Meeting in a cosy room somewhere in the depths of the sprawling upstairs of the Louisiana, Bristol’s prime indie and folk venue, Louis Berry appears calm and collected ahead of the first night of his first ever headline tour. The short tour will see him play five shows around the country, ending with a gig in his hometown Liverpool – where Berry’s musical adventure all began.
It soon transpires that although Berry had always had a feeling that “something like this” could be for him, music wasn’t necessarily the path he had always envisioned. Berry explained how he “was up to no good, and one of the lads I was up to no goods with played the drums, and introduced me to someone who played guitar. I just didn’t think those kind of lads would be doing that kind of thing, so I told them I could play guitar. I could see one of them writing songs, and I’m competitive, so I thought I could do this, I had a go, one thing lead to another and I ended up here” – a boyish competitiveness which has really come to pay off for this ambitious Liverpudlian songsmith.
“I DON’T REALLY THINK ABOUT THE VOICE – IT’S JUST A WAY TO PROJECT THE WORDS THAT I’VE WRITTEN”
“At times I’ve found myself doing things that seem to take ages because I’m in the middle of the mix”, says Berry, but from an outsiders perspective the momentum at which he is moving is incredible. Berry explains how his first two gigs in his hometown landed him a record deal, which has taken him all over the country, recording, producing and performing, including his now firmly established favourites ’25 Reasons’ and ’45’. Touring has seen him support the likes of Saint Raymond last November, and although Berry admits that supporting can be daunting, he also recognises it as being great to build from – as can be seen with this tour, whose final three nights have sold out. This clearly excites Berry, who modestly acknowledges, “I’m massively appreciative of people who buy tickets, I don’t know them, they don’t know me but it’s exciting.”
Next month sees Berry head to Nashville to begin his debut album. Nashville feels like the perfect place to perfect Berry’s rock’n’roll sound, and when asked how Berry developed his sound, this too turns out to have been quite unintentional. Berry explains how it stemmed from one of his earliest performing experiences which saw him on stage at an open-mic night in a Belfast pub, “A fella said to me you can’t get up and play unless its traditional Irish music so I said, ok, and went back to the place we were staying that night and started writing a traditional Irish song. But it didn’t feel natural, so I started putting a little skip into it, that kind of sound, and I ended up putting it on an electric guitar while I was on an acoustic guitar and we ended up with that”.
“if I was to play a ukulele it doesn’t reflect what people are feeling – people are angry and frustrated at what is going on in the world at the moment, so I think rock’n’roll is definitely a good way to get that across”
However, it goes deeper than this for Berry, for whom “rock’n’roll felt right as we find ourselves in an age like this, when people feel like they need something that’s a bit weighty… music reflects the time, and if I was to play a ukulele it doesn’t reflect what people are feeling – people are angry and frustrated at what is going on in the world at the moment, so I think rock’n’roll is definitely a good way to get that across”. It is this sense of duty to address social ills that stands him out from his contemporaries; comparisons have been drawn with Johnny Cash, Jake Bugg and his voice to George Ezra, and although these similarities can be seen to an extent, Berry “kind of minds”, saying “I have nothing against them as artists, but for me, it’s not where I come from or what I’m about”. As he explained, “If they want to compare my voice, that’s all in the eye of the beholder, but I don’t really think about the voice – it’s just a way to project the words that I’ve written, and it’s the same with the music”. By the time you’ve listened to the content of his lyrics, you do realise that some of these comparisons become irrelevant, as he does touch on deeper issues that most.
Furthermore, Berry’s relentless ambition and competitive streak sees him intent on changing the industry, something he truly believes is needed. He lamented the fact that the Top 40 “is all the same, and people are getting bored of it now. A lot of people don’t even listen to what’s in the charts at the moment. It’s a shame as it’s meant to represent what the people are listening to. It’s got to change, there’s got to be some depth, especially with what is going on in the world at the moment. We are in troubled times, and I want to reflect this in some of my lyrics and songs”. Although initially unintentional, rock’n’roll does feel like the perfect vehicle to achieve this, especially when partnered with Berry’s gift for story-telling. One is left with the feeling that Louis Berry is ambitious, certainly, but commendable too.