Country and Traditional Irish Singer Bernadette has shared the stage with some of the greats including Wynonna, Billy Dean, Vince Gill, Jim Ed Brown, and countless others. Upon the sudden death of her beloved fiancée, Bernadette followed her path toward new strength and a new beginning. In 2014 with the help of producer friend John Mock, Bernadette released a new record, not the same me. Bernadette credits the album, which contains original country music as well as traditional Irish songs, with helping her cope with the grieving. Bernadette graciously took the time to talk about the record including how grief played a role in choosing the songs, how loss changed her and more.
Originally, you are from Ireland. What drew you to country music?
It has always been country music for me. Growing up, my mother always listened to Charley Pride, other country singers from America and Irish country singers like, Big Tom. When I became a teenager, I started listening to Patsy Cline and Dolly [Parton]. People always told me I was good at singing country music and that's what I did.
You have been in the US for quite a while now. Did you specifically move to the states to pursue a music career?
I left Ireland to see what was beyond it, really. I started a band, called Big Distance, in England when I was nineteen. We played traditional Irish music as well as country music from Ireland and the US. I didn’t set out to have a music career in Nashville, but along the way that’s how things kind of developed. Nashville is full of great singers who haven't had opportunities, and that can be very alarming and disheartening, but I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. At the end of the day someone who does this has to have a great love for the music because you wouldn’t get up and work at it every day if you didn’t.
It feels like I have been doing this for a hundred years (laughing). I stay in Nashville because I work as a nursing tech. I look after the elderly and people in hospice, which I love. I do what I can [performing] here and try to reach as big an audience as I can playing, for example, The Midnight Jamboree, without getting on a bus and traveling all over. I would like to travel but I don’t want to leave my nursing. The elderly people can just get into your heart….and they love to hear me sing, so I can blend my jobs together. It can be difficult to transition from working where one minute someone can pass on and hours later you are on stage trying to do a show, but it has made me the artist and woman I am today.
You do everything independently including releasing your records on your own label, Rachael Records.
Yes I do and I pay for it all by my nursing work; I don’t owe anyone a penny. No one can tell me what to do with my music, I can release it wherever I want, and talk to whoever I want. It is empowering, but I also hope it’s inspiring to other artists who think they have to come to Nashville and hook up with someone, especially when there are people out there who want to scam you. All you have to do is get here, get yourself a job and find someone you can trust to help you. I have that with John Mock who produced this record. I’m so proud of the way he loves music and the way the record turned out.
The record he produced, not the same me, was released in 2014. It is an album born out of a great sadness.
The record was made because my Brian, who I was with for eleven and a half years, decided to drop dead on me, the little devil. It will be five years in October that he died right in front of me. There was no saving that big fella, even though the doctors tried. Everyone laughs, but I am serious--when I get to Heaven, he is in big trouble!
We started this record together and I couldn’t even think about finishing it until last year because the grief was so bad. My friends told me to sit down with my heartache and write, but I couldn’t go there. I tried, but the sessions always ended with me crying, so I searched for songs to put on the record. It was a great grief that put these great songs together. If they didn’t speak to me as a grieving woman, I didn’t pick them for the record. It took me four years to choose the songs, but I think I picked real good.
I know Brian is looking down saying he’s so proud of this record and that if he had to die to make this record then so be it…but he’s still in big trouble!
The title that you chose for the record was definitely reflective of what you were feeling.
Absolutely. I am not the same woman I was in 2010; not after October 8th. I have experienced loss before, my mother died when I was fourteen, but it wasn’t the same pain. I was changed in a way that’s kind of frightening. I have become gentler, softer and appreciate life so much more. There are days that I think it’s such a drag, but then I remember that I’m healthy, happy and relatively young. I have to remind myself I’m not in that pain anymore. I feel for people who have recently lost someone because I know the pain they are going to experience, but they have to go through it their own way and that’s why this record could not have been called anything else. I thought about it for a long time, because it could have had a fancy name, but where I say not the same me, plainly, without capitals, it’s true.
Being that the record is so very personal, do you have a favorite track?
“Love With A Broken Heart” and “I Know I love You” are my absolute favorites, but “I Know I Love You” is the one.
What do you want people to take away from the record when they listen?
The main thing is that if you had a loss in life, you can come through it. Parents lose kids, people lose spouses and it’s a struggle, but if you’ve lost someone you can survive it. I was at the bottom and making this record was the only way I could survive. I made this record for people to know there is a light at the end of the tunnel.
Having had some amazing experiences, is there anything you want to accomplish this year?
I would like to have great reviews from great reviewers on the record. I would also love to sing at the Opry, but I’m waiting on an invitation. If it happens, it happens, but if not I‘ll just wait my turn. It would be lovely to say I’ve played the Opry, but it would also be lovely to share this message with people.
Finally, I always like to know, what are you currently listening to?
Dawn Sears, who was just one of the best singers. She had lung cancer and passed away awhile back. I had the pleasure of singing with her and her husband Kenny last St. Patrick’s Day; what an honor to stand beside that girl. I also have Tina Turner and Maura O’Connell, Lady Antebellum and George Jones. I’ll tell ya, I listen to a variety of singers!
For more information & to purchase not the same me visit her official website
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