Even as we listened through dozens upon dozens of entries and comers for February 2011′s top indie act, we couldn’t resist Singing Bear’s confident but sultry, groovy but ethereal eclectic song catalog. Not having a clue who this enigmatic but prolific talent was, we asked him about the name and the music and here is what returned:
MusicZeitgeist.com: Who is Singing Bear?
My name is Anthony Singing Bear…that is part Native American but mostly just regular American. My mom named me Singing Bear long before I was a singer. I began writing songs in 1999 when I was hitchhiking through Europe on an adventure of my own crafting. Actually, to be honest, I ran out of money when I was in Belgium and just started playing the blues on the streets of Antwerpen with my case out one day and actually made like 120 Euros or something like that (it was in Belgian currency at that time).
So I started to do this everyday for a while and saved up some money. I was doing pretty well in fact, and the fun part of the whole experience was that because nobody understood english all that well, I was able to sit there and make up lyrics on the spot all day, and it did not have to make sense at all. Thus began my exploration of improvisational songwriting.
I wrote so many songs in the past ten years that I have really lost count – well over 100. Many of them I have even recorded but just don’t play anymore. I am really an artist of the moment, I like to create music as it comes to me without trying to recreate it the same every time, that is what CDs are for. I am going for a live performance that is always new and fresh and surprises everyone. To this day, My band and I will often make up at least one or two songs on the spot at any one of our live shows.
My band includes myself, Anthony Singing Bear on acoustic guitar, lead vocals, keys, harmonica, percussion and more, Kevin Njikam on electric guitar and keys, Travis Porter de Leon on drums, Jared May on bass, and Sandra Chocolate Bear (my wife) on backup vocals. Throughout the years, we have co-created with many other great players as well and of course have played in any number of arrangements which is why my EPK says two to five members of the band. The longest member of my band is Kevin. We met in San Francisco in 2006 and have been playing together ever since.
MZ: Talk about the kind of music do you play
Really its like, “Well what kind of music do you like, because I can probably play it.” Mostly we wind up classified under pop singer/songwriter because many of our songs tend to have catchy lyrical hooks. But when it comes to a live performance, anything is game from world beat to reggae to jazz to jam. Mostly we just put it all under the jam heading. But one thing that sets us apart from other so called “jam bands” is that we actually improvise lyrics and whole new songs in the moment. We move from ballads to funk, reggae to latin, and folk to straight rock. We love it all, anything that makes our hearts sing and our bodies shake.
We are currently based out of the Bay Area. Most of the band lives in Berkeley but I live in Marin county, just north of the city out in the hills. I love being close to the city, but the country is really where I feel most at home. We have been playing all over California, Oregon, Washington, Arizona, New Mexico and Colorado mostly with a few annual trips to Hawaii. I am originally from Ohio, but moved to San Francisco in 2005.
Almost immediately I was swept in to the new counterculture of health consciousness and spiritual transformation that is emerging now. It is mostly based on cultivating a sort of spiritual elation through the use of meditation, highly nutritious organic foods and psychedelic plants. Many songs erupted out of me through this experience that have since become new mantras for this sub-culture. But with this latest release “Gold” we are suddenly poised to launch into a wider audience and are excited to see everyone else’s reaction to our vibe.
MZ: What motivates your output?
To be honest, I was actually living in a Tipi on an organic farm in the middle of Meigs County Ohio when I was struck with the calling to share my music with the world. After returning home from my 6 month European Gypsy Vacation, I moved into a Tipi on the family farm and went into a sort of seclusion for about 6 months. During that time I was very introverted and pretty much worked on the farm, meditated, and wrote songs.
One morning I woke up at dawn and went out bare-footed into the snow. I stood there staring off into the woods when suddenly a deer sprang up on me and came very close to me. It seemed to look me in the eye as if it wanted to tell me something. Honestly, I cannot explain what happened at that moment, but after that I became sort of obsessed with the notion that I was supposed to go out and play music.
Ever since then I have been on a mission to play to as many ears and hearts as I can – so that is what motivates me, I guess. Partly I think sometimes that I am singing for the wild beasts that don’t have as much of a voice in our human dominated world.
MZ: When will you know your work is done?
Until the end of time. Music never ends. Taken from the song “EarthSong” – “I didn’t write this song, oh no, I’m just singing along. It’s the same old song and it’s always been sung forever on and on. Long before there was man there was music, all over the land the birds were singing, the waves were crashing, the wind was howling and the earth was beating on her drum. There’s always been music, always been music, there will always be music forever on and on. There will always be music, we will always be singing earth’s sweet song, you can’t help but sing along…”