Spencer Berger has been classically trained for most of his life. The LA-based musician began performing at the age of nine as a member of The Metropolitan Opera’s Children’s Chorus, singing onstage with legends like Luciano Pavarotti and Placido Domingo. In recent years Berger has put his singing skills – as well as his love of the guitar – towards something decidedly different than the music he grew up around: pop. Given his background, it’s no wonder that Berger calls his pop project Auditorium.
Since 2011 Berger has released an LP (Be Brave) and an EP (Nights Worth Living), enrapturing listeners with his chill-inducing voice and lush instrumental arrangements. His penchant for crafting catchy melodies helps too, and his recordings feel intimate and deeply personal. On January 27th, Berger will release his new LP The First Music, which finds him venturing into even more personal and often darker territory than on previous albums. Handling all of the production and writing himself, The First Music draws from personal tragedy, family history, childhood memories, and current world events. While that may not sound like cheery pop music, there is joy to be had in the delicate beauty and precise construction of each of the album’s 15 songs.
Today we are excited to premiere one of the standout songs on Auditorium’s The First Music, “It’s Only God, I Swear”, right here on Glide. Berger’s gorgeous vocals are on full display in an almost choir-like sound, which is fitting considering the song title. As a whole, the tune feels an uplifting and euphoric nugget of power pop. This is ultimately a song about finding hope in sadness, and that’s something we all need right now.
Listen to the song and read our conversation with Auditorium’s Spencer Berger below:
You’ve been a classically trained musician since you were a child. What drew you into making an album of pop music?
I was trained to sing at The Metropolitan Opera between the ages of nine and twelve, but the first instrument I truly fell in love with was guitar, at sixteen. I wound up playing in rock bands through high school and college. Even though I was a music major in college, I’ve always been terrible at reading music, and play almost exclusively by ear these days. I’ve had this push and pull between the classically trained side of my brain and the improvisational side my entire life, and the result is Auditorium.
Does the album’s title The First Music carry significance in relation to you making pop music and also handling all of the production yourself?
I hadn’t thought of that! No, the title is taken from a lyric on the last song of the album.
The album was recorded over 200 consecutive nights in your Los Angeles apartment. Is there a specific reason for the number 200 or that it was only done at night?
I’ve always naturally been a night owl, and tend to think clearer after dark – though there were certain phases of production, such as when I was mixing, that I preferred to do during the day. The actual number of consecutive nights I worked on the album was 235, but I just say 200 because it’s a nice round number.
You performed all of the instruments and vocals. Can you talk about how your process for writing and recording the album worked?
My setup was pretty minimal – all the sounds on the album were created using one microphone, an acoustic guitar, an electric guitar, a MIDI keyboard, and a bass my wife’s godfather built. I’d start recording only when I felt confident in the overall structure of each song, but I’d leave room to experiment within that structure. For instance, I purposely didn’t write any of the vocal harmonies prior to recording.
How many of the songs on the album were written from personal experiences?
All of them. But when I’m writing lyrics inspired by a personal experience, I don’t focus on whether the final product is directly autobiographical. I often find that fictionalizing events helps me get at the truth of an experience better than if I spelled things out exactly the way they happened to me in real life.
Can you talk about the inspiration for the song “It’s Only God, I Swear”?
I was once at a funeral for a close friend and witnessed a mourner grieving in a manner that somehow managed to simultaneously break my heart and give me hope. It was an emotion I’d never felt before, and haven’t felt since. While the details have been changed, I was thinking about my friend and that mourner while writing the song.
Auditorium releases The First Music on January 27th. For more music and info visit Auditorium on Facebook.
Photo credit: Liza Boone