In depth at Utalent Records: Darien Bernard

John Melendez

Editor’s Note: “In depth at Utalent Records” is a weekly column highlighting the 2018–2019 student artists under the UT record label, Utalent Records.

From a young age, music has played a fundamental role in exercise science junior Darien Bernard’s life. Now that he is signed to Utalent Records, he’s one step closer to fulfilling his musical aspirations.

Utalent Records is a student-run record label at UT offering networking and hands-on experience opportunities to students interested in the music industry. Maria Tangarova, finance junior and president of Utalent Records, founded the organization in fall 2017.

This year, five students were chosen to become 2018–19 Utalent Records-signed artists. Tangarova said the label provides important industry experience student artists won’t get anywhere else. 

“I thought that it would be good to train artists on how to be more savvy about the business world because you hear a lot of artists being nervous and scared about getting scammed in the music industry,” Tangarova said.

Singer-songwriter Bernard plans on using his year-long contract with the label to create an original four-song EP about failed or unrequited love. He said his sound is a mixture of pop and R&B with major lyrical and musical influences from Sam Smith and Ariana Grande, respectively. 

From singing gospel tunes in his grandmother’s living room in New Orleans to teaching himself how to play “Für Elise” on the piano at age 8, Bernard knew early on that he wanted to use music to reach people.  

“Even when I didn’t even believe in myself, I always knew that I wanted to use my voice and music to touch people and to help people through whatever they might be going through because music got me through all of the crappy stuff in my life,” Bernard said. 

Bernard said part of his self-doubt and fear of judgment came from childhood bullying he faced because of his black and gay identity. 

“The way that I internalized (the bullying), all the ways I hated myself, it was always a constant struggle for me like not knowing who I am or what I want in my life,” Bernard said.

He said those struggles shaped him and eventually gave him the confidence to pursue music and help others. It wasn’t until the end of his sophomore year that he began to take music seriously and started a YouTube channel where he regularly uploads song covers.

Julian Rowe-Cohen is a sport management, journalism sophomore and co-songwriting chair for Utalent who has worked with Bernard on his music. As a former 2017–2018 Utalent artist, Rowe-Cohen said he appreciates the passion Bernard brings to the table.

“(Bernard’s) really developing this unique style that is growing and changing a little bit every time we work on something,” Rowe-Cohen said. “The stuff he does is this really poppy sub-genre of R&B, and there’s totally a place for it in the music industry.”

Bernard said he hopes to release another EP before graduation. He plans to stay in Austin and continue pursuing music.

“I care very little about the money side of (music),” Bernard said. “I care very little about the numbers. My main concern is making sure that whatever I’m doing, I’m helping people, I’m touching people.”