Barrelhouse Blues

October 26, 2009 | BY Bob Stannard

Chris Bergson Interview - September 2009
By "Downtown" Bob Stannard, correspondent to

If you have never heard of Chris Bergson, you're gonna. There are only a few new players out there that have this man's talent and they can all be seen in Bergson's rear view mirror.
He is a great song writer. He's a better singer. And his guitar work will do just what it's supposed to do; knock you out. He puts his heart and soul into each lick. It should come as no surprise that he is being acclaimed by the best of the best. It has been an honor to share the stage with Chris and it's a greater honor to be able to introduce him and his work to you.

DTB: From where do you hail, Chris?

CB: I was born in New York City. When I was three and a half, my family moved to the Boston area and I spent most of my childhood in Somerville, MA.

DTB: How long have you been performing and when did you decide this was the career for you?

CB: I started young. When I was thirteen, I was in a rock band that played gigs around Boston. It was in my senior year of high school, that I decided I wanted to make music my career.

DTB: Who were your earliest influences?

CB: The Beatles, Muddy Waters, B.B. King, Albert King, Miles Davis, Thelonious Monk, Wes Montgomery, Jimi Hendrix, Ray Charles, the Allman Brothers...

DTB: If you werenít a great guitarist and song writer, what do you think you'd be doing today?

CB: I think I might be a writer.

DTB: Who are you listening today?

CB: Freddie King, Otis Rush, Howlin' Wolf, Hubert Sumlin, Son House, Mississippi Fred McDowell, Skip James, Taj Mahal, The Band, Otis Redding, and John Scofiled. I listen to a lot of jazz and classic soul. I also really like Derek Trucks, Bettye Lavette, and James Hunter.

DTB: Are you a straight ahead Blues player or do you play other genres?
CB: I also play a lot of Jazz and some rock and soul. I'm drawn to music that has soul and groove.

DTB: Who have you been performing with lately?

CB: I've been performing a lot with my own band with Bruce Katz on organ / piano, Jay Collins on tenor saxophone and backing vocals, Matt Clohesy on bass and Tony Leone on drums.

DTB: How long have you been at this?

CB: My current band was formed in 2004, with a few changes in personnel since then.

DTB: You have an agent or are you doing your own bookings?

CB: I am lucky to have a great manager and we work with some different agents here in the States and we also have a European agent.

DTB: The music business is one of the toughest lines of work out there. What advice would have for younger players thinking about becoming a Blues players instead of, say, a doctor or lawyer?

CB: There has to be no choice about it - you have to really want to be a musician to the point where that's what you need to do to be truly happy. Otherwise, there are obviously many easier ways to make a living. It is such a blessing to play music and I feel lucky that I've been able to support myself doing it for the last ten years.
My other advice to young musicians is to be on time and to be someone that people want to work with!

DTB: This spring you did a tour in the Netherlands. How were you received? What stood out on that tour that would make it different than playing NYC or Boston?

CB: We had a fantastic time on this last tour and we're hoping to come back soon. The audiences were great and the shows went really well. It was so nice to play for people that really love the music! It was also great to hear some of the other artists at these festivals like Watermelon Slim and James Hunter. To answer the second part of your question, there just aren't as many big, multi-day blues festivals here in NYC, unfortunately.

DTB: Tell us about your latest album.

CB: We recorded FALL CHANGES up at Levon Helm's studio in Woodstock, NY. Levon's barn is an amazing room to record in and I think you can hear the warmth of all the wood on there! Most of the record was cut live. A few days after the sessions, I got a call from Levon to come up and sub in his band at his Midnight Ramble concerts. He's one of my favorite musicians of all time so this was kind of a dream come true! Just to be in that rhythm section and play some of those shuffles with him was pretty amazing. He's such a master. Speaking of Levon, my band is going to be opening for him at his Midnight Ramble in Woodstock on Saturday, September 5th.

DTB: Youíre appearing at BB Kingís in NYC. This your first appearance at this prestigious club?

CB: No, I've played there before. I had the honor of opening for Etta James there a few years back. I play pretty regularly at Lucille's, which is their more casual lounge, next door to the main room. It's a nice hang - an oasis in the middle of Times Square. It's funny, you come out of there after a night of playing downstairs and the neon lights from The Lion King are just blinding!

DTB: Tell us about your best show ever.

CB: Wow, that's tough. Our show at Groningen Rhythm and Blues Night was definitely a highlight of our Netherlands tour. We played in a beautiful, great-sounding concert hall and the show was broadcast on National Dutch Public Radio. There's a clip from it up on You Tube:
We played a really fun set a few weeks back at the New York State Blues Festival in Syracuse. There are so many factors and variables involved in what makes a good could have been driving all day or be really tired, but when it's time to play it's time to PLAY!

DTB: Anything else that youíd like to share with us?

CB: We'll be playing in my hometown of Somerville at Johnny D's on Thursday, October 29th. We're looking forward to playing in the Boston area again!