March 22, 2009

JBB EXCLUSIVE: Interview With Erich Bergen!

March 22nd, 2009

Erich Bergen at the Liberace Museum

This coming Wednesday, March 25, Erich Bergen will be performing the first of two gala concerts at the Liberace Museum in Las Vegas! It was great to catch up with Erich recently to chat about his upcoming BIG event and some other musical surprises!

JBB: Erich, your two upcoming concerts at the Liberace Museum sound like a great opportunity for you! How did the concerts come about?

Erich Bergen: I’m beyond excited. Whenever I get to a new city, the first thing I look for is the nearest Barnes & Noble or Borders, and find out what the art scene is like. When I say art scene, I mean more of the “performing arts” scene…open mics, etc….While Vegas was full of it, the one that was most “me” was something called the Composer’s Showcase. It’s something that happens once a month, at the Liberace Museum, and it’s put together by the Jersey Boys Vegas musical director, Keith Thompson. All the local composers and performers gather in this small room, and it’s some of the most amazing energy that I’ve ever been a part of. Regardless of if the songs are good or bad, it’s always an amazing night. I had been looking for someplace to do my act, and after being in that room long enough, I fell in love with it and knew I had to do it there.

JBB: Your fans are looking SO forward to your big show later this week and in April. Can you give us a little preview of what’s in store for us at the Liberace Museum?

EB: Hmmm…well, I know a large portion of it will be the premiere of my original songs. This is stuff I have been working on for about 10 months now. Don’t worry, there are no long, drawn out musical theater songs. All the stuff I’ve written are pop songs, songs that you would hear on the radio today. My ear goes to the Top 40 music of the 70s, 80s and 90s. I have played a few of these songs at the Composer’s Showcase, and subsequently have been put on YouTube, but these are new arrangements, with a full band and backup vocals. I’m so excited to hear how it all sounds live. Other than my own stuff, I’ve put together some really fantastic songs from contemporary writers. All of those songs are a good showcase of where I draw my inspiration from. We are also going to laugh, a lot!

JBB: So, is this your first concert performance?

EB: No, I’ve done a lot in New York City, but this will be the first time in a long time.

JBB: Why was this the right time for a concert?

EB: A couple of reasons. Mainly, the Liberace Foundation had been asking me to do one forever after I initially told them that I would like to do one. Also, it just felt like approaching a year here in Vegas, this would be a great benchmark.

JBB: Could this turn into more than a two-night concert?

EB: I would love that! I have no clue though. The thought has crossed my mind of course. I have to remind myself that Jersey Boys takes a lot of out of me, so I have to give myself that night off once a week. But I would be open to any ideas. Let’s see how these two go first.

JBB: So exciting to find out that you’ll be performing original compositions. Have you been writing for a while?

EB: I started writing music in my head when I first started listening to music, as a toddler. It was in my blood. Melody was something I understood as a language. I didn’t start writing full songs until I started playing the piano, in my early teens. Those songs were bad, all bad. I don’t think I finished one. Right before I left for college, I did start writing actual, full songs. Maybe 3 or 4. But I left them alone and didn’t even think about writing again until this past summer. I was in a bad place emotionally, and it all came out of that. Interestingly enough, they were happy, positive songs. Don’t know why it happened like that.

JBB: Has playing songwriter Bob Gaudio every night on stage for over two years been a major inspiration to you as a composer?

EB: Oh, very much so. There are many times where I’m in a scene in a recording studio, or when I tell Frankie I’m leaving the performing side of the group, when I think to myself, ‘Gee, Bob figured this out. I should probably take the hint.’ Other times, when I’m writing in the studio here, or writing for someone else’s voice, and I start to behave how I do on stage. I suppose it’s my version of method acting.

JBB: Who are your other musical inspirations and influences?

EB: Well, from a very young age, I was obsessed with Michael Jackson, and I suppose that obsession is still there. It’s in my energy when I dance, move, and sometimes, his phrasing can even be heard in the way I sing. But obviously, I’ve figured out that a tall, white, Jewish guy cannot embody the energy of Michael Jackson and expect people to take him seriously. But, it’s always going to be there.

The truth is, I listen to everything. I found a chord the other day in the soundtrack to Revolutionary Road that I loved, and I ended up using it as a base for a new song of mine. My musical library is filled with everything from AC/DC to Kanye West, to The Light In The Piazza to Enya. I try to take it all in.

Right now, I’ve been really studying a few people. Mainly, Barry Manilow. There is a reason why those songs stand the test of time and why everyone, and I mean everyone, knows them. So, I’ve been studying all of his stuff finding out the science to it all. I’ve known his whole library for a long time, but now I’ve gone in and really taken apart everything.

JBB: Your fans are eagerly awaiting—When is your CD coming out? Tell us about your upcoming CD.

EB: Well, originally, I was going to go into the studio and get it out fast. This was back in the fall. I wanted to just get a few songs down, and put it out for the world to hear. Boy, am I glad I didn’t rush into it! It would have been a mess. We have changed our game plan with all of this stuff, and I’m quite happy with the road we are now taking. We decided that the live show was where the energy was at, so it would be more fun to record the live show, and put that out as an album. Frankly, that’s how a lot of acts start out anyway. They either put out a live EP, or bootleg recordings of a concert get traded over the Internet, or something like that. This is my way of capturing the live essence of what I am doing, and then also putting it out as my first album. We are recording it all professionally, and I have an amazing sound team working on it. Once we record, we will tweak stuff in the studio before putting out. I’m not sure what I’ll cut, if anything, or if I’ll leave the talking in. I’ll decide that after I hear it a bunch of times. I hope to have it out by summer 2009.

JBB: You have co-written some songs with Jersey Boys co-star Travis Cloer! You guys have amazing chemistry on stage playing Bob and Frankie—How did you guys end up deciding to work together as songwriters? Any Jersey handshakes going on?

EB: Travis and I clicked very fast. We share a mutual love of music that most people get made fun of for listening to. Peter Cetera was one of the things we bonded over. He has a vast musical knowledge like me, so we speak the same language. He also has a Nashville background, and I don’t often find people who know a lot of Country music, which I really dig. I can’t sing it, but I love listening to it and writing it. We also both think the same way in how to write a song. It’s gotta have that melody that is instantly hummable, and we concentrate on that every time we write. Also, he has that voice is just absurdly good. It was a true Bob & Frankie moment. I heard him sing and I knew I had to write for his voice. Surreal, huh?

Hopefully, when we get a good number of songs we are proud of, we will perform a night of music we have written together. That would be really amazing.

Erich Bergen & Travis Cloer
Erich Bergen and Travis Cloer


  1. I wish I could be at both shows, but I will be at the April 8th one. Can’t wait!!

    Comment by Melissa — March 23, 2009 @ 1:05 am

  2. Great interview! Really love hearing how Erich & Travis connected so well musically! Two amazingly talented guys writing together will be awesome!

    Comment by Judy — March 23, 2009 @ 11:16 am

  3. Erich is so talented! I hope someone recorded the program he was on this morning for those of us not in Las Vegas. Did anyone out there record it?

    Comment by Jess — March 23, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

  4. Wish I lived closer and could go to this. Erich is incredibly talented, and one of the nicest, funniest people Ive ever met. Hope it goes well, Erich. Any chance of doing something in NY soon?!

    Comment by Pamela — March 24, 2009 @ 10:51 am

  5. This was a great interview; so much “life imitating art”! Interviews are interesting when they take us to new places in a person’s life, but having so much of the real JB experience woven throughout was exceptional.

    Thanks for sharing your love of music, Erich. I think you’ve actually deepened my understanding, a bit more, of the men this show portrays.

    Comment by Audrey — March 26, 2009 @ 12:50 pm

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