Q&A with Michael Ward-Bergeman
What do ya do when you’re not making videos?
I am a musician, songwriter and composer. I have a varied, creative life. I could be performing with the Youth Orchestra of the Lower Ninth Ward one day, working with a brass band in Treme on another, performing alongside cellist Yo-Yo Ma, as I did recently for the New York Philharmonic’s 2013-14 Opening Gala at Lincoln Center. It will be televised nationally on PBS’ Live from Lincoln Center on December 31st at 8pm (EST).
Why did you make “Mississippi”?
I self-curated a project called GIG 365 in 2011. I performed at least one gig each day of the year in a wide range of venues, primarily in the United States and Europe.
During my travels in the United States, I was fortunate to have been able to visit and perform at the source of the Mississippi, at Lake Itasca in Minnesota — as well as at numerous points along its route, south to New Orleans and beyond to the Gulf of Mexico.
It was also my first time visiting New Orleans. The city, its culture and its people left an indelible impression on me. I returned in 2012 and 2013 to record some music with friends I made in 2011, as well as shoot the video with my friend Tony Roberts. My wife and I eventually moved to Holy Cross in the summer of 2013.
The song idea and melody came to me as I was driving back from Venice, Louisiana, where the Mississippi empties out into the Gulf.
Are you working on any more video projects?
I am working on a documentary about the GIG 365 project with British filmmaker Oscar Cainer, of Outlandish Endeavours.
What do you think the role of music videos is?
Generally speaking, music videos likely fill a few different roles — from promotion to bringing the song to life in a different medium. Personally, I made the video to continue the vision and journey of the song, to have an opportunity to continue working with the new friends I made in NOLA and to have something to promote the band that appears in the video, The NOLA Artichoke Band.
Has your song changed at all since it was given to video?
The song hasn’t really changed much since the video. However, I originally recorded the song live with just myself on vocals, harmonica and accordion, along with drummer Jamey Haddad. That version appears on the GIG 365 CD.
After living with that version for a while, I felt [generating] a more New Orleans feel for the tune was worth exploring, which is why I came back to record it with NOLA musicians. That recording pointed the way to the video.
How have people reacted to it?
The open screen event was the first public screening and people seemed to enjoy it. It was helpful to hear different thoughts and perspectives on the video.
Michael Ward-Bergeman and The NOLA Artichoke Band’s “Mississippi” music video: