Marc Berger — the New York guitarist who plans to perform songs from his album “Ride” throughout the weekend in Rock Springs and Centennial — was almost a lawyer.
While attending Rutgers Law School, Berger said he enrolled in a classical music survey course — not because he was particularly interested, but because it fit nicely into his schedule — and the course convinced him to pick up the guitar he had messed around with since the age of 13.
Listening to the great composers, Berger said he realized he wanted to write music.
“That brought me back to the guitar with greater purpose, because now I had a reason to play the instrument,” Berger said.
“I had to make demos of songs I was writing.”
Throughout law school, he continued to write and play songs as a hobby.
“I still imagined I would be a lawyer,” Berger said. “The first songs I wrote were terrible, but by the time I graduated from law school, I had written a few I thought were pretty good.”
Before beginning a career in law, Berger said he felt compelled to bring his talent before music publishers. He said he fully expected them to turn him down, but such a final answer would keep him from asking “what if” the rest of his life.
“To my amazement, I was signed to publishing deals instantly and given advances against royalties and songs started to get shopped to major artists,” Berger said.
Interested by chance, encouraged by recognition, Berger developed a comfortable life, centered around writing music.
“I had a little routine,” he said. “I’d get up in the morning. I’d walk down to Hudson Street in the West Village in Manhattan and have my poached eggs and read my New York Times and go back and write some songs.”
It was during one of these breakfasts out that Berger stumbled into the chance encounter that would dictate the course of his life. Berger said he greatly admired the rhythm and blues singer-songwriter Richie Havens, but never expected to meet him.
“I’m eating breakfast there one day, and Richie Havens walks in to use the payphone,” Berger said. “I look up, in this little greasy spoon breakfast place, and its Richie Havens, and I think I’m hallucinating.”
But he was not hallucinating. Berger invited Havens to have a cup of coffee. That random discussion eventually led to a working relationship. Berger’s career began in earnest when Havens started performing Berger’s song “The Last One.”
“This confluence of events just sent my life on a completely different path,” he said.
Berger’s album “Ride” — songs from which he will perform in Centennial this weekend — is all about the American West, a place he has long admired.
“The album that I have out now — and which is a lot of what I’ll be performing in these shows — is a reflection of the connection I formed with the American west when I drove across the United States for the first time at 21 years old,” Berger said. “And then repeated that experience for five straight years in my 20s, driving across the United States to destinations in the mountain or desert west.”
Berger’s Centennial shows start 8 p.m. Saturday and Sunday in the Beartree Tavern & Cafe. All shows are free. Go to www.marcbergermusic.com for more information.