Name: Adam Bernard Home: Fairfield, Connecticut, United States About Me: Entertainment journalist with 15+ years of experience. Supporter of indie music. Lover of day baseball, fringe movies, & chicken shawarma. Part time ninja. Nerdy, but awesome. See my complete profile
A few weeks ago New York City-based singer-songwriter IRO was out busking when someone put half of an egg roll on his guitar case. What was left of the appetizer didn’t look very appetizing, however, as IRO notes, “It had an aggressive bite mark on it.”
“If it was cut in half I would have been nice,” he continued, “(like) ‘Thank you for thinking about me, because you’re sharing your egg roll with me.’”
Now laughing at the incident, IRO says sometimes a half eaten egg roll comes with the territory of being a busker in NYC. “It’s the risk you take when you’re going into the subway at 12 o’clock at night.”
More than a little nomadic in nature, IRO has lived everywhere from California, to Germany, to Israel, to his current locale in NYC, all the while picking up his guitar and performing for whoever might be walking by. NYC, he’s found, has the toughest audience, and that’s what inspires him most about living there.
“In New York, it’s always like, as opposed to other places I’ve been to, so cynical, and I don’t see it as something that bothers me, it just challenges me. It’s a little bit more rough here to get people to listen to you, or speak to you, so it’s just a little like a thicker wall, but once you break through that wall, it’s really soft.”
Breaking through that wall is something IRO has become adept at over the years, as his busking has taken him to a plethora of city streets, and into more bars than he can count. He often employs a performer’s version of cold calling when approaching a new establishment, simply walking in and asking if he can perform.
Ironically, IRO says it’s the times when he’s performing in a noisy, crowded, place, and doesn’t know if anyone is listening, that often turn into his most interesting nights. “You sing, and people pass, some people don’t listen, some people do, and you get to a point where you find yourself totally present, and confident, and just enjoying what you’re doing, and not expecting anything to happen. That’s when all the crazy things start happening.”
For IRO, one such night occurred while he was living in Berlin. “I played for somebody who asked me to play for him while he was eating,” he remembers, “and then he asked me to go play for his wife, because they’d fought. I didn’t expect anything, and then he handed me a huge was of cash. It was the exact number that I needed to pass the week.”
Late last year IRO released a self-titled EP. He describes it as, “The first happy music I’ve written.”
“I only knew one emotion from music,” he explains, “and it was sadness. With this EP, this is me saying there is absolutely no reason for me to choose being sobby all the time. I have all of the reasons to smile about things, and be positive. This album, for me, was being introduced to different forms of happiness, and writing, and something a little bit more positive than what I’d previously written for myself.”
According to IRO, there’s an underlying message that runs throughout the entire project, as he says it’s about, “Not accepting the current situation, not accepting your own self-definitions of, ‘OK, this is me,’ and, ‘Oh, this is the way it is,’ and, ‘Oh, that’s life,’ and just having the ability to stop and say, ‘What do I want to be? How do I want my life to be? What are MY views? What are my beliefs? What do I want to make my reality?’ It’s like choosing your reality, and stepping away from what you’re being told is the right way, and the wrong way, and really drawing your own path as far as how you want to live your life.”
For IRO, his path will likely end up taking him outside of NYC again at some point in the near future, but he knows that no matter where he’s performing, whether he’s in a big venue, or on a street corner, he’s achieving what he set out to do.
“I kind of always felt when I was playing, as long as I was playing my music, even though we’re not talking about (being on the) charts, or anything like that, I felt like I was there,” he explains. “I was doing what I love, so I was just enjoying it. It wasn’t a means to an end, it was already just like being present with what it is that I’m doing, so as long as I’m playing, I’m happy.”
Expect more happiness for IRO this summer, which is when he plans on releasing a full length album. Just remember to not try to pay him in half eaten food.
B-Listers are a select group of artists that were featured in my Artist Of The Week series that ran every Monday from April of '06 to April of '11. All of these artists have two things in common; extreme talent, and a flight path far too under the radar for my liking. They took on the title of B-Listers as they embraced being featured by me, Adam B. Check out the AOTW Archives for all the interviews.