Durand Bernarr photographed by Vickey Ford (SneakShot) for Okayplayer.
Cleveland, Ohio is a hub, a haven even, for celebrated musical talent. Legends such as Gerald Levert, Avant and Men at Large held C-Town down with their dulcet tones and boss-like bravado. Following in that same legacy is this week’s First Look Friday subject, Durand Bernarr. Building a reputation as a dynamic singer and budding songwriter, this fellow Cleveland native stands out as one of the music industry’s best kept secrets.
A prodigy from a young age, Durand has learned at the feet of giants such as Earth, Wind & Fire, The Internet, Chaka Khan and The Foreign Exchange. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, then you should join the almost 65,000 subscribers to his YouTube and witness why he has had almost 10 million views as an indie performer. From his “Sorry” cover by Beyoncé to his version of Erykah Badu‘s “Phone Down,” this adopted son of @FatBellyBella—not literally, guys, c’mon—is a growing force to be reckoned with.
With music embedded in his DNA, the artist also known as “AlcoholHarmony” is an absolute impact of nature. We’re pleased to be able to introduce the Okayplayer audience to the musical stylings of Durand Bernarr. In our chat with man whose voice is like jalapeño cheddar grits served with warm cornbread, we discuss Durand Bernarr’s origins, premiere “Around,” an exclusive song from his repertoire and learn what moments from his recent travels have stuck with him most. Enjoy!
Okayplayer: To music snobs the world over, you are making an impact on both sides of the U.S. What is it that those in Cleveland are seeing and hearing that the rest of the world has yet to discover?
Durand Bernarr: Those who have been around me enough in Cleveland have seen me with my hair all the way down. They know my nicknames. [They know] how fast I can eat sunflower seeds. [They know my] random outbursts of songs or even being at the B-side on Coventry acting up on the mic. Cleveland got a first look at what’s to become of me [and] that’s the potential.
OKP: For those who have a passion for music, they honed their skills and practiced their craft. Who are your most cherished influences in music and why?
DB: Both of my parents, who sing, and the music they exposed me to as a child was a mixture of gospel, jazz, new age, a little bit of Michael [Jackson], Whitney [Houston] and Sade. However, it wasn’t until one of my mother’s friends introduced me to “On & On” by Erykah Badu at eight-years-old that I had an automatic draw to her.
I never understood the depth of “Appletree” or even “Certainly” until I got older, but I think my subconscious was already hip. Who she is as an artist and as a person is the foundation of my influence. My god brother Daj taught me how to color with my voice and then we have B. Slade, who is formerly known as gospel artist Tonéx, and he is like the juggernaut of male vocalists in my book.
OKP: Your song, “Fly On The Wall,” is extremely dope and has heightened anticipation for new work from you by music snobs who have a heavy presence in the industry. Can you talk about how life was for you while developing as an artist in Cleveland?