Houston Bernard Interview
by Nigel Sharpe for Country Music News International Magazine & Radio Show
Houston Bernard’s country roots run deep with a family tree that includes songwriters, touring musicians and an outlaw gunfighter nicknamed “Bitter Creek.”
Born in Oklahoma, and raised in Alaska, Houston has comfortably settled into life as a professional and popular independent country music recording artist who tours everywhere across the United States.
Houston was first exposed to country music while growing up in Norman, Oklahoma by way of his father and uncle, who toured and performed in various country bands. His uncle Johnny Bernard co-wrote “Muddy Mississippi,” a song which appeared on Reba’s 11th studio album Reba Nell McEntire. Both his father Donny Bernard and uncle Johnny toured and backed up country music greats like Tanya Tucker, Wanda Jackson and Sleepy LaBeef. Performing as Rebel Brothers, the Bernards were regulars in the bustling Oklahoma, Texas and Nashville country music scenes throughout the 70’s.
“I can remember all the way back to when I was about five years old, when I wrote some of my first little songs or jingles,” Houston recalls. “A couple of them I still remember to this day. It is kind of like breathing, it just happens and you don’t analyze it until later in life.”
However, Houston never really had the chance to get to know his father all that well. When he was about three years old, his family relocated to Anchorage, Alaska due to his father rejoining the Army after a slowing touring schedule led to financial hardships for his family. Soon after that his parents split up, his Mom eventually remarried, and relocated him and his brother to a small town of Wasilla, Alaska. Houston was 19 when he finally met his father in person again, and actually got to know him on a meaningful level.
Nevertheless, Houston had still inherited a natural curiosity for music, singing and performing while growing up in Alaska, given his family’s roots. Almost as if it were passed down through genetics in some way.
“I was always drawn to performing and singing and entertaining people from a very young age, and by the time I was 12 year old, I was already singing in malls and talent shows,” he said.
Another staple of Houston’s country roots is a little further up his family tree. An infamous American outlaw named George “Bitter Creek” Newcomb, Houston’s great-great-grandfather and originally a member of the Dalton Gang. However, Newcomb was booted from the gang by Bob Dalton for being too wild, and formed his own band of cowboy outlaws with Bill Doolin known as the ‘Wild Bunch.’ Newcomb, who died from a gunshot wound in 1895, was the inspiration behind The Eagles’ song “Bitter Creek,” which appeared on their 1973 album Desperado.
In his own music, Houston draws upon his family’s rich country and rockabilly musical roots by bringing upbeat, relatable music with powerhouse vocals and enough country twang that transcends age, and resonates with a large audience.
“One song which immediately comes to mind is something I wrote with Britton Cameron called ‘In My Blood,’” Houston commented. “I haven’t released it yet, but I do perform it when I play out live from time to time. It’s about my roots and how I was named after my uncle, ‘Houston Bernard’ who died on the family farm when he was two. People often think my name is just a made up stage name, but I’m proud to say it’s actually a family name that goes back several generations.”
Speaking of performing live, Houston has shared bills with many country superstars over the years like Luke Bryan, Old Dominion, Granger Smith, Michael Ray, Montgomery Gentry, Marshall Tucker Band, and Clint Black. Being onstage and performing live is something which gives him a rush, and he loves connecting with people through music.
“I like telling stories and singing about subjects which have meaning to me personally,” Houston explained. “If it also connects with my fans, that gives it so much more depth and meaning. When I’m on stage, connecting with people and entertaining them is something that is just very fulfilling.”
Houston has also been influenced by a number of other musicians and songwriters, some country and some not, since he was a young child. A few of those include Dwight Yoakam, Bruce Springsteen, John Mellancamp, Brothers Osbourne, Bryan Adams and the Queen, Dolly Parton.
On the Queen of country music, Houston emphatically states, “She still amazes me to this day! Between her challenges growing up, career achievements and her words of wisdom, what’s not to admire? On top of that her beauty and natural talent as a performer and songwriter has transcended many generations. Legend is an understatement!”
Houston is also a proud veteran of the U.S. Army, where he served nine years as a Specialist Master Fitness Trainer, and Water Purification & Petroleum Specialist. With a deep respect for all of those who serve, one of his dreams as a performing musician is to eventually one day play a USO Tour.
“I remember when I was in and the shows were such an amazing release and joy,” Houston recalled. “I would love to one day have the opportunity to give back, and bring those same kinds of emotions to our troops overseas who lay their lives on the line for us everyday.”
Fast forwarding to modern times, Houston has released a series of singles, EPs and albums. In 2013 he released his debut self-titled EP, and then followed up with his first full length album Knockin’ Boots in 2015. In 2018 he released his second EP Lucky Man, followed by Freedom, in 2020, which continued to raise Houston’s profile as a diverse country music singer and songwriter.
More recently, songs like “All We Are Is Memories,” “People We Are,” and “American Dream” have garnered him hundreds of thousands of streams on Spotify and YouTube, along with being featured on Country Rebel, CMT.com, The Heartland Network, and The Country Network.
On his forthcoming new single “Hangover,” produced by Nashville hitmaker Bill McDermott, it’s immediately evident that they’ve recorded another country rocker fit for most honky tonks on a Friday or Saturday night. Singing on a familiar country music subject, drinking, Houston and McDermott mix a 90s-esque style of sound with a bit of a southern rock flair and nothing but good times to boot.
“There are a sea of emotions and stories buried in the songs I write and record, Houston said. “I wrote or recorded them because they moved me in some way, and they are honest human emotions that I experienced, which I think my fans also relate. I just want to connect with them and maybe help create some positivity in their lives, because you only live once!”
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