Epic Records' New R&B Act Bernard Flowers Talks Wooing L.A. Reid, Debuts 'The Escape' Documentary: Exclusive
Auditioning for music mogul L.A. Reid is a rite of passage for many artists that later become household names. Acts like OutKast, Usher, Rihanna and Justin Bieber all began their careers by wooing Reid, currently Epic Records' chairman and CEO, with a stellar office visit and performance for him.
So when Memphis R&B singer Bernard Flowers got the call that he’d been invited to sing for Reid, he knew there was a lot at stake. But when he got to New York City to give it a go, the reaction was a bit underwhelming.
“I played him music, performed it and left,” recalls Flowers. “I really didn’t hear anything back. I was like, ‘Man, what’s going on?’ But I kept working.” When he returned to Atlanta, where he creates the bulk of his soulful, Hip-Hop-infused music, a few months went by before he’d get a call back and a second crack at Epic and Reid. This time Bernard arrived on a mission and was determined to land a recording contract.
“I was like, ‘I’m fittin’ to get this deal. I’m not playing,” says Flowers in his Tennessee drawl. “I’m fittin’ to stand on the table if I have to. Whatever I’ve got to do.” And he won. “[L.A.] treated me like I was already on the label,” Bernard remembers with a smile. “Like family. It was crazy. I knew I wasn’t signing with anybody else. He gave me a hug.” His record deal followed.
Flowers, 23, introduces himself to viewers in the two-part documentary short The Escape, which was shot at his Memphis home with his friends and family by his side.
“It’s only right that I bring y’all back to the city that I got all got my game from,” he says of the doc. “I knew I wanted to be an entertainer from day one.” As a child, Flowers — the youngest of four — was always being put on the spot and told to “Do that little flip you did before” or asked, “What’s the song you were singing yesterday? Do that again!” He’d happily perform.
Back then, his mother would play albums from the likes of Bobby Womack or Anthony Hamilton and Flowers would let loose right along with them.
By the time Bernard got to high school, after class he was either perfecting his hoop skills with the basketball team or getting his vocal chops right in a recording studio his buddy Phil would invite him to. But come senior year, Flowers chose to give his undivided attention to music and dropped the ball.
“In basketball, I kind of felt like there were players that were better than me," he explains. "But I didn’t feel like that with music. If I go to the gym with LeBron James, he’s going to beat me. He can dunk. He can shoot. But if I go in the studio with whoever, I feel like I’m untouchable.”
Time that he spent as part of the rap group, the PaperBoyz, wrapped soon after as well. While his peers attended college, Flowers migrated to Atlanta, where he landscaped to make ends meet and spent any remaining time cutting records as a full-fledged singer in whatever studio he could find.
“God gives things to you for a reason,” Flowers says. “It’d be disrespectful to disregard the fact that I can sing. It’s a gift.” Clearly the decisions he made back then have bloomed into results he’s proud of.
Now with his charming debut single “This Feeling,” it’s time to make the world see what made Reid induct him into the Epic family. “Music is life,” he says in The Escape. While dodging the “dead or in jail” fate of some of his old friends, Flowers also mentions that he aims to reach the heights of another one of Memphis’ homegrown stars: Justin Timberlake.
When asked if he’s prepared for the wattage of limelight he’s dribbling towards, he assuredly responds as if the question never should have been posed. “I was born ready.” For Flowers, it looks like the future is bright.