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Durand Bernarr: Always Keeping it Real, For Real

Updated: Jul 18, 2023

Durand Bernarr is a musical sensation, his melodic tunes, genre-spanning innovative sound, energy-engaging performances, and communicative messages have earned him a devoted global following. What’s more, his performances have become a truly electrifying experience.

Durand Bernarr Wearing House of Harlem

Photographer Gianna Dorsey | Stylist Vincent Smith | Creative Directions Melanesia Hunter

Last year he released his R&B chart-topping twelve-track sophomore album 'Wanderlust'. Following the success of the album the singer proceeded with a sold-out, seventeen-city 'Wanderlust Tour' beginning in Oakland, CA, and ending in Los Angeles.

Essentially, Durand Bernarr's sound combines the soulful elements of traditional R&B with the innovation of modern production. He marries elements of hip-hop, R&B, and even funk, creating a unique fusion that has captivated fans worldwide. He pushes the boundaries not only in music but in his live performances as well, by creating an unprecedented energy that is both electrifying and spiritual. Bernarr comments, “I’m not meant to be understood; I’m meant to be experienced." Durand Bernarr's acclaimed sound and electrifying performances have earned him high praise. Recently, graced the NPR Tiny Desk stage, and his performance excellently showcased his versatility and range as an artist.

Durand has had numerous collaborations with the likes of The Internet, Anderson. Paak, Ari Lennox, and Erykah Badu. His music transcends all limits, bringing together diverse audiences and acoustic concepts. Ultimately, Durand Bernarr is showing the world that there's no stopping his trajectory. His music is defined by its unique vibes while his lyrics explore topics filled with deep, empowering messages. He is a true rising star and we cannot wait to hear what else he's going to bring to the table. We spoke with Durand about his latest album, sold-out tour, and his unforgettable NPR Tiny Desk concert.

Durand Bernarr, Tiny Desk Concert | Photographer Keren Carrión

Photographer Keren Carrión

What is the Durand Bernarr experience?

It’s my multiple personalities coming out to play individually and collectively. I curate a space that consists of a kickback, the cookout, group therapy, Black graduation, porn, church, kwah rehearsal, theatre, stand-up comedy, Def Poetry Jam, Planet Groove, a family reunion, ballroom, dance class, improv, charades, a jam session. All of these things embody where I’ve been, who I am today and where I’m going.

In 2022 you released your sophomore album 'Wanderlust' which debuted at No. 1 on the iTunes R&B/Soul albums chart and now you're back with a second single 'Leveled' can you tell us more about the track and what inspired it?

I had two gut wrenching experiences between ages 19 and 21 where I immensely regretted telling the truth. It had me in a space of feeling broken, embarrassed and thrown away. I never told anyone about it. Last year, I found myself in a situation where I told a truth that didn’t result in me getting turned away. Instead, it brought me in.

The production came from me getting with my guys I play with in Badu’s band - Braylon Lacy, Frank Moka, Daniel Jones and myself. We went into the studio to create a bunch of ideas and this one was born. I knew it was going to be special.

How would you describe the creative and mental space you are in now compared to when you were recording 'Wanderlust'?

Right now, I’m focusing on features, dipping into other worlds to play and color, as well as practicing DJing and piecing together my autobiography. My mental space is free-flowing. I’m listening to my body, allowing myself to rest and being okay with being still. There’s a move in stillness.

Going from the recording studio to the main stage, how do you approach the two? What is it like performing for a live crowd?

I’m a live performer who records in the studio, so I’m always thinking about how the music is going to be interpreted live. Performing is a release. It’s a way for me to engage, share, uplift and get poured into.

Photographer Gianna Dorsey | Stylist Vincent Smith

"I just want to inspire people to think for themselves and get to the core of who they are before the world said, “this is who you should be.” And get out of your own way with what you CAN’T do. It’s called a “Trash CAN”, not a “Trash Can’t”

- Durand Bernarr

In 2021, you toured with Erykah Badu and recently concluded "The Wanderlust Tour," What was that experience like for you performing your own sold-out 17-city tour?

“The Wanderlust Tour” is the third independent tour under my belt. What made this tour such a fulfilling experience was the fact that I had my tribe with me who are also my friends, ranging from five to 20 years. That kind of support gave me a new level of freedom on stage. Sharing the stage with people I love and care about truly hits differently for me and has now become the standard for how I’d like to show up in my performance art.

You bring so much radiant captivating energy to all of your performances, but you raised the bar with your Tiny Desk concert. What was different about that performance and what was the inspiration behind your Uncle Bobby, Proud Family costume?

My Tiny Desk concert was a compact version of my show for The Wanderlust Tour, which is why we were so locked in. By the time it was recorded, we were on the road for three weeks. I also brought in three friends who accompanied me on BGVs during my first tour in 2016, so I knew they would deliver and properly reflect the story I wanted to tell.

As a kid, I wasn’t allowed to participate in Halloween activities and, even as an adult, I barely find time to dress up. So, I decided to dress up on tour. Initially, I was going to go with a Popeye look. However, considering Uncle Bobby is more my speed, we not only decided to go with the Proud Family theme, but EVERYONE on the team from the merch handler to the sound guy was dressed up. It worked out perfectly.

Known to always serve a look, what does your style say about you, and who are some of your style inspirations?

Quiet as it’s kept, I’ve never been a huge fashion person. I had no sense of style as a teenager or even in my early 20’s. I was out here just wearing whatever that I liked and while that mentality hasn’t changed, the way I express myself in my clothes have evolved. The main thing I want to be is comfortable. We can get to “cute” after.

"...we’re the hardest on ourselves. Grace is a priority when maneuvering through life."

- Durand Bernarr

“Leveled” is about being honest with yourself, can you recall a time when you weren't being honest with yourself? How did you get through that time?

“Leveled” is more about transparency than honesty. See, when you’re honest, you’re trying to prove something. Also, in your honesty, you can be unkind. When you’re transparent, there’s no setting yourself on fire to keep someone else comfortable. You’re just bearing your current feelings.

The last time I suppressed myself was when I participated in religion. There was little room to be free while living in a cage. Truthfully, the support from my parents assisted me in making it through those times. The things they instilled in me to be able to stand up for myself and ask questions set me up for success within myself.

What can we expect with the visuals for this single?

That’s a good question because until the right opportunity presents itself, those visuals will only exist in the mind of the listener.

You have a song coming out with Cooper Phillip " The Answers" on which you're featured on. Can you tell us how did that collab come about?

I met Cooper at Stevie Mackey’s a little while back and, at the time, she was working on some material for her project. She had an idea she thought I’d fit in on and that idea was “The Answers”. The rest is in the video we shot for the song.

We saw you'll be performing at Solblume this summer, the lineup is crazy! What are you looking forward to about that performance?

This will be the biggest festival I’ve played to date on my own and the only thing I can think of is I’m gonna have a huge ass group therapy kickback jam session. Hopefully whoever needs it will be seen and fulfilled.

Your Twitter bio reads "...Settin’ a lil bit of Boundaries’ & Stayin’ Leveled’" What new boundaries have you had to set lately to keep your energy leveled?

Talking to myself like I ain’t got no damn sense. That’s a boundary I must maintain because like a lot of us, we’re the hardest on ourselves. Grace is a priority when maneuvering through life.

Following your Tiny Desk concert you stated that “ I’m so much more than just R&B. I’m not meant to be understood; I’m meant to be experienced.” How do you want to impact the world through your artistry?

I just want to inspire people to think for themselves and get to the core of who they are before the world said, “this is who you should be.” And get out of your own way with what you CAN’T do. It’s called a “Trash CAN”, not a “Trash Can’t”

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