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InterviewsMusic

Project: Aloft Star Part 2 – The Bergamot: 2017 Winners

The Bergamot on stage.

Written by Tristan Olav Torgersen
Editor in Chief – Originally posted on IndieEntertainmentMagazine.com
Photos by @Tutes and Charna Sherman

Johnny Cash and June Carter Cash. Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham. Sonny and Cher. Matt and Kim. Jay-Z and BeyoncĂ©. Add to your list of great musical couples The Bergamot. Then again, don’t label them as such only.

Music is one of the most sublime forms of artistic expression. From the days of Bach, Schubert, and Tchaikovsky to the present day, music connects us, it binds us, and it travels from our ear to our soul. Musicians find their style and tone from their life and their many influences.

Love and relationships undoubtedly are some of the most prominent inspirations for many of the greatest albums and songs. Included in that list of inspirations would be adventure and the idea of the journey, the introspection and discovery of oneself, storytelling, and so many more.

The Bergamot masterfully capture what so many bands can never grasp: the husband and wife duo equally create and contribute to their music. There is no leader and follower in their partnership and band. They are not plagued with a struggle for attention or the limelight. They love each other, they love their music, and they love bringing that to audiences worldwide. That sets them apart.

I had the chance to sit down with them in a room of the Aloft Long Island City hotel for an exclusive interview. What I found was not what I had expected initially. I was pleasantly surprised in fact.

In the couples I mentioned earlier, most often there are roles played by each partner. One is the songwriter, the other the musician. One the singer, the other the player. One the face, the other in the background. The Bergamot shatter such clichés.

The Bergamot, photo by Hannah Victoria Photography.
Look at em. Just look at them. Cute and musical AF. Photo courtesy of Hannah Victoria Photography.

Jillian Speece and Nathaniel Hoff are both extremely talented, and each in their own way. The two met in high school back in 2003 in South Bend, Indiana. It was not until they were at Indiana University Purdue University Fort Wayne in 2009 that they officially formed The Bergamot.

They both explained to me during the interview that their band is not two musical halves making a single whole. Rather, The Bergamot is composed of two beautifully creative and talented musicians making music that they love. It is a perfect symbiotic relationship. They inspire each other. They feed off of each other. They respect each other.

Oh, and did I mention they love each other?

The Bergamot duo at the Project: Aloft Star finale in NYC.
Love is a kiss and a peace sign after winning Project: Aloft Star. Photo by @Tutes

They have played in all 50 states, across Europe, and they are currently on tour as well (we have upcoming shows and dates listed at the bottom of the article). It was no wonder that they took home the win at the Project: Aloft Star final showdown. Their experience and relationship has given rise to amazing music and strong performances befitting of the win.

Here is a music video for you.
Just promise to keep reading for the interview and don’t get caught listening to all of their music right now.
I know it’s tempting.

Ok, I’ve whet your appetite and you have to know more.

Here is our interview with Jillian and Nathaniel from the The Bergamot!

Q: What was the moment that you knew you wanted to be musicians? Was there one?

Nathaniel: I remember borrowing an acoustic guitar from my music teacher and sitting in my bedroom playing along with Nirvana and Pearl Jam with a penny. That started it all for me.

Jillian: I think I was about 8 years old, and I used to sing back to my mom the songs she would sing to me. I started writing music early and knew I wanted to be a performer, like Norah Jones, Fleetwood Mac, or Michael Jackson.

Q: As a married couple with The Bergamot, tell me a little about the writing and creative process. Who writes? One of you? Both? How does it work?

Jillian: It is a serendipitous symbiotic process. We see each other as equal and individual musicians.

Nathaniel: We do some writing on our own, but we also collaborate for much of our music. There are times we sit down and hum ideas out together until we have something we like.

Jillian: There’s a real mixture of power and beauty in what we do. We don’t ever want to get pigeonholed as ‘the married couple band,’ that’s too restricting for us. And we each stand on our own as musicians. Nathaniel has more classical training than I do, and I bring my own style and voice to our songs.

Q: How did you find out about Project: Aloft Star? What has your experience been like with the Aloft Hotels?

Nathaniel: We played at the Aloft Downtown Denver this year, and found out about the competition through a sponsored post on Instagram actually.

Jillian: It was actually on September 30th, the final day for submissions. We picked out a few songs and a photo and submitted on that last day just in time. Glad we did! We loved the voting process and how it really allowed us to involve our fans.

Nathaniel: Yeah, we’ve played over 250 shows in the last year, and we have a little following I guess you’d say. It gave our fans a chance to show their support and to be a part of our musical journey by voting for us.

Q: As a finalist, you got to work with Gavin DeGraw, tell me a little about that experience.

Nathaniel: He is an authentic, humble, and genuine guy. I couldn’t say enough about him.

Jillian: He was so personable, and a really sweet guy. I love how he is partnered with Aloft, because he really has a nurturing personality and such a great story.

Nathaniel: In fact, he shared a story with us about his own career that I’d never heard before.

Jillian: That’s right! He talked about sitting down after he received an offer from RCA with is lawyer and looking over his contract. It was a very lucrative contract, but he felt it wouldn’t give him enough ownership of his music and that is was a little bit much at the moment.
He thanked them for their offer and told them how much he appreciated it, but he decided that he wanted to develop himself as an artist and musician first. It was then that he moved to New York City and wrote I Don’t Want To Be. Pretty cool!

Q: I’d say so! Ok, our final question, and arguably the hardest one. You’re stuck on an island and you get 3 Albums to have for the rest of time. What are they?

Nathaniel: Oh boy…that is tough. I’ll start though. Dave Matthews and Tim Reynolds Live in Las Vegas, Fleetwood Mac: Greatest Hits, and Kinda Blue by Miles Davis.

Jillian: You did save the hardest question for last. Okay. I would say Wilco’s Yankee Hotel Foxtrot, Dire Straits self-titled debut, and Modest Mouse’s Good News for People Who Love Bad News.

That’s a wrap! Not only are they great musicians, but they have great taste as well.

I hope you enjoyed getting to know them a little better. Listen to their music on Spotify, buy their albums, see them in concert, and look forward to our next piece!

The Bergamot win! Photo by Charna Sherman
Contrary to this photo, their prize was more than just a pink Aloft Star acoustic guitar. Photo by Charna Sherman

Catch The Bergamot at a show near you: Tour Schedule

You’ve made it this far, how about another YouTube video of The Bergamot?

Check out our other articles from the Finale:

Part 1 – Project: Aloft Star Part 1 – Winning Press Release

Part 3 – Project: Aloft Star Finalist: Gigi Rich

Part 4 – Project: Aloft Star Judges: Industry Q&A

About Aloft Hotels

With more than 125 hotels now open in nearly 20 countries and territories around the world, Aloft Hotels, part of Marriott International, Inc., delivers a fresh approach to the traditional staid hotel landscape.

For the ‘always on’ next generation of traveler, the Aloft brand offers a tech-forward, vibrant experience and a modern style that is different by design.