Singer-songwriter Berel has been doing this music thing for a while. But recently, he dropped the second half of his name (formerly going by Berel Alexander), got a haircut, and linked up with some of the dudes at Text Me Records to forge a new identity ready for the R&B/soul space, debuting his newest single "Simple" last month.

We spoke with Berel about his humble beginnings (skipping the part on his viral YouTube video) and what to expect from him in 2018.

The Bay Bridged: Your SoundCloud currently only has four songs on it, but there's tons of stuff of you on YouTube (airport jam, the Berel Alexander Ensemble, "All Over It" EP); Can you tell us a bit about your musical journey up to this point?

Berel: I had the honor of seeing Ray Charles perform live, when I was just nine years old. I remember the energy in that room like it was yesterday! I believe that musicians and artist of that caliber, when they perform they pour a part of their souls into yours. Like a direct download.

A few years later, when I eventually started writing songs on my own I was listening to Jack Johnson and James Taylor, the Beatles, as well as iconic soul like Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin. In high school I started playing punk, but my tastes evolved to include the Roots, Erykah Badu, and Musiq Soulchild.

Through that melting pot I put together a band to perform my original songs (and we also did James Brown and Ray Charles and Marvin covers). Did that for years, then "went solo," dropped the Alexander from my name, and started producing with Aabo and others. The rest is future history.

TBB: More recently, your music has taken on a more modern, R&B/soul feel. How has your sound evolved through the years?

B:In recent years I've become inspired with the renaissance that's happening in soul and R&B, and the influence those styles have on other styles of popular music. It's honestly just a matter of inspiration and free-flow between me and my fellow collaborators.

TBB: How did you get in contact with Text Me Records?

B:It came through the pipeline of the incredibly talented and resourceful Mars Today, who was also one of the producers on this joint. He is an early Text Me family member and his valiant work ethic...brings people in the music community together. He's great at connecting dots, both musically and business-wise. Go find that guy on Twitter if you haven't already. I love what Text Me is doing for independent music for the Bay (and beyond).

TBB: For your latest single, "Simple," the production features Aabo, who you've worked with before, but also Mikos da Gawd and Mars Today. What did Mikos and Mars bring to the table that was different?

B: Mikos brings a heavy slap no matter what. His drums always hit hard and he contributes a solid harmonic foundation with his chord structures. Mars brought a fresh element to "Simple," which was mainly talkbox, the vocalized synth sound added a unique compliment to my vocals. As a self-proclaimed "songsmith", Mars also brought the arrangement of the tune to another level, by adding elements to make the hook gel.

TBB: What do you have in store for 2018?
I'm steady building my catalog and seeking new innovative ways to release music out there to the world. It all has to feel good and that's most important.

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