Profile: R&B Artist Dylan Bernard
Dylan Bernard cures his “Writer’s Block”
By Kate Morgan

In some of Dylan Bernard’s earliest memories, he’s singing with a church choir. He was 4, or maybe 5, when his mom signed him up.

“I didn’t realize at the time what music was actually doing for me,” says Bernard, 25.

As it turns out, music is doing a lot for him. The Lindenwold native, who relocated to Los Angeles in 2014, has been getting into a good groove lately. His 2019 single, “Higher,” has more than 12 million views on YouTube. His latest release, “Writer’s Block,” helped end an almost year-long songwriting drought. And in addition to working out his own sound, which he calls “really lo-fi R&B,” Bernard is writing songs for major international acts. But ask him, and he’ll tell you he’s just getting started.

He may be living his version of the dream life in sunny California, but Bernard says his story’s roots are all back in Lindenwold; back with his mom, who died of complications from Type II diabetes when he was just 7. Music and memories of her go hand in hand.

“I didn’t sing for a while after she passed away,” Bernard says. “But when I got to middle school, YouTube was starting to roll out, and Justin Bieber was putting out videos.”

He saw something of himself in the young pop star. Inspired, he decided to get back into music. It became a way to keep his mom’s memory alive. “She had introduced me to this,” he says. “If I was going to do it, it was going to be for her.”

In addition to honing his singing voice in choir and school musicals, Bernard started picking up instruments.

His ambition was undeniable, but “he couldn’t play a single chord when he started,” says Larry Abrams, an English teacher at Lindenwold High School who was Bernard’s senior advisor. “He started dragging a guitar with him.”

By the end of the year, his musical skill and natural talent were on full display. For his senior project, Bernard wrote and debuted his first original song.

It was riveting, Abrams says. “He performed his song live in the school auditorium, explained the writing process and how he taught himself to play guitar. Then he picked a random girl out of the audience to teach chords. He’s incredibly talented and what a work ethic.”

Bernard simply notes: “That’s when I fell in love with songwriting.”

Around the same time, as Bernard’s YouTube covers of popular songs were gaining traction with teen influencers, he met his manager John, a friend of a friend. The pair started laying the groundwork for a career in music.

“We realized we could really do something with this,” Bernard says. But he knew that to seize opportunities in the cutthroat industry, they needed to be somewhere other than South Jersey. “In August of 2014 – literally 2 months after graduation – I bought a one-way ticket and moved to California with a suitcase and my best friend, and that was it.”

The next year, Bernard released his first EP, titled “Sparks.” It earned him coverage in teen magazines and music blogs. Apple Music and Spotify added tracks to influential playlists.

“There was definitely a way bigger response than I was expecting,” Bernard says. “I was completely blown away.”

The exposure opened doors. Writing for other artists wasn’t on Bernard’s radar. That is until he got a message from Jon Asher, who has composed songs for Britney Spears, The Chainsmokers, Aaron Carter and Bonnie McKee.

Right off the bat, Bernard and Asher started cranking out hits. The first, “Fall,” charted in China for Jackson Yee. Another, “Honest,” went to KEY, a K-Pop star.

These early wins have buoyed Bernard, who says he’s starting to find his place in the music world. He’s crafting his own sound, he says, which often pairs vintage R&B basslines with more contemporary guitar riffs. “I’m slowly figuring out every nuance I want to put into my music,” he says.

And while Bernard does see a future for himself in songwriting, he has no plans to stop making music for himself. It’s how he expresses his emotions, and channels all the inspiration and creativity he’s constantly seeing in the world.

“Higher,” the 2019 single with 12 million YouTube views and counting, “shocked me a little bit,” he says. The song is about Bernard’s relationship to music. It’s a love letter to the craft.

After “Higher” though, Bernard devel­oped writer’s bock, anxious that he wouldn’t be able to replicate the same kind of success. It took more than a year to overcome it, and his forthcoming, self-produced EP, “Writer’s Block,” is actually inspired by that dry spell. It’s a twist of artistic irony, he says, that the first line of the newly-released title single is, “I’ve had writer’s block since last October.”

While he’s now working harder than ever, Bernard says he’s stopped worrying so much about networking and trying to sell himself. Ultimately, he adds, it’s about the sound: “I just need to let the music speak for itself.”

March 2021
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