Jon Berman Music
Hi, there! Could you give us an overview of your background in music, your style of music, and some of your experiences over the years?
Hi! So I started getting into music at a very young age. Though my parents were mostly talk radio listeners, my grandmother and aunt were both musical and interested in music, and they definitely influenced me to some extent. I remember when I bought my first cassette tapes for my birthday, and I was thrilled. I got Aerosmith’s “Permanent Vacation” and Metallica’s “…And Justice for All”. That was also around the time when MTV was first a big deal, and my sister and I would constantly watch videos. I was in my glory and just felt like it was what I was ultimately meant to do with my life. I had other interests such as hockey, but I wasn’t great at it or as inspired by it as I was by music.
At that point, my mom suggested that I join the marching band at school, as they were always winning competitions and were even going to Disney World. I got on board with that and started out on drums, which ended up being short-lived. I then switched to the saxophone and quickly realized how much work and practice it was going to take. I went to the Wrentham Library, took out a book by Donald Passman, and really started digging into the world—and business—of music. I started practicing diligently, and also training by ear. I learned how to play Elton John’s Greatest Hit in it its entirety, but I did all the parts—including the vocals, the piano parts, and the bass parts—on my saxophone. It definitely helped me later when learning by ear and song structure.
I joined some bands in high school, participated in the Battle of the Bands, and became even more hooked on and committed to this way of life, mostly with a band I got to play with at times called Big Lick. I started to have opportunities to play in Boston with various bands and also got recruited to go to Westfield State and participate in the amazing jazz program that they had at the time. That really led to everything, opening the door to the formation of Shoeless Joe with my college friends.
After college, I had a jazz quartet, I but missed playing in front of large audiences. I joined a band in Boston that was gathering a large following called Clarias. During an acoustic mini-tour, I had an epiphany that really informed my musical life going forward. One day, we met a couple of women from Mt. Holyoke at Fire & Water Cafe, and they asked if we wanted to play at the school. We were pretty psyched about it, especially when we learned that Stephen Kellogg would be performing there soon. We told them that if they could get us in on Stephen’s concert, we’d only request half the payment they’d initially offered. They agreed to that and we were good to go. Witnessing Stephen’s soundcheck and performance was a revelation. I realized that he truly did not need a band backing him to be successful. He could do it all on his own, from playing instruments to vocals. At that point, I knew I needed to start playing guitar and singing. I bought a guitar and didn’t do much with it initially, but over time, as I was going through treatment for cancer, I really started to commit to practicing.
What projects and events do you have coming up?
So I have an instrumental project in the works that’s pretty interesting. I also have another project directed toward kids, which will include some lessons, humor, and playfulness. For example, one song is called Milk Came Out of My Nose. I want to help kids take themselves less seriously, have fun, and learn to laugh at themselves. It’s really important to me that kids learn to be flexible and bounce back from tough situations, not get stuck in a negative headspace or feel badly about themselves if they make a mistake. Even adults mess up and have tough experiences, but that doesn’t mean that we give up. There are times when I might have a few performances in a row I’m not thrilled about, but then I’ll get back in touch with how I naturally do things and get my groove back.
I’ll also be playing at WurstHaus in Northampton in July, as well as the Shortstop Bar and Grill in Westfield, which are always fun venues for me.
What else would you like to share?
We really want to see venues open up and for people to get out and lift up local musicians. I had so many life-changing experiences over the years performing at the Iron Horse, Academy of Music, Pearl Street, and the Calvin.
Everyone starts somewhere, and it’s up to our community (and beyond) to show support by spending money and getting out there to experience shows. A band that’s coming up and I know is going to be big is The Elevators—everyone should check them out and see them live when possible! I really want to see the music scene continue to thrive and grow, especially in a town like Northampton that has meant so much to me since I was a kid.
And finally, what is your favorite summer food?
Fish and Chips at Jake’s Seafood or at Brian Houlihan’s The Parrot on Nantasket Beach in Hull, Massachusetts.