“Welcome to the forest,” Alberto Kanost said. Commonly known as Bear from his band Bear in the Forest, the indie musician has gifted access into a different world by combining nature and music.

Hailing from the Milwaukee area and a sophomore at the University of Wisconsin, Kanost has been playing music since he was young. Though he began earlier, middle school was the most notable beginning to his talents. This is when he started to teach himself guitar, singing and writing music, something he’s grown to love.

“I love howlin’, if you will,” he said. “It just feels good.”

Teaching himself how to play and sing has given Kanost more freedom in the songwriting process. Starting from scratch has enabled him to create something entirely singular to his style, and he has created his own shortcuts and ways of doing things, he said.

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Structurally, Kanost’s creative process has been more free-form, he said. He focuses on cultivating feelings and writing subjective lyrics.

“There are all these ideas in my head, and it’s nice to just sit down and find something that sounds nice,” he said. “I try to connect ideas to the feelings that I’m getting.”

One of Kanost’s biggest musical inspirations is nature, and it’s something that translates into his music. At the beginning of a live performance, he often greets listeners with, “Welcome to the forest,” hoping they too can reach a similar mindset.

“The forest is a state of mind, an escape from reality or society,” Kanost said. “I’m in the forest when I’m playing music.”

This love for nature has allowed Kanost to develop a unique persona, he said.

“I’ve always been a lover of the natural world,” Kanost said. “A lot of my passion comes from music, but also from nature and natural spaces. I think I’ve found a really cool way of intersecting that.”

There are other themes Kanost weaves into his music. He promotes finding fulfillment and loving yourself. Kanost sings about finding yourself and finding a voice, as well as creating confidence. These themes are going to show up on his current project.

“I think a lot about humanity and what our purpose is here,” he said. “I try to get really deep.”

Thinking deeper has partly stemmed from his participation in a scholarship program called First Wave, which promotes activism and art. He has to make art pieces every week — and his art is music. Because of this, he has formed a rhythm of finding a quiet place to sit down and write music, helping carve out a time for creativity during a busy semester.

This program has allowed him to access other mindsets he wouldn’t otherwise have been able to, Kanost said. He has written more songs geared towards activism through the scholarship’s encouragement. It has allowed him to be more versatile, he said.

Some of the pieces he has created for class have crossed over into his Bear in the Forest material.

“It’s starting to be more nuanced,” he said.

When he first started writing, his songs stemmed from folk music, and he mostly wrote “angsty youth songs.” He created a collection of these songs and released them on an EP, Fickle Young Mind, last summer.

His new project currently in the works, set to be released late summer or fall, is going to be more of a full-length feature incorporating those deeper themes. He hopes it will further enforce the persona he’s created, though it will be more indie than folk, he said. One of Kanost’s goals for this album is people will hear it and understand what he’s trying to do and who he is, he said.

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Releasing Fickle Young Mind has created a basis for his future music and has given people something to take him seriously about, he said. It laid the groundwork for his future album, and looking back, Kanost said he realizes how much he has grown since then.

“I can’t wait to have more stuff out because it doesn’t represent where I’m at or what I want to do,” he said.

The new project is also going to be featuring more collaborations with other artists from Milwaukee and Madison. Working with other artists has enabled him to be versatile in a new way — it has taken him out of this comfort zone and forced him to look at things in a new perspective, he said.

Kanost’s music serves as a medium where listeners can access him on a deeper level, as well as nature and themselves. The themes of finding oneself in his music are bound to connect with listeners like never before.