Q&A with Chelsea Berry
Chelsea Berry is one of the jewels of the Cape Ann music scene. Chelsea hails from Alaska but has made Massachusetts her home since her Berklee days. The music that Chelsea presents on stage and on her recordings is eclectic. She can mesmerize the audience with spine-tingling a cappella tunes and she can rock out with a full band, playing with gleeful abandon.
You are a classically trained singer. What caused the shift to the “other side”?
I’ve been playing and singing folk/pop songs ever since I picked up the guitar at 14. At 17, I was accepted to Montana State University on a small music scholarship and their music department was tiny. Classical training was all they offered. I was really there to ski and rock climb anyway so it didn’t make a difference to me. Haha. I kept up with my own singer/songwriter thing as well.
You have recorded a variety of different CDs that show your softer singer-songwriter side and your rock side as well. Is there anything up your sleeve that we might expect in terms of style?
I’ve been experimenting with lots of ideas and have some new tunes that I haven’t played out yet– I think I’ll debut them at this show. They are a little edgier than a lot of my originals tend to be.
Tell us about your writing style. Can you write any time and anywhere? Or do you need to shut yourself away from the world in order to create music?Most of my songs are born when I’m walking in the woods, paddling a kayak, or skiing. Sometimes I can sit down at the piano or with my guitar and write but most of those ideas don’t become full songs. I think the freedom and ease I feel being outside combined with the steady rhythm of my movement gets my brain into a good creative space.
What lessons did you learn at Berklee College of Music that have most stayed with you?
Always remember to acknowledge and thank your audience, make sure you write in a way that puts the emphasis on the correct syllables in your lyrics, and don’t forget that there are a million other people out there who want to be a rock star, too– so practice hard and take advantage of every opportunity that comes your way. That last one wasn’t part of the curriculum, but it’s definitely something I learned when I was at Berklee.
You’ve had the great fortune of opening up some pretty impressive shows for some big names in the music world. What are some of your favorite memories of these experiences?
Let’s see. Almost fainting when I shook Chris Isaak’s hand and saw that yes, he really was that gorgeous up close. Singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” in harmony with Livingston Taylor on one mic, us looking each other in the eyes and holding the last five notes of the song as delicately and beautifully as we can.
In reading about you, you advise your fans (and people in general) to take care of each other. Has your experience as part of the Cape Ann music scene brought this lesson home for you? It seems to be a very close-knit group of diverse musicians.
Absolutely. We promote and attend each others’ shows, support each others’ Kickstarter campaigns, sing on each others’ records. Bradley Royds sings backup for me. Kristen Miller travels miles and miles to watch her fellow musicians play. Joe Wilkins attends tons of other people’s shows. I go support Renee and Joe and make sure to wear my Renee and Joe Tshirt. We’re all in this together.
To learn more about Chelsea, visit her website.
Top photo by Louise Welch.