A new series of conversations with local creative people in the Nicola Valley, designed to inspire the imagination
Things to Know About Robert Bertrand, the Musician/Painter
CO - Interviewer Catherine Oborne
RB - Robert
CO- Robert, tell us who influenced you.
RB- I was born and raised in Cape Breton. My mom & dad were artists; musical & visual.
My mom sang and my dad played the accordion, painted & worked with wood. Mom
was a busy housewife, raising 7 kids. As a kid, I drew and won a contest when I was
6 years old. The prize was $1.00! I was so happy and surprised. All through high school, I drew. Later
I joined a rock band. I dropped out of university after one year, and figured if you can read and you travel, you can learn everything you need to know. So, I traveled to Toronto to hear the amazing harmonica player, Sonny Terry & guitarist Brownie McGhee. With luck, I met them that night. The rest is history.
CO- What cities have you lived in?
RB- I’ve lived in many cities, East & West. Theresa and I
call Merritt home; our house protected by shade trees & our
vegetable garden & wild raspberries providing nourishment.
Playing music with Gary Cooper at the Adelphi and meeting
Cassandra lead me to playing music at Brambles, The Country
Music Hall of Fame, & Kekuli.
CO- What was your first real job?
RB- For 22 years, I worked at Vancouver General Hospital as an area supply clerk, and played music on
side at the Naam Restaurant.
CO- What music is memorable for you?
RB- The Rolling Stones, Chicago Blues, harmonica & slide guitar I really found attractive. Brian Jones. The “side musician” for the Rolling Stones became my mentor/idol. “That was it!” I was enrolled at art school, but it was Music (which is immediate), or Art School (which is a process). I chose music.
CO- As a creative person, who are the influential artists or thinkers who inspired you?
RB- Music is my first ‘Art', and painting is a close second. Finger picking inspiration came from John Fahey, and Leo Kottke. I’m interested in history, and while travelling in Europe I saw Rembrandt and my favourites became the classics & magic realism. Magic realism, ‘a frozen moment’ in time, “expresses a primarily realistic view of the real world while also adding or revealing magical elements."
CO- How do you define Art?
RB- I feel it is an attempt by humankind to imitate God. For example, we paint a tree…look at this tree…
we point out creation. “It's a Zen thing, a simple but brilliant idea”.
CO- Name a couple of films you consider ‘moving’.
RB- I enjoy adventure & historic films, period pieces; Laurence of Arabia, Master Commander, Casa Blanca.
CO- What kind of advice would you offer an aspiring creative person?
RB- Work hard, believe in self, know your limitations.
CO- Books you have enjoyed?
RB- Steppenwolf by H Hess, Crime & Punishment, Dickens, 1984.
CO- A country you would like to visit?
RB- I’d like to return to Australia & visit New Zealand. I enjoy history so I’d like to visit Iceland, founded by the Vikings. I would like traveling to two different hemispheres.
CO- How do you de-stress?
RB- Bike riding and going to the gym 3 times a week.
CO- If you were to die & come back as a person or a thing, what would that be?
RB- Me again. If I knew then what I know now, I would buy a house at age 18 and again at age 21.
CO- If you weren’t an artist, what profession would you want to explore?
RB- Archaeologist or anthropologist.
CO- What piece of technology do you wish was never invented?
RB- The cell phone.
CO- Who would you rather listen to: Rolling Stones or the Beatles?
RB- Initially, the Rolling Stones. As I aged I realized the Beatles had superior song writing abilities.
CO- Who is your favourite solo artist/band?
RB- Bob Dylan’s song writing was revolutionary, he sang about everything ~ political and social revolutions.
I believe he didn’t want to be a spokesman for the generation.
CO- What word would your friends use to describe you?
RB- Loyal. Loyalty to my wife & my friends. Commitment to complete a job that i start.
CO- What is the best gift you have ever received or have given?
RB- Encouragement! 38 years ago, I was playing at the Fitzgerald Restaurant in Toronto. A musical
instrument dealer came over to me and offered to give me a Martin guitar. I felt appreciated & important
CO- Thank you, Robert! It has been great to talk to you and get to know you better.
Now, I will encourage everyone to listen to your music through our link here.
Or go to Open Mic’s You Tube for more of your songs.
Or best of all, find where you are playing live in our Merritt, BC community, and see for themselves!
Open Mic nights every Friday at Kekuli Café. Robert Bertrand is often there!
Thanks Catherine Oborne!