Thursday, October 02, 2014

Singer-songwriter set for stage

By CLINTON DICK, Herald Staff Writer | 3/6/2014

Country singer and songwriter John Berry plans to hit the stage Saturday for a show in Ottawa. Concert-goers are likely to hear such tunes as Berry’s “Your Love Amazes Me,” and “Standing On The Edge Of Goodbye,” 7 p.m. Saturday at the Ottawa Municipal Auditorium, 301 S. Hickory St. The Herald caught up with Berry before his show to discuss his career, musical influences and what to expect this weekend.

Question: Where has your music taken you? Across the nation? Overseas?

Answer: The only state I’ve not played in is Alaska. As far as other countries, of course I’ve toured all over Canada. I’ve seen more of Canada than most Canadians. I’ve been to Ireland, Scotland, England, France, Australia, Germany and Greece.

Q: Who are some of the artists who influenced your music style?

A: When I was a kid growing up, granted that was awhile back, everything from the Philly soul-sound music to people like John Denver, Cat Stevens, Harry Chapin, the singer-songwriters ... I just loved it, loved all of it.

Q: Did you study music in college?

A: No. ... I was always out playing and always looking for my next gig. 

Q: What was it like starting your career in Athens, Ga.?

A: I started playing in Athens in 1984, and I still live in the Athens area. When I first started playing there, I was playing five nights a week. After [University of Georgia] game days — oh, my gosh, what a lot of fun that was — we’d play at this little club called “Wrappers.” It was located in the wrapping department of the old department store. It was a college hangout, 18- to 22-year-olds, and it just roared every night. We had a lot of fun and played whatever they wanted to hear. We had a great time.

Q: How long have you been a musician?

A: My first album came out in 1979 when I was 20 years old. I’ve been doing it for a while.

Q: What made you get into music?

A: When I first started playing, it was a lot of fun to go out and play and make music. I loved writing songs. In 1981, I was in a motorcycle accident and I broke both of my legs and my left hip. At that time, I had been working at an assembly plant in the warehouse. After I got out of the hospital, I physically couldn’t go back to that kind of work standing on my feet all day on a hard, concrete floor, but I could sit on a stool and play the guitar, so that’s what I did.

Q: How has your music changed through your career?

A: When I first started, it was the singer-songwriter kind of stuff. Then, it kind of progressed with a band and I played in Athens for the college kids, and that pushed it in a particular direction. In 1986, I got a call from a friend of mine in North Carolina and the radio station in town there was having a battle of the bands contest, and I had just started working on a record and recorded the first two songs. I entered that, and I won it. So, I went back to go work on a record and the country audience began to like what I was doing, and that album kind of took a decisive country turn to it.

Q: Who are some of the notable musicians and artists you’ve performed with over the years?

A: I’ve been fortunate to be on tour with a bunch of folks. I toured for a number of years with Reba McEntire. She is wonderful and is just as much a class act as you think she would be. I was out with Deena Carter, Michelle Wright from Canada. I did a 43-state tour with her. I’ve shared the stage with a lot of people: Brooks and Dunn, Travis Tritt, George Jones. They are nice people out doing the same thing I’m doing, enjoying music.

Q: What are you working on now?

A: I’m getting together with Sam Mizell. He is a songwriter/producer and we are going to start working on a record in about four weeks.

Q: If you weren’t in the music business, what would you be doing?

A: I have no idea. I can’t imagine what I would do. If I wasn’t a singer-songwriter, I would probably be a bus driver for a band or a crew member. I love that stuff. I bring my own lights to my shows. People buy tickets to come see a John Berry show, and I give them a show.

Q: What music will you be playing in Ottawa?

A: We will be doing a mixture of things off of the albums I’ve done over the years, as well as a few songs I just love doing.

Q:  What can fans anticipate for Saturday’s show?

A:  Well, my wife, Robin, is singing with me and Michael Steele is singing and playing bass and acoustic guitar, so it is three of us on stage. We tell lots of stories and try not to talk too much. We tell stories about life and about songs and where songs came from.

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