Chelsea Berry has been a fixture in the North Shore / Cape Ann area of Massachusetts for several years. With the release of her latest album, Wanderbird, she’s branching out with a new sound and a new place of residence—New York City. Chelsea’s got a powerful voice, magnetic stage presence and as the veteran musician, Chris Smither, says about her future… “it’s so bright you’re gonna have to wear shades.”
To learn more about Chelsea, visit her website.
Here’s a video of Chelsea singing “Forgiven.”
This video is a particular favorite of mine. It was taken about 3:00 a.m. at Falcon Ridge Folk Festival and I was ready to hit the hay but I waited for one more song by Chelsea and this happened. It was a magical moment in time.
Chelsea Berry will be appearing at the me&thee coffeehouse in Marblehead, MA on Friday, February 9.
Your latest album is entitled Wanderbird. Care to explain the reference?
Initially, the album went through various temporary titles. I had sort of settled on “Wandering” as a title track. I like the idea but wasn’t in love with the word itself as an album title. As we were wrapping up final mixes, I was introduced to a friend of a friend who owned a boat in Gloucester and he offered for me to stay on the boat for the summer in exchange for playing music for guests every once in a while. Couldn’t pass that up! The boat was called the “Wanderbird “.. it made perfect sense to me to adopt that title instead. The nickname kind of fits me and my lifestyle, too.
How does this album differ from your previous recordings? I know that you enjoy experimenting with sound and style, so I’m curious if you tried something altogether different in the studio this time.
This album is very different from anything I’ve recorded in the past… It was recorded on a much larger budget, and a big part of that was because I decided to hire a producer this time around. It was great to have someone else facilitating everything so that I could focus on just singing and playing. The other big piece for me was choosing to record it in New York City. Everyone is hustling there, so people work fast and hard and at a very high level. There’s always someone else to step in and take your place if you’re not up to the task! That meant the players, the studios, everyone involved worked efficiently and expertly. We still had a lot of fun, though.
You’ve been playing your own feature gigs and opening quite a few shows for other musicians like Livingston Taylor. Do you have any favorite show experiences that you’d like to share?
There are lots of them. I think my favorite single show so far was when I was given the opportunity to open for Mavis Staples in my hometown of Anchorage AK last year. Not only was it exciting because of the location and the fact that family and friends were coming to see me, but Mavis is a force and has done some incredible things with her music. She uses it as a tool to bring people together and to remind us to take care of one another. Hanging out with her backstage was amazing… Quite often, the headliner isn’t interested in hanging with the supporting act but Mavis was kind, encouraging, welcoming, and funny as hell. And she was 76! She was still putting on a full show and had the audience on their feet over and over again. That was a special night.
Do you have any major musical influences–both instrumentally and vocally?
I have tons of influences… So many musicians that I respect, look up to, or want to be when I grow up! The reality is that we all are a mix of all of the things that we have heard and love with some originality thrown in there as well. Not just as musicians, but as people. I would say that my biggest vocal influences are Andrea Bocelli, k.d. lang, and Eva Cassidy. As far as an all-around sound and songwriting goes, that list looks more like Dan Fogelberg, John Denver, Joni Mitchell, and Brandi Carlile.
I understand that you recently moved to New York What prompted the move?
I decided to move to New York City after making this last record there. I had a lot of time between sessions to check out the scene and I loved the energy and vibe and craziness of it. I have felt like I needed to step up my game for a while and moving to a place where I’m not one of the biggest fish seemed like a good way to kickstart a career growth spurt. We’ll see what happens but so far it has felt like a good next step.
What are your short-term and long-term goals?
My short term goals are simple– to keep working to be heard, to take care of my body and my voice, to grow my listener base, and to get this new album out there as much as possible. Movie or show placement would be ideal but the day-to-day work still has to keep happening regardless. Long term, I want to have a sustainable career and make a comfortable living playing venues all over the country- and the world. I want to make more records and create music that inspires and touches people. I’d also love to own a place on the East Coast and a cabin back in Alaska but that may be a ways off yet.
Looking forward to this Chelsea Berry show. See you there people!
Such a nice interview!
Thanks so much, Celene. I know that you and Geof and all the volunteers at the Old Sloop Coffeehouse have been very supportive of Chelsea for years!!