10 Questions with Leslie Berry

I’m very pleased to present you with the first of what I hope to be many Lyrical Venus interviews! I met Leslie Berry when she performed at Cafe Paradiso a few years ago with Lauren Lapointe. Both talented ladies were also very sweet and gracious after the show, and when I shyly told them that I had written a few songs myself, they immediately encouraged me to befriend them on MySpace. I’ve always remembered that kindness of spirit, so I’m excited to get to know Leslie a little better, and introduce her to you!

Without further ado, here are the 10 questions with Leslie:
1) When did you know you wanted to be a songwriter?
Well, I knew I wanted to be a musician when I started taking piano lessons at age 7 but I didn’t really start writing songs until I was out of college. I majored in piano performance in college and then I taught piano for three years. It was during that time that I began writing songs and recording them. My husband, David, was in a rock band for years and was a prolific songwriter and songwriting was a craft I had always wanted to learn. My first ventures into songwriting were mostly collaborations with him and then I felt confident enough to venture out on my own.

2) Which typically comes first for you – music or lyrics?

I always write the lyrics first. I don’t always have all of the lyrics completed first but I at least have a chorus or a verse and then I often rework them as I begin putting the words to music. Sometimes, I hear a melody and then I will rewrite the lyrics to make the lyrics fit the melody line I am hearing.

3) Do you revise or rework your songs a lot?

I will work on the lyrics for some time until I am satisfied and then once I begin putting them to music the process goes rather quickly. On the last CD, Was It Blue, I spent months getting the lyrics together and then I believe I wrote all of the music in about a week. It takes me much longer to record and create arrangements but as for just getting the basic chords and melodies down that goes quickly.

David, on the other hand, will rework the songs many times. He produced my first two CDs and I believe we have about 10 recorded versions of the song “I Can Try” at different tempos with completely different vocal harmonies and they all sounded great to me but he kept reworking the arrangement until it was just as he wanted it. And, I really do admire that… listening to it now I am really proud of the end result.

4) What do you wish you knew starting out that you know now?

Oh, I wish I had been a little less afraid to forge a new path with my music. I think I spent a little too much time in the beginning trying to fit in with some of the other folk artists I was hearing perform at the coffeehouses and acoustic venues where I usually performed when I should have been out there just doing my own thing. My background was different because I had a heavy background in classical piano and also had taken some classes in electronic music and spent some time creating electronic orchestrations of classical pieces before getting into writing pop music. If I could do anything over, I would really focus on the electronic music and just not be afraid to be a little adventurous.

5) Where is your favorite place to sing?
Hmmm… that is a good question because I have had so many favorite venues over the years. I performed every summer for years in my hometown, Marietta, GA, at an outdoor concert series in Grover Park and I always had so much fun because all of my old friends, schoolteachers, family, my first piano teacher… they would all come and it was like a reunion.

I really think it’s the audience that makes or breaks a performance for me and not the venue.

I do love arts and crafts festivals because I can combine performing with shopping. :)

6) What’s the hardest thing about performing?

For me, the hardest thing is creating my own positive energy on stage and not drawing my energy from the audience. Sometimes there is just a great energy in the room and those are my best shows. But, there are those days when the performer has to generate that energy and try to lift the spirits of the audience or engage them. That’s the hardest thing for me.

What’s the best thing?
I just truly enjoy singing and playing the piano and I enjoy seeing people smile and sing along at shows. I love it when people come up to me after a show and say how much a certain song meant to them or tell me how much they enjoyed the show. It tells me that I reached someone with my music and that’s what it’s all about for me.

7) Who/where do you get support to do your craft?

I’ve definitely gotten support from my family, my husband, parents, sister… and also my musician friends. They have supported me by coming out to shows time and time again and giving me advice and making creative suggestions.

8) Name 3 artists you are listening to a lot these days.

Imogen Heap
Sarah McLachlan
Annie Lennox

9) Where can people listen to samples of your songs?

I have songs on my MySpace page at www.MySpace.com/LeslieBerry and also at www.LeslieBerry.com and on iTunes and Rhapsody, and about 30 other download services online.

10) Any current or upcoming projects (musical or non)?

Definitely. I am currently working on some new songs that will be on my next solo CD. I plan to release this CD in 2008. I also play keyboards and sing harmonies with the newgrass band, Candlewyck, and we just released a live CD a few weeks ago. I am working on a Professional Certificate in Electronic Music Production and Sound Design through Berklee School of Music Online and am enrolled in a sampling class this semester. I’m having so much fun with that. I want to do some remixes of some of my own songs and maybe a cover song or two. I completed an electronica remix of “Strange Brew” by Cream for one of my Berklee classes. I also have plans for a Christmas CD and have begun working on a Christmas song or two.

I’m working on a certificate in Graphic Design with a specialty in web design through Sessions School of Design online. I have a degree in computer science and math as well and enjoy playing around with web design and thought this would be something I would enjoy doing on the side. I always seem to have a lot of different projects I’m working on. It’s hard to focus on one or two sometimes. : ) Right now I’m creating a Jimi Hendrix robot for my Adobe Illustrator class using only shapes and lines… challenging!

Bonus questions!

1) What’s your favorite sandwich?
Hmmm… well, I usually get the low carb thickburger at Hardee’s but it’s so messy! Does a taco count as a sandwich? : )

2) What’s your favorite hot drink?

Oh, Chai Latte, definitely.

3) Do you have pets or a favorite animal? I have a golden retriever named Honey and she’s a sweetie. But, generally, I love big dogs… don’t care much for cats.

4) Anything else you want to let people know!
Hmmmm… check out Indiegrrl.com to hear some great female songwriters and musicians.

Big thanks to Leslie for taking the time to answer all those questions! I know I learned a lot about the artistic process and had fun too!

Are you looking forward to Leslie’s album next year? Subscribe to Lyrical Venus by Email or by RSS Feed and when I have updates on the album they will come straight to you!

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