in the discovery process.”
Project: Aloft Star is just the latest musical riff from Aloft. Aloft properties also serve as concert venues for Live in the Vineyard artists who rock it up close and personal with hotel guests and locals alike through a series of “Live at Aloft Hotels” (www.liveatalofthotels.com) events, throughout the year. Previous Live in the Vineyard artists have included Macy Gray, Colbie Caillat, Train and Melissa Etheridge.
Aloft is the 2010 presenting sponsor for Live in the Vineyard (www.liveinthevineyard.com), currently in its third year and held every April and November.
By: Amanda Brumfield
Pop- Rock Candy Mountain
When I hear Adrian Bourgeois’s music I can’t help but hope that his particular style of songwriting will be the new wave in Pop. No offense to the Lady Ga-Ga’s out there, but Adrian’s music is the sort I’d like to hear when I turn on my radio. His songwriting is fluid, brilliant, not tweaked to death or over produced. It’s complex and lovely and brings to mind a time when songwriters flooded the airwaves and all was well. Adrian is highly intelligent and thoughtful and in his own way, hopeful. I spoke with him about his music and gained great insight into what helps a songwriter find his own groove.
Pop-Rock Candy Mountain: If you had to categorize your music, what genre or genres would you attach to it?
Adrian Bourgeois: My music at it’s most basic essence is pop if you had to pick a genre. Pop tends to be associated with shallowness by some but tell that to John Lennon, Brian Wilson or Elvis Costello. Some of the most ambitious, adventurous of the past 100 years has been pop music. The thing I like most about pop is that whatever dressing you put over the top of it, at it’s core is a song that just has this universal appeal to it that leaves no one out. It’s world peace in the form of a song!
PRCM: Who are some of your musical/lyrical influences?
AB: My two musical foundations are the Beatles and the Beach Boys. The Beatles virtually invented modern pop music and did in eight years what I imagine the rest of us will be chasing for centuries and Brian Wilson, the music world’s William Blake with his songs of both innocence and experience, gave us visions of the laughter of children echoing the tears of angels. Other huge influences include Elvis Costello who somehow is able to be George Gershwin, Bob Dylan and Arthur Alexander all in the same person, and Neil Young, one of the great improv artists of our time, who should get a Guiness World Record or something for most beautiful stream of consciousness put to tape. Ben Folds is probably my favorite “modern” singer/songwriter and I’ve always had a soft spot for Hanson for being the band that convinced me when I was in fourth grade to not wait until I was all grown up to get working on my music career. U2 has been a big influence not only as incredible songwriters but in using their platform as the biggest band in the world to speak from about injustice, disease and poverty, and are true shining examples of individuals truly using their position as best as they can for the betterment of the world.
PRCM: I read that you mostly produced and arranged your debut album by yourself. Please tell me a bit about the album, what it means to you and let me know where we can get it!
AB: My album was recorded over a variety of times and places between my sophomore and senior years of high school. The first sessions took place at the recording studio at my old church where I worked on them with my dad who has over three decades of experience at just about everything you can be in the music industry. The other bulk of the album was recorded with a local producer/engineer named David Houston who has been making amazing music since the sixties. The album both musically and lyrically definitely captures a specific time of my life where I think I was really starting to come into my own as a songwriter. I had already written close to a hundred songs before I started writing the songs that are on the album but I think these are sort of my first set of good ones. Because of the relatively long span of time that I spent recording this album–most of it was recorded on donated time whenever there was available space at the studio which was sometimes few and far between–there are songs on here about falling in love with someone and then songs about losing someone and they’re about the same person, just written a year or so apart; it’s a little discombobulating for me to hear some of those songs played next to each other on the same album! As far as the production goes, I kind of think this album was similar to the early Beatles albums in that I was really taking a lot of cues from my influences and seeing if I could take my own stab at making some classic sounds. Most of the songs I made demos of beforehand just in my bedroom and would pretty much get the arrangement down. Once in the studio, whoever I was working with would help me polish it up and help me realize it sonically. There’s some things I would change about the album of course if I could go back but overall I’m pretty happy with it for a first effort. You can find it on my website www.adrianbourgeois.com, on CD Baby, iTunes, and a few other various independent online retailers like Not Lame Records and Kool Kat Records.
PRCM: Tell me what playing before a live audience means to you.
AB: I love playing live but it’s a little like taking a test at school. It’s where you put everything you’ve developed and learned up to that point on the line in real time and let the world be the judge. In the studio you can always go back and fix things but live you get what you give. I think sometimes I tie up the the experience of playing live with the stress of actually trying to get people out to shows but once I’m onstage I really do enjoy it. I recently completed my first tour of the US which I did with my good friend and fellow artist Ricky Berger. Playing almost every night in a different city in front of all sorts of different audiences I think really upped our game. It’s the musical activity that I do more than any other, more than recording or songwriting, and is arguably the playing field that in the end matters most. It’s always helpful getting feedback from audience members on different songs or different experiments I try. I love it when someone tells me that a lyric really meant a lot to them.
PRCM: Where do you derive inspiration for your music?
AB: I live in a constant state of inspiration. If you’re not spending every waking hour (and ever sleeping one at that) inspired by something or other, you’re not paying attention! Part of my inspiration for making music is just the profound effect music has had on me. Sometimes I’ve felt like a certain song or album was the only thing that was really connecting with what I was thinking or feeling at a given time. Sometimes the melodies spoke ever greater truths for me than the lyrics. I remember seeing Paul McCartney in concert for the first time when I was 14 and for three hours, the spell he cast over 30,000 people was just magical. Experiences like that just really inspired me to want to somehow create similar experiences for others and try to spread a little magic of my own. I’m also inspired by a want to influence and change society. For some reason, besides politicians and people in law based professions, the occupation that is arguably given the most power to influence culture and the biggest voice to speak with publicly is the entertainer. I don’t know if entertainers were a wise choice to be their generation’s spokespeople–teachers and doctors probably would have made much more good of their celebrity status than musicians and actors–but circumstances being what they are, being a musician seems like a pretty good thing to get into if you want a soapbox to stand on to start getting people to think differently. There are a lot of whole schools of “rational” thought, and unspoken prejudices, and societal patterns that have just gone unchecked for years…centuries probably. I’m not saying I’m the only one who could start talking about this stuff–a lot of people are already touching upon it–I’m just saying I’m willing to add my voice if someone will give me a big enough megaphone.
PRCM: Anything else we need to cover? Upcoming albums, shows, etc.?
AB: I’m going to be releasing my first my first new professionally recorded song in three years in the next month or so, called “Time Can’t Fly A Plane”. I’m in the process of working on my second album…or collection of songs…or however people our compiling music these days. I play pretty regularly in and around Sacramento and Ricky and I are planning on going out again for at least a short tour before the end of the year.
Like father, like son, Adrian Bourgeois is a musician.
In 1987, the singer's father, Brent, and his band Bourgeois Tagg scored a Top 40 pop hit with the song "I Don't Mind at All." Twenty-two years later, Adrian, 21, is trying to make a name for himself.
It's a journey taking the Elk Grove-raised singer-songwriter on a path paved by his father's experiences, myriad musical influences and Adrian Bourgeois' own deep, personal sense of religious faith.
Adrian Bourgeois & the Coincidence will perform Saturday at the Vox Cafe in West Sacramento.
Bourgeois sat behind his first drum kit when he was 2, started writing songs at 10 and picked up his first guitar when he was 12. At 19, Bourgeois' song "Mr. Imaginary Friend" won top honors in the national OurStage.com monthly songwriting contest.
"My dad's a musician; my mom has a good love of music," he says. "I feel like I was born with the desire to make music."
The contest's $5,000 prize was more than a cash infusion. It gave the budding musician exposure on a few nationally distributed CD compilations and an invaluable sense of confidence that, hey, maybe he could really do this. That was summer 2007, and in the 18 months since, Bourgeois, who now lives in San Francisco, has quit school for a job leading the music worship group at a Fairfield church and pursuing his art full time.
The decision to put academics on hold – Bourgeois was attending community college in San Francisco – wasn't easy.
"I really enjoy school, but my interests have been so split between school, music and work, it just felt like something had to give."
And so, armed with his love for the Beatles and the Beach Boys, Rufus Wainwright, Arcade Fire and, yes, Jesus Christ, Bourgeois is trying to make a living making music (with a little help from a part-time job at Trader Joe's in San Francisco's North Beach neighborhood).
He knows, he says, that it's not exactly what his parents, Brent and Mary Ann, had in mind for him.
"It was hard for them to accept," Bourgeois says.
"They're a little concerned, but I think they're learning to live with the decision."
Brent Bourgeois is trying to do just that.
"Because of my own (background), I have very mixed feelings about Adrian's decision," the elder Bourgeois admits.
For Brent and his wife, it's difficult to watch Adrian pursue a career in music.
"On the one hand, I know what he's going through, what he wants to do," says Brent Bourgeois, whose own ambitions saw him through Bourgeois Tagg, working with legendary producer Todd Rundgren, solo albums and later as an A&R rep for Nashville's Word Records label.
"But I also know what he's getting himself into. (The music industry) is not a pretty picture – especially today; it's harder to break in."
These days, 50-year-old Brent Bourgeois leads a music worship group at St. Mark's United Methodist Church and is studying journalism and history at Sacramento State.
He says he and his wife wish Adrian would finish school to expand his career options.
But, he adds with a laugh, it's a funny thing.
"I was the same way (as Adrian), and my parents never said that to me."
And so, the elder Bourgeois says, he gives his son advice now and again – "sometimes I'll pass it along through friends because I think it actually gets to him then" – and watches and listens with more than a little fatherly pride.
"I think he's incredible – a very gifted songwriter."
The younger Bourgeois credits his dad for plenty of inspiration and support.
The two have played together and have co-written songs. Adrian has even worked with many of his father's friends and colleagues.
Bourgeois Tagg co-founder Larry Tagg and longtime Brent Bourgeois friend Mike Roe even appear on Adrian Bourgeois' self-titled debut album (available on Amazon.com and via www.adrianbourgeois.com).
"We like the same music, (and) in some ways I think I get on better with them than I do most people my age," Adrian Bourgeois says.
Indeed, his music speaks to another time in pop songwriting. Lush with strings, angelic harmonies and melodies that swoop and soar like a hook-laden roller coaster, this is classic Beatles pop with a modern edge.
That's what persuaded Heath Dalrymple to book Bourgeois at the Vox Cafe, a small nonprofit that highlights local arts and culture.
"I'm amazed that (here is an) artist who writes classic pop material – but it still sounds new and refreshing," says Dalrymple.
"It's not that he just went and listened to a bunch of Beatles and Brian Wilson records – his music is not derivative."
A delicate thread of faith also runs through Adrian Bourgeois' music with songs such as "Jesus" and "To Be (The First Man on Earth)" touching on the singer's spirituality.
Although Bourgeois doesn't go as far as to call himself a "Christian rock" singer, religion plays a "very large" part in every part of his life.
"It's very much a day-to-day thing. It's something I just want to attempt to give my life to," he says. "In some ways, I think it's a motivation to write music."
Surely, Bourgeois adds, his faith has helped as he embarks on this uncertain journey.
"The hardest thing for me is that I have this very definite idea of what I want my life to look like, and the fact of the matter is that making music may not be part of God's plan," he says.
"I'm just learning to give myself up to (God) and saying, 'Wherever you may lead me, I'll follow.' "
Conversations often spring up spontaneously during set changes in music clubs, especially during those showcases for amateurs known as open-mic nights. So, at a recent open-mic at Midtown’s True Love Coffeehouse, few noticed the tall figure with long, dark-brown hair and a beard as he quietly stepped behind a microphone, plugged in his acoustic guitar and began playing.
But as soon as the young man’s voice began snaking through the sound system, people stopped talking. The supple vocal melodies he wrapped his voice around sounded vaguely Beatlesque--not unlike the music of the late singer-songwriter Elliott Smith, or Alex Chilton’s work with Big Star. And the guitar arrangements underpinning his vocals were well-thought-out, the kind one might come up with after headphoning the Beatles catalogue night after night.
And that might not be surprising, coming from a player who’s 20- or 30-something. But Adrian Bourgeois, the man onstage, was all of 16 years old.
Bourgeois, of course, has somewhat of a leg up when it comes to getting into writing and playing music. His father is Brent Bourgeois, veteran of such storied local bands as Uncle Rainbow and Bourgeois Tagg, a solo artist, record producer and former head of A&R for Word Records, the dominant player in the Christian-music industry. Young Bourgeois has been playing music for as far back as he can recall.
“I started playing drums when I was, like, 3 years old,” he said. “And when I was about 4, I did Stairway to Stardom”--the Skip’s Music summer band program for kids--“playing drums. We were a showcase intermission band; the other guys were like 9 and 11. That was my first live performance, at the Radisson.”
Bourgeois has been working at it ever since. He plays guitar, keyboards, drums and harmonica. “I can kinda do bass a little bit, too,” he said. He began writing songs at 10; by his recollection, he’s written around 90, and 20 of those he considers keepers. As for influences, he cites the Beatles; the Beach Boys, with emphasis on post-surf albums like Pet Sounds, Sunflower and Surf’s Up; Elvis Costello, for his concise songwriting; and Neil Young, for his organic approach to recording.
When Bourgeois was 7, he moved with his family to Franklin, Tenn., a suburb south of Nashville. “It’s like Elk Grove is to Sacramento,” he said. “Nashville proved to be a pretty good growing experience, though. It’s very different from California--different culture, a lot more conservative. I learned how to exist in an environment where I was, more or less, the minority in a lot of ways: in my opinions and the way I present myself.
“I’m definitely glad to be back,” he added.
The family Bourgeois returned to Sacramento almost two years ago, and Adrian got busy making an impression here--performing in Stairway to Stardom and as part of the Natomas Charter High School’s No Bands Land, which played the Jammies shows in 2003 and 2004.
On Friday, Bourgeois will play a show with another young singer-songwriter, Christopher Fairman, at the True Love. Keyboard player Dave DeMuri and drummer Jon McHenry, who accompanied Fairman at the recent Jammies performance, will back the two songwriters.
Bourgeois exemplifies a young approach to Christian music, closer to U2 or Sixpence None the Richer than, say, Bill Gaither. “I definitely would consider my songs to be Christian songs,” Bourgeois explained, “but think that they might not necessarily be played on Christian radio--because they don’t actually say, like, ‘Jesus’ or ‘hallelujah’ in the words and stuff. But I think what Jesus was more about was having the message itself proclaimed, rather than every single thing being about faith and worship. Because then, you’re zeroing in on a very specific audience. But if you talk about his values and morals, you reach a much broader audience.”
And he’s already thinking hard about reaching that audience. “It’s always been my dream to go as far as possible with music,” he said. A boilerplate answer, perhaps. But in Adrian Bourgeois’ case, it is entirely believable.