TAP Partner Artist Profile: James Bergman

James Bergman is a singer/songwriter based in Fargo.

Contributed / M.Schleif Photography

From watching a cardinal take flight in a park to becoming a parent, or even coping with grief and loss, local songwriter James Bergman uses his music to express both the simple joys and big decisions that shape us into who we are.

“Many of my songs are intentionally uplifting and focus on the good in the world,” he said. “But others ask questions and give voice to the struggles that we all face in the world right now.”

As a speech-language pathologist, Bergman sees every day how words can transform internal beliefs and external actions.

“Racial injustice, gun violence and hunger have been big themes [in my work], but with them the belief that we can be that change that we want to see. More than anything, I want people to know that their voice matters,” he said.

A lifelong writer, a committed teacher and community advocate, Bergman’s music reflects a comforting relatability and understated humor, even when the subject matter skews on the dark side. With most songs he produces, Bergman has a person, event or place in mind, which he hopes triggers healing and joy.

Bergman’s most recently been working on expanding his work, which has mostly focused on writing custom songs for people. In 2021, he completed a masterclass with Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic, an experience he said “was very helpful and ultimately helped me find my own style and technique that works for me.”

Here’s more about singer-songwriter James Bergman.

How would you describe your artistic style?

My artistic style is casual, relational, and authentic. Authenticity has been a hallmark of much of my work, but it has also been something that makes sharing it so challenging. Much of my artistic experience is performing custom songs at events with a very particular audience in mind. Moving past that niche into a broader artistic range has helped me grow as an artist and an individual.

You graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead with a degree in speech-language pathology. Tell us more about what’s shaped your music career.

I work in the public schools, and working with words and language and helping people find their voices has been a big part of my artistic journey. The masterclass in songwriting taught by Ryan Tedder of OneRepublic was very helpful and ultimately helped me find my own style and technique that works for me.

What is your artist origin story?

I have always enjoyed writing. Even in elementary school, I remember writing poems and music and loving it. There have also been many occasions that called me to create something. Often, this has been the death of someone close to me, but it could also be hearing a news story or seeing something a friend has shared. When challenging moments arise, I find myself searching for the words to sum up our collective pain and summon the healing that is ours if we can bear it.

How does your teaching career inform your artistic work?

My job in the schools has been supportive. There have been times that I have had to schedule my work around events in the community at which I have performed. I also think about the inspiration that I have found during our district opener for staff, or while working with families in our community. I am also blessed that my artistic work can highlight the work that our schools do as well. It feels so good to know that when we are supported as artists, that support goes both ways and magnifies the good that is already right here in our community.

Who do you admire or emulate in your work?

Lately, I have found admiration and appreciation for anyone who is willing to create and share their work. I also find myself emulating many different artists and styles, but have found a lot of inspiration from Lin-Manuel Miranda, Bill Withers, James Taylor, Paul Simon, Brandi Carlile, and many others.

What do you want people to know about being a local artist?

Being a local artist is wonderful, but imposter syndrome is very real and makes it difficult for me to see myself as legitimate. Doing work on myself and trying to process my story and make sense of who I am has helped me feel comfortable being seen as a local artist and owning that title.

What’s next for you in your arts career?

My arts career is very focused on collaboration. 

I am looking forward to continuing to connect with people, organizations, and businesses that are doing good here in our community. There are so many amazing people doing incredible things here in the Fargo-Moorhead area and I love being able to hear about them and support that work. Recently, I have been working on a song for TNT Kid’s Fitness and Gymnastics and I also love working with Patrick Kirby at Do Good Better Consulting.  

About the author

Lonna Whiting is a freelance writer and owner of lonna.co, a content marketing and communications agency located in Fargo, North Dakota. She is a frequent contributor to The Arts Partnership’s content library and also provides strategic communications consultation to the organization.

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