Singer-songwriter and producer Durand Bernarr is a gem of uniqueness in R&B and soul music. In his own words, “If you take your eyes off me for two seconds, you’ve missed a lot.”
Bernarr, who was runner-up in BET’s 2019 music competition “Next Big Thing,” has earned notoriety as a genre-bending artist who has worked with big names in the music industry, including Erykah Badu, The Internet, Kaytranada and Anderson .Paak. He also recently gained a highly coveted live performance spot on NPR’s “Tiny Desk” series.
Earlier this month, the Cleveland, Ohio native began the second leg of his dates on his My Bad For Taking So Long: The Wanderlust Tour. His upcoming Charlotte date — Friday, Sept. 15 at the Underground — was the first to sell out, Bernarr, 34, told QCity Metro.
QCity Metro spoke with Bernard ahead of his Charlotte appearance about his artistry, his latest project and what people can expect at the show.
Responses have been edited for clarity and brevity.
What made you want to embark on part two of the tour?
It’s the timing of everything. This is a swell time to piece something together a little differently. It’s still the Wanderlust Tour, but I’m hitting cities that I haven’t played before so I get to reach back, and do some [of my older music], for the OG [fans].
You’ve had a pretty busy summer including music festivals, TV appearances and other major gigs like Tiny Desk. How do those performances helped you prepare for the tour?
I’m not necessarily trying to outdo myself, but [asking] what other ways can [I] express [myself] that [I] haven’t tried before? That gives me more grace to freely express myself and to have a standard and a quality, but making sure that at the end of it, I’m just enjoying myself.
As a queer artist, what do you hope that members of the LGBTQ community will take away from your show?
I would like to offer people a space where they feel encouraged, where they feel that they can take initiative, that they don’t have to necessarily wait on anyone to get things started. I really despise that word [accept] because it poses that you need permission. I’m going to be me regardless, and you’re gonna have to embrace that.
Let’s talk about your latest single “Leveled,” from the Wanderlust album. What went into making that song?
It’s a song about a few different things wrapped into one, but the main thing is about moving so fast that you don’t really get a chance to take a look at what you’ve left behind you in this journey.
To be met with something that you came in contact with, that you influenced or you’ve inspired in such a beautiful way that it was a reminder that even though I might have moments where I [mess] up, it doesn’t mean that I am [messed up].
It’s about redemption. It’s about space and time being taken so that we can grow on our own. That’s why [in the song] I say, ‘when we stood side by side, we see eye to eye.’
Another song “Mango Butter,” in particular, is a favorite among fans. Though the lyrics are improvised, did you have a particular theme in mind when you recorded the song?
The chorus came first. I was sold on that. I had the structure of the verses; I just didn’t have lyrics. I didn’t really know what I wanted to say.
And so, with me mumbling and saying these random lines, I felt whoever was listening to it could interpret it in their own way.
[The song] can be whatever you need it to be.
Fans have come to expect bold fashions from you, both on and off stage. What can people expect at the show?
I’m seeing what else I can do, what other ways I can play [around with fashion] because it’s all about playing dress up. I also have to give a shout-out to Gnarls Barkley, CeeLo Green in particular, because when they [performed], they would always be dressed up as random characters.
It [enhances] the performance and brings to life an idea from someone’s imagination. Now, [I] get to express that and tell the story [of the music I’m] bringing out of my brain.
Your next tour date is in Charlotte. Have you spent much time here?
It’s funny because Uptown [Charlotte] is actually downtown, and I do like that area.
I also love me some Cookout.
But I have not spent enough time [in Charlotte]. It’s always been working and squeezing in a little bit of leisure time. I still have to make my way down there to actually stay for a few days.
What else should our readers should know about you and the upcoming show?
[This tour is] therapy. It’s life coaching. It’s the Black graduation; it’s the family reunion. It’s [a] Broadway show. It’s the comedy club.
It’s all these different things that I’m bringing together, all from my imagination.