There is a point in life when you have to decide between pursuing your artistic interest as a hobby or a full-fledged career. Wellesley-based musician Sean Bertram arrived at that very crossroad when in high school. A few paths were drawn in front of him: a career in engineering or biochemistry, or becoming a full-time musician. He ultimately chose the latter.
“I was like, ‘which one pays least? How about let’s be a musician,’” joked Bertram.
The road to musicianship was linear for the Wellesley resident. Raised by a musician, his dad, the apple didn’t fall far from the tree. When he was just 2 or 3 years of age, Bertram began taking percussion classes at the Beckett School of Music, where children would sit in a circle – of those lessons, he remembers learning to clap basic rhythms.
Following the applause sessions, at the age of 6, Bertram progressed to a more sophisticated instrument, piano.
“I hated [it].” he said. Like many children introduced to the ivories, he continued with lessons for four years, until he figured out guitar would be a ‘cool’ instrument to pick up.
“When I was 10, my dad got me a guitar. And he’s told me ‘you know, I didn’t think you’d it stick with it.’ Because, you know, it’s hard. And when things are hard, when you’re young, it’s like, ‘this is hard. I want to quit.’”
Around the same age Bertram first began playing guitar, he also started to pursue songwriting. Of the early songs, some of the influences are ‘embarrassing’ dealing with topics like “how much it sucks to be a 12-year-old.” The first catalogue consisted of “mostly just stupid love songs where I didn’t know what love was.”
After his life-changing decision in high school to risk everything by following his dreams, he attended Humber College for the Bachelor of Music program.
“It was really a long road. It was [also] a fun road,” he said. The program focused heavily on jazz performance, where Bertram received a two-year crash course from his guitar teacher who used to teach at Berklee. The two-year section of the program culminated with a 45-minute concert.
Following that, his third and fourth year focused on artist development and resulted in a four-hour session, which helped with the recording of his first EP. The EP was named ‘The Right Place’ and was recorded in the attic alongside his father.
Following that recording, Bertram also released Echo another EP just this year on May 1. The track ‘Against My Will’ won Bertram an award through the InterContinental Music Awards for the best song in North America. Two of the tracks also made it as finalists for the category.
Bertram now has plans to release his debut full-length album in the final quarter of the year. Currently, he’s spending his days perfecting the new self-titled LP.
“It’s not a phobia of silence, but when there is music not playing, I don’t like it – it feels uncomfortable.” He has been filling the void by working on tracks for eight to 10 hours a day.
Bertram assures the new album will have a little bit of everything. “I’m re-recording some stuff for my very first album, full band with some new production techniques. New writing, a little bit new performance stuff. I like throwing in interludes. I love concept albums, especially newer ones… or [classics] like Dark Side of the Moon [by] Pink Floyd,” he explained.
“I love putting interludes and spoken word [components] in between the tracks and connecting things because my songs are all pop-ish, about more or less similar things. So, it’s not like it’s going to be another story, but I want to connect things similarly with things that are said [related] concepts, similar themes.”
Three themes are prominent and reoccurring on the album: loss of love, independence and self-discovery, growing as a person.
His father’s impact on his musical career can be found in the influence of artists such as John Mayer, Jamie Cullum and Anderson Paak, from whom he takes aspects and tries to reflect in his own productions.
Like many artists, Bertram finds it difficult to describe himself by a genre tag. “I always want to say I’m beyond genre,” he said jokingly. “I guess it’s kind of pop rock a little bit, with some jazz and funk influences. I’m kind of like the mixture between John Mayer and Jason Mraz.”
Bertram’s musical catalogue can be found online.