Colette x Jeremy Bernstein: the new hickster (not hipster) wave.
Nominated by Jina khayyer
Interview by Kate Lawson
When Sarah Andelman, founder and creative director of the cult Parisian concept store Colette, met her neighbour, Jeremy Bernstein, in the Catskills region of New York (which is back in Vogue following its 60s heyday) - a new creative fusion was born. Andelman’s instinct and inspirational vision for discovering new talent tapped into Bernstein’s musical incarnation - Burnell Pines - a sound which seamlessly blends old-school Americana and the beating heart of rustic folk music, with a modern pop sensibility. From a quiet creative haven in the mountains to the magnetic buzz of Paris, where culture, beauty and art are written in its streets - we caught up with Bernstein during Colette’s ‘Catskills Week’, a showcase of Andelman’s upstate finds, to talk the new wave - hickster (not hipster) cool.
Hi Jeremy, what was the first thing on your mind when you woke up today?
My love, my lady. She is in the Catskills and I am in Paris. It’s hard to be disconnected during the current situation here in Paris, it’s been a week filled with all the emotions.
I can imagine. Well let’s try and lift the atmosphere a little and talk about your other love, music. You chose Burnell Pines rather than your real name [Jeremy Bernstein] to release under - where does that originate from?
For me I never enjoyed performing under my given name. I had a close friend who would call me Burnell, short for Bernstein. I was in the process of releasing my last record and knew I did not want to release as Jeremy Bernstein. It was while going for a walk in the forest that I had an epiphany, and the name just came to me. Burnell Pines, it felt good.
Your website bio reads, ‘Burnell Pines is Fire, Water, and Air. Heavy, Light, and Fun. Rambunctious, Reserved, and Fierce.’ - Does that mean you have multiple personalities?!
That’s an interesting question. I wouldn't say multiple personalities, I would say multiple emotions.
So there is a folky psychedelic vibe to your sound - can you define it for me?
It’s like a mountain stream rumbling through a valley emptying out into a lake.
And how do you try and pull the listener in?
I try to always write from the heart. The dream is that the listener can feel that and is able to put themselves in the song.
When did you first pick up a guitar and start singing?
I always loved to sing as a kid, I was in musicals at a young age. I first seriously picked up the guitar around 10 years old. When I went to university I studied Fine Art and put it down for a while. Then around age 20 I picked it back up and started to write songs
Was there a lot of music at home when you were growing up - did your parents play any artists in particular who have influenced you?
There was always music at home growing up. My parents played a lot of The Beatles, Bob Dylan and Tim Harden.
How did your journey evolve into recording and releasing music?
I learned the art of recording music through two key people, Adam Widoff and Robert Burke. We played in a band together and they recorded all their own music. We spent many months staying up till Sunrise working on a record and it was through that process that I found my voice and started the journey into recording and releasing my own songs.
The artwork that accompanies your releases is also really interesting - is the visual story as important to you as the music?
Yes indeed, I believe the artwork should help tell the story.
And is integrity more important to you than success?
For sure. I am always striving to write and record music that is true to my heart. With that said, success on some level is important …. we all need to put food on our table and keep a roof over our head - BUT the music comes first.
That must be easy when you live somewhere like the Catskills - I’m imagining that mix of Instagram-worthy scenic beauty really inspires you to write?
The surrounding landscape is a big part of my inspiration. Living in the peaceful hills of the Catskills allows my mind to be open and free. It’s hard not be inspired on a daily basis.
So like the title of your track - the Catskills did ‘steal your heart’?
Yes. Stole my heart a long time ago.
And who else has stolen your heart?
Anastacia Bolina, my life partner of 13 years.
Ever had your heart broken, and did you write a song about it?
I have had my heart broken a few times, many songs written about it!
Taking inspiration from another of your tracks, ‘Till The Day I Die’ - what’s the one thing you’ll love until that point?
And is your track ‘Ode To A Young Man’ about all your hopes and dreams when you were younger?
It’s funny you ask. That song I co-wrote with my last producer, and it’s a fictitious story about any young man with dreams. It’s not me and I struggled with releasing it.
Ok, well what about your own dreams growing up - have any of those come true for you?
Many of my dreams have come true. I am fortunate to be doing things that I love to do. Working hard and never giving up.
Are you a fatalist?
I would say I am a realist trapped inside a dreamers body.
I love that answer. So let’s talk more about home - the Catskills seem to be the go-to-getaway for the creative set now, do you regularly bump into models and celebrities when you pop out to buy milk?
Ever since I was a kid the Catskills have been a getaway or home for the creatives. These days it’s filled a little more with celebrities as opposed to the creative type.
Who is your most famous neighbour - do you ever see Brad Pitt out in his garden chopping firewood?!
I have no idea! but could not care less about that kind of thing really.
“I am a realist trapped inside a dreamers body.”
So I’m imagining your home is a wood-panelled lodge with a big farmhouse-style table for lots of dinner guests and there are folkish knick knacks everywhere - am I close? Describe it to me?
I live in a small home deep in the woods amongst the rocks and trees. It’s a cosy place with a wood stove and kitchen set up for cooking big meals to share with friends. Downstairs I have a basement studio where I record and play music, and outside there is a fire pit to sit around and watch shooting stars.
Sounds idyllic. And talking of neighbours, Colette’s Sarah Andelman lives nearby and invited you to be part of the store’s ‘Catskills Week’ - how does the audience in Europe compare to the US.. is there a different energy?
There is indeed a different energy. But we are speaking about two very different cultures. I have always felt a warm attentive vibe from European audiences. With that said, I’ve had had so many beautiful experiences playing to Americans as well. No matter where you are in the world there can be good and bad audiences.
And do you like being out on the road performing?
There are fewer things I enjoy more than being on the road performing, sharing my music and uplifting people’s spirits is a large part of what I live for.
What’s the weirdest place you’ve performed to date?
The Country Inn, outside on the back deck in front of the beaver pond!
Well that was a few extra audience claps from the beavers right there! And is there any specific place you would like to visit?
So if I was going to visit the Catskills for the weekend, where would we hang out to really feel the vibe?
The top of Sugarloaf Mountain.
And you’re not far from Woodstock either - if you could rewind back to that iconic festival, who would you liked to have shared the stage with for a duo?
Who would you like to musically collaborate with now?
In a dream world it would be Neil Young.
And what’s coming up next for you?
My new record will be released in the US on February 19th with a tour to support it.
Finally Jeremy - I read that the ‘Catskill Chill’ music festival has the motto, “All Love, All the Time” - if you could choose a motto for life, what would it be?