Bernie Chiaravalle (pronounced "shaira velley") moved to San Rafael, CA from San Francisco at the age of six. Soon after he began taking an interest in music, singing along to his parents record collection. At age nine he started taking piano lessons from a neighborhood music teacher. His teacher was impressed by his quick ability to learn music but also frustrated when Bernie would memorize the songs and not read the sheet music.
So it wasn't long before Bernie was playing in bands, first starting out on drums. But after seeing The Beatles on Ed Sullivan he was infatuated with the guitar. "Besides, there was no way my parents were going to put up with a noisy drum kit in the house, and I can't say I blame them", says Bernie. Chiaravalle attended Terra Linda High School and continued his passion for playing in bands. He also loved singing in the school choir and enjoyed taking music theory classes. It was during this period of his life when he began to take an interest in writing songs. With his band mate John Lovrien they wrote the majority of their own material. They formed the popular Marin County local band Logos and played together for more than eleven years.
In 1985 Bernie Chiaravalle moved from Marin County to Los Angeles as a guitarist with the Bay Area band Page One. As the group was disbanding, Chiaravalle met Ambrosia's David Pack. "I sent him a tape," Chiaravalle recalls, "and immediately we hit it off and began hanging out together and writing and playing songs." In the meantime, Pack was telling Michael McDonald about the guitarist. "Michael didn't know me from Adam. I was nobody basically, but he liked the way I played and he liked me because I liked dogs, which says a lot about his character" Bernie says with a laugh.
"It was a renewal of hope," he says of that precarious time. "I thought those days of playing inspired music with vision that you admire and respect were gone. Michael really renewed that for me, as well as Chuck Sabatino (McDonald's bandmember who recently passed away). Chuck was a really good friend of mine and a big inspiration to me, as he was to Michael. It made me have faith in music and that there are people out there who play music for the right reasons." Needless to say, the McDonald gig, which Chiaravalle has had for almost fifteen years, kept him from leaving Los Angeles.
"I've always felt the drive to write songs," he explains of his need for self-expression. "I love playing live, too, but I think I'd be happy locked away in a studio writing and recording. I love that process."
At the same time, Chiaravalle is proud of four new songs he co-wrote on McDonald's new release, "Blue Obsession". "Michael and I have written together before, but this is the first time our songs have actually made it to the record. The first song we wrote together, 'Obsession Blues' sort of set the tone for the record and it's very exciting."
In early 1998 Chiaravalle relocated to Nashville, Tennessee. "I have two small children and I felt this would be a great place for them", he says adding, 'and I love the music scene here. There are so many great writers and I'm thrilled to be working with some of them".
June 1999 brought Bernie a No.1 hit song, "Speak", on the CHR charts. Also he had a song called "Til I Hurt You" on Larry Carlton's "Fingertips". It sat on the top of the NAC charts for several weeks and was co-written with Carlton and McDonald.
Recently Bernie has released "Life As We Know It" (see music page). It's a collection of songs written by Chiaravalle and his friends Michael McDonald, Jon Goodwin, Charles Frichtel and Susan Marder.
And he co-wrote "On This Night" with Marc Harris and McDonald for Michael's latest CD on MCA. It's a wonderful Christmas CD called In the Spirit-A Christmas Album.
Stay tuned for more...