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“Learn to believe in yourself more than others believe in you” with Musician and Producer, Bardo

I had the pleasure of interviewing: Stephen Paul Bardo aka BARDO AF


I had the pleasure of interviewing: Stephen Paul Bardo aka BARDO AF

Bardo AF’s mission is simple: shrink the world.

Fluent in Spanish and Portuguese, Bardo spent much of his childhood living abroad in Italy, Spain and Japan.

His global lens allows him to not only rap and sing in multiple languages, but also draw inspiration from places outside the US.

Bardo hopes that his Chicago-bred, groovy sound, (provided by his four-piece band Allied Forces) which has been compared to Outkast and N.E.R.D, can help knock down the barriers and ignorance that exists between different people and places simply by providing contact and a common groove.

Here is a highlight of our interview and time spent together.

Thank you so much for joining us! Let’s show everyone you’re a normal human being. What are your hobbies, favorite places to visit, pet peeves? Tell us about YOU when you’re not at the office.

“My top hobby is traveling for sure. What it does for me spiritually and the way that it allows me to challenge myself and unlock different aspects of my personality is super addicting.

“Puerto Rico is my favorite place to visit. I’m hoping to go back pretty soon. Spain and Brazil are tied for a close second. I have a huge list of places that I haven’t been to that I really want to visit. Currently, Germany is pretty high on that list.

“I also love videography. I edit all my music videos and do a lot of shooting. I love watching editing tutorials online and think I may be addicted to 4K drone travel videos. Drone travel videos have been a relatively new discovery for me and I’m starting to fall deep into them.

“Lastly, I’ve been slowly picking up tennis recently and that’s something that I really want to dive into and improve at.”

Can you tell us something about you that few people know?

“I have a really weird relationship with birds. On one hand, because I’m a history nerd, the fact that they are directly related to the dinosaurs blows my mind and is really cool. But on the other hand, I don’t trust them. I find most of them terrifying due to some not so positive experiences I had with them as a kid.”

Do you have any exciting projects going on right now?

“Videos, videos, videos. I’m very fortunate to have a pretty ‘in house’ setup when it comes to the creation of my visuals so I’m able to play with a lot of different ideas. On my YouTube channel we have the Groovy AF series that we started at the end of last year.

“We launched our Live AF series last month, which I’m really excited about, with the amazing Chicago-based, Philly-bred artist Jordanna. It’s a series where I collab with different artists/musicians on a short song or groove and then we work in a cover or interpolation that fits with our original concept in a really cool way. So definitely stay tuned for more installments of that.

“Finally, we’ve got lots more official music videos coming your way so my best advice would be to stay locked onto the YouTube channel (AFTillDeath) in the coming months.”


Many people say success correlates with the people you meet in your life. Can you describe two that most impacted your success and why.

“Without a doubt, I owe a ton of my success to my friend, engineer and drummer James Treichler. I was in a very confused and frustrated place when I met him, and he opened a whole new world for me. Everyone who’s ever hung out in downtown Champaign, Illinois knows James is the man. He knows everybody, and he’s connected me with so many people in the music scene both in Champaign and Chicago who have helped me see my projects through and advance on this journey.

“Most importantly though, James was the first person to sit down and listen to all these crazy ideas I had in my head and not tell me no, or that it wasn’t possible. He always tries his hardest to help me bring my ideas to life or connect me with people who can, and I love him for that.

“The second person is someone who I honestly can’t remember meeting, but I think she does…My mom has been there literally from day one. When we would drive to McDonald’s to get as many cup holders as they could give us so that I could put them up in my closet/vocal booth as “sound proofing”. She was the first person who told me that what I was making was good. She’s always there to give me confidence when I need it most.

“I hear a lot of people talk about how their parents weren’t supportive of their music careers when they were getting started and I can say 100% that I experienced the exact opposite. My mom always pushes me to keep going and striving and I’m so grateful to have her in my corner.”

Leaders always seem to find ways to overcome their weaknesses. Can you share one or two examples of how you work outside of your comfort zone to achieve success?

“At this point I can say that I’ve played a ton of shows. I can remember the feeling I had before my first-ever live show like it was yesterday. I’m naturally a pretty low-key person so the idea of standing in front of a bunch of people and singing songs was not only insane to me but super scary. The thing that got me through was telling myself that if I could make it through this first one, it would only get easier.

“I was right, and the feeling of accomplishment and near invincibility that I felt from conquering one of my biggest fears at that time became addicting. It allowed me to embrace new challenges with a confidence that I didn’t have prior to that first show in front of seven people at Bar 10 Doors.

“Since then, I’ve played a lot of big shows and a lot of unorthodox shows in weird places with weird crowds, but I’ve always been excited and taken each show head-on because I knew the experience would make me that much stronger and I knew the feeling that waited on the other side.

“Now, as the shows continue to get bigger and we go to all of these different places, I feel so comfortable that no matter the outcome, I’m going to be alright.”

The concept of mind over matter has been around for years. A contemporary description of this is having mental toughness. Can you give us an example (or two) of obstacles you’ve overcome by getting your mind in the right place (some might call this reframing the situation).

“I practice Transcendental Meditation; not as regularly as I should, but still quite often. One of the main benefits that I notice from it is the ability to step back and pause. This has made all the difference for me.

“I used to be a big-time hot head and I thought it was cool to be that way and to settle issues with aggression. But as I got older, I realized that for me, that approach tends to make situations a lot worse and drag them out much longer than they need to be. About a year ago I really started focusing on that ‘pause’ and using it to my advantage.

“Without naming names or getting too personal, I’ve dealt with two extremely frustrating situations in the past year — one personal and one professional — that, had I blown up about and fought fire with fire, would have burned me pretty badly in the long run. Instead, being able to step back and look at the situation from the other person’s perspective not only allowed me to move away from the situation with minimal damage, but also had a disarming effect on the other party involved and forced them to take a better look at their behavior rather than being defensive and attacking me, which ultimately fostered a less contentious and more understanding resolve to both situations.”

What are your “3 Lessons I Learned from My Most Memorable Failure”

1. “Take notes. Really take the time to examine what got you to that place and what you could have done to avoid it. Remember how you felt in that exact moment and go back to that feeling every time you find yourself in a similar situation.

2. “Did you die? No? Alright then, you’re stronger and smarter for it. If you learn from it.

3. “Keep it moving. Dwelling on the negative part of the failure and feeling bad for yourself has literally no positive effect on anyone. Take what you need from the failure in the form of knowledge and experience and continue to push forward because as my good friend A.J. Ropmza always says, ‘time isn’t going to stop for you because you’re having a bad day.’”

What unfiltered advice can you give aspiring stars regarding how to avoid common mis-fires in starting their career?

“I’ve heard that having a mentor really helps with avoiding potholes along the way. I don’t have a true mentor in my profession yet, so I would say do your research.

“Watch and read interviews. That’s where I get at least 70% of my knowledge on the music business. Listening to people talk about their past missteps in a retrospective way is a really easy and efficient way to better map out your career because at a certain point, you start to notice patterns.”

What is the best lesson you learned from your worst boss?

“I learned that nobody is thinking about you as much as you are thinking about you, and that everybody is looking out for themselves and their families at the end of the day. The moment I realized that, I stopped taking things so personally and started to look at it as a law of nature that I have to keep in mind as I navigate through this journey rather than a negative thing.”

What is one “efficiency hack” you use consistently in your life to keep your time and mind free to focus on your strengths and passions?

“Besides meditating, waking up early has made the biggest difference for me. Most people hate it, and I still struggle with it sometimes because I’m not a morning person but waking up at 5 or 6 in the morning gives me so much clarity and allows me to not feel rushed to start the day and get right into all the things that I must do. That also means I must get a good amount of sleep, which isn’t always easy but is just as important for me.”

All actors or musicians have sleepless nights. We have a term we use with our clients called the “2 a.m. moment.” It’s when you’re wide awake and thinking not-so-positive thoughts about your business choices and future. Can you describe a 2 a.m. moment (or moments) you’ve had and how you overcame the challenges?

“To be honest, I don’t have too many of those. If I’m up late and I can’t sleep, it’s normally because I’ve hit a creative streak or found some inspiration that won’t let me fall asleep and I’m recording or writing down ideas.

“So, I guess I would encourage my fellow creatives to do what they’re best at when they find themselves in those moments. Create. Brainstorm. Dream about your future and how you want it to look rather than dreading it. It may sound corny, but I do believe that we really are the architects of our own lives.”

Nobody likes to fail, and we sure don’t like to admit we failed. Can you describe a moment when you confided your most closely-held business issues/problems to someone close to you, and how the conversation(s) helped you work through the issue?

“I actually do that all the time, so it would be tough to pick just one instance. I have a circle of about five people that I share almost everything with in terms of my business, my music and my ideas. Without them allowing me to bounce ideas and get my thoughts out of my own head, I would be so frustrated and would not be able to continue to pivot and try new things, which is the only way that I know how to move past failures and something that I pride myself on being able to do.

“Adapt and adjust. Magic Johnson taught me that.”

What’s on the drawing board for your next venture?

“Lots of videos and visual content. I’m also working on a new album. Keep that low though, haha. Also, be on the lookout for new Allied Forces merch coming really soon!

What did we miss? Feel free to share any other thoughts or advice on overcoming failure, initiatives you’re currently supporting, any other relevant information you would like to share with the readers.

“I know I’m not the only one to say this, but I believe it’s important to stress how new and exciting of a time this is that we’re living in. Things may seem dark, especially in the U.S., but the world has never been smaller and more accessible than it is now, so take advantage of it. Learn a new language. Pick up a new hobby. Travel the world. Pick up skills. Meet people. Do it all because we’re not here for long.”


What is the best way our readers can follow you on social media?

You can follow me @whereisbardo on IG and Twitter. AFTillDeath on Youtube and Facebook.com/bardoaf. My latest album Gringo is available on iTunes and all streaming platforms so make sure you check that out and follow my artist page, so you don’t miss out on any of the new releases!

Originally published at medium.com

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