One on One with John Berry

Catalyst for a Career

Grammy-award-winning country music artist John Berry spoke one-on-one with Now Habersham about his music, personal life, and his upcoming performance in Demorest for the Glorious Fourth celebration. Berry is scheduled to take the stage on July 4th at 7:45 p.m. that evening.

He got his start with music when he started learning guitar in 1972. Berry tells a cute story about how he took his $50 guitar to summer camp. He would take his guitar to the boat dock and practice the four chords his mom had taught him. One day, while practicing, he heard something, and there behind him were a few little giggling girls.

After telling the story, he laughs and adds, "That was not the catalyst."

The catalyst for Berry's music career was loneliness. In the eighth grade, his family moved from Decatur, Georgia, to Chamblee. Forced to leave behind his cross-country team and friends he'd known since third grade, he started a new school where his brother was the only person he knew. Berry says his guitar was his safety net and became his best friend. Playing music during those days eventually led him to make musical friends who became lifelong friends, friends he still talks to today.

By 1979, John Berry's music was very much a part of his life. So much so that he and his father built a recording studio in the basement of their home in Chamblee. Berry laughs at how rudimentary it was with a four-track reel-to-reel recorder compared to today's technology. "I've got a better sounding quality recorder on my telephone than we had then," he says. He recorded his first four albums in that studio.

Berry's biggest early musical influence was John Denver. One of the most popular artists of the 1970s, Denver enjoyed the height of his success while Berry was just starting his career.

Unforgettable Moments

Now, all these decades later, Berry still finds performing fun. He typically plays small venues that seat 500 to 1,500 people and readily admits he never gets stage fright. However, he still gets anxious, wondering, "Is anybody going to show up? That's the big question in my mind."

Berry has had many unforgettable moments in a career that has spanned decades and included chart-topping hits, awards, and accolades. Those moments most meaningful to him, though, are the ones closest to his heart.

He recalls one such unforgettable moment in detail: July 9, 1988, in the chapel of Green Acres Baptist Church. "It was the hottest day of the year," he reminisces, adding that 400 people were packed into a room designed for 200. The air conditioning was choking in the church from the heat. "All of a sudden, the backdoor of the chapel opened up, and this beautiful girl in a white gown whisked around the corner, coming to see me. All of a sudden, I forgot about everybody else. I forgot about how hot the room was. Just a beautiful sight," he says of his wedding day with his wife Robin.

Berry's other unforgettable moments center around the births of his three children and what it was like to hold each of them for the first time. He mentions nothing about his success, just the unforgettable moments with his wife and family.

Getting into the Business

For those seeking a career in the country music industry, Berry leans into his own experience and advises, "Don't disrupt your entire life over it." He encourages aspiring artists to go to Nashville, meet people, and connect with people in the industry who can help them. "It doesn't mean you need to move to Nashville," he says. Travel there monthly, attend showcases, and go on writer's rounds. And once you get done, "Go back home and live your life."

His caution about advising people to move to Nashville stems from his own regret. Years ago, when he signed with a new label after Capital Records, Berry sold his 140-acre farm to make the move. Six months later, the record label dropped him.

That cautionary tale also leads to another piece of advice Berry gives to up-and-comers: plan for the end, he says, "because it's not going to last forever."

A Day in His Life

John Berry is not a morning person and never has been. A self-professed night owl, he says his performance schedule suits him just fine. "I can stay up really late— me and the bats," he laughs.

While nights may end with a show, days begin with a regimented practice of making his bed. He once read something somewhere telling how sergeants have soldiers make their bunks so they feel they've accomplished something the minute they get up.

Berry's days are filled with music and music-related business. Somedays his schedule has him doing interviews. Others, he is working on his production equipment or preparing for the next show.

One of his upcoming shows will be at the Glorious Fourth celebration in Demorest. "I got a call from the folks there and we just put it together. I was tickled to do it," he says.

Fans eager to hear some of his older songs — like top 5 hits Your Love Amazes Me, Standing on the Edge of Goodbye, and Change My Mind — will see him performing them on a new stage. Berry tells Now Habersham he just purchased a trailer with all the equipment needed to perform. It opens up into an outdoor stage. The Demorest show will be the first real performance for his crew to try it out.

Even after all his success, Berry still gets caught up in the anxiety of 'will they come?' Playing off of that, he eagerly invites fans and those who aren't yet familiar with his music to put the Glorious Fourth concert on their calendar. "I hope folks will come out and bring their families," he says. Those who do should bring lawn chairs and blankets and even picnics if they like, to enjoy the festivities at Demorest Springs Park. "I hope folks will come out and hang out with us. We'll have a great time," Berry promises.

Another Chance

If you miss John Berry at the Glorious Fourth celebration in Demorest, he will return to the area this December.

He will perform his annual Christmas show in Athens on December 19. This will be his 28th year conducting the tour.