WESTPORT, Conn. -- Jake Bernard describes his music as "beach pop," somewhere between the relaxed sounds of Jason Mraz and the complexities and softness of John Mayer's earlier music.
The Westport native is all about having fun -- and inviting listeners along for the ride.
"I love performing," he said. "My goal is to make sure that everyone feels included."
Bernard, who will be performing in Westport in early February, said his love for music began young -- think age four -- beginning with writing short songs on the piano, which he named by number (as his grandmother recalls).
He said his parents introduced him to U2, Duran Duran, and Queen and he began taking guitar lessons at seven with Chris Cass, who incited a passion for jazz and complexity in his songwriting, and Chris Russo who helped him understand the importance of getting out of his comfort zone.
He also credits his high school choir teacher, Alice Lipson, who demanded excellence in the classroom and on stage, but especially for her saying: "It's all about the music."
One of his earliest and biggest influences is the Dave Matthews Band which he saw when he was 10-years-old. Slowly, the sounds of John Mayer, Jason Mraz, James Taylor, Coldplay, and others crept into his ears and helped developed the sound he has today.
He said he was unsure about pursuing a music career -- he started studying financial services at Penn State -- but then, after finding himself in a number of conversations about looking back "x" years from now and thinking "what if," he began pursuing his music career at night alongside finance, before going at it full-time.
The Staples High School graduate, now 25, is based in Philadelphia and performs all over the country, including Manhattan, Austin and Los Angeles.
He said he couldn't have gotten as far in his career without the support of his family and friends, including Zach Kramer, his producer and drummer (who he met through his a cappella days at Penn State), who he said has done a phenomenal job beautifying his songs in the studio and on stage.
Right now, Bernard is in the midst of recording a stream of singles to be released later this year. His first was "City of Love," based on his time living in Philly. "There are a number of references throughout the song, and I'm really hoping to have the same effect on the city as it has had on me," he said.
"Ideally, I'm looking to partner with organizations within Philly including the tourism effort, 'Visit Philly' in hopes that a fun jingle like this one is ear-catching enough for them to use to grow their bases."
Among his greatest successes so far he said are having a standing gig at legendary venue The Bitter End in NYC and coming home to Westport to play at Toquet Hall for almost 100 people.
His five-year goal is to crack the charts both as an artist and songwriter (for himself and others). Said Bernard: "In doing so, I'm eager to have the opportunity to inspire kids and adults alike to go out and do what makes them come alive."
You can hear Bernard -- for free -- on Saturday, Feb. 4 from 6 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. at 5 Blackberry Lane in Westport at an event sponsored byJudy Michaelis and promising "music and laughter in a unique and special home." RSVP by Tuesday, Jan. 24 to firstname.lastname@example.org.