Bearde has been compared to vocal icons like Al Jarreau, Donny Hathaway, and Jon Lucien, but such comparisons fail to capture his vocal artistry or do justice to his musical accomplishments on record or in performance. "He's a breath of fresh air amidst a mass of polluted ozone-unfriendly pop," declared Blues and Soul magazine in the U.K., where Bearde's music has been accorded an especially enthusiastic reception and where he placed high on the list of Best Male Newcomers in the publication's 1998 poll.
Bearde has worked steadily with an array of artists from Patti Austin, Michael Bolton and Janis Siegel to McFerrin, John Handy, & Chris Camozzi, and he's cut three albums for "Right Groove Records", his own imprint. The first, 1998's Crossing the Line, the 2005 follow-up All About Love and 2008's Live at Yoshi's - A Salute to Lou . Bearde also maintains a busy sideline as an actor for stage, screen, and television and as a voice-over artist.
His somewhat circuitous path to a career as a singer began in Nashville, Tennessee, where he was born the second of seven children. "We lived in a rural part of the city with no sidewalks, streetlights or running water. But we had radio", Nicolas recalls. "I took in everything from the Temptations, Johnny Mathis, and Roy Orbison to Etta James, and Arthur Prysock."
Nicolas's father, was stricken with Polio when Nicolas was about 7 years old. When he died a few years later, Nicolas' whole world changed. Music took on a different meaning for him entirely. It became refuge and sanctuary. During his first year in high school, he was introduced to formal, choral music with big vocal scores, collegiate choral pieces, and bass-tenor-alto-soprano parts. "The complexity and lushness of choral music continues to inspire and move me", he says.
At 16, Nicolas had his first studio experience as a member of a trio dubbed the Von Dells, by a producer that wanted to sign them. It was an exciting opportunity. Though it ultimately did not work out, it gave him a taste of the possibilities that lay ahead. Then, fate stepped in and right after high school graduation and a brief period of study at Tennessee State University - he joined the Air Force. Bearde was initially stationed in Biloxi, Mississippi, "getting my 'blues dues' in - it was not a very happening place for a black man at that time," he notes. After his tour in Mississippi, fortune sent him to Tachikawa Air Base, near Tokyo, Japan, which proved to be an invaluable musical training ground. Bearde was asked to join the very popular, Sensations, a dynamic ten-piece funk and soul band, with which he toured all over Japan and with whom he did his first recording.
After his service in the military and several years in Los Angeles, Nicolas relocated to the Bay Area, where he has lived ever since. " I was doing music, writing and singing occasionally, but wasn't really confident enough to step out on my own, because I didn't really know what I was about musically," Bearde explains. It was during this period that he worked as a computer technician and commercial photographer.
Around 1981, however, he found his focus and joined a high-energy top 40 band. " I knew I needed some hard time in front of an audience", says Nicolas, " and that gig was valuable stage training". After working that scene for almost three years he then decided to start expanding his musical palette, developing his jazz chops, and devising a more intimate approach to performing. Bearde had the opportunity to do just that when he became a regular at Pasand's nightclub on Union Street in San Francisco. "There was a hierarchical system there," he says. "You had to work your way up through the ranks and show the managers that you could entertain and really put on a show".