Mike Bravener saunters past a row of tables and back again. He walks like an outlaw gunfighter. Shoulders raised slightly and arms against his sides, he’s ready for his next duel. Then, with a grin, he sits back down in his seat across from me in the café.
He has just shown me the strut of a man he has been impersonating now for almost ten years: Elvis Presley.
“If you watch that old footage, he always used to walk like that. Like he was going to pull a gun on you or something,” he says. “It’s just the coolest walk!”
We’re sitting in the Starbucks inside the Chapters where Bravener works part-time.
He smiles when asked if he ever finds himself slipping into character at his job as a salesperson, confessing the odd moment where the King’s charm might get used.
“It certainly might help sometimes.”
Though he is a staple of the Chapter’s staff here in Fredericton, Bravener’s primary source of income for the past ten years has been his job as a performer.
Whether he’s doing it as Elvis or singing his own songs, he can usually be found with a guitar in hand, doing what he has sacrificed so much to do.
Years ago, Bravener was working as a pastor for a small church found here in Fredericton.
It was during this time that he began playing music as a means to meet new people in the city and to entertain his congregation. Soon, word of Bravener’s talents began to spread and bookings for shows followed.
Unfortunately, once the church got word of this, he began to feel pressure from officials to drop his act.
“It didn’t make the church happy that I was doing things like that, so they asked me to make a decision to basically stop doing the music thing and devote myself to what they thought a church pastor should be.”
Though a newfound passion had been stirred in Bravener, he obeyed the church’s orders and gave up playing music.
He put it all on the shelf for three months, resulting in a very frustrating and confusing period in his life.
“During this time I had to do a lot of soul searching,” he says. “I had to ask myself why was I entertaining and performing in the first place.”
Then one day, while working in his garden at home, Bravener had a revelation.
After saying a small prayer for guidance, “that little small, in-your-heart sort of feeling” began to speak to him.
Bravener soon realized that if God didn’t want him to make people happy as an entertainer, then He wouldn’t have given him the talents to do so in the first place.
With this confirmation made, Bravener left the church and set out to devote his life full-time to music.
“It was a really hard decision to make at the time, but it was the right one. I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing.”
There is an energy and optimism in the way Bravener talks about music that is contagious.
As we speak he leans over our table in the café, excitedly trying to explain his philosophy. He talks about how much pleasure he gets from knowing that he’s making people happy and about how that, above anything else, is his goal as a performer.
“I get as much of a thrill making balloon animals for kids as I do being Elvis or performing in front of four or five hundred people,” he says, and that’s what gets him through the tough times.
Then he looks at his watch and frowns. He stands and says that he has to run since his shift is about to start. I thank him for his time, and he flashes that Bravener smile, the one infused with a hint of The King. Then he walks off.
Elvis has left the building.
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