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Charlie Berry interviewed by JaVonne Harris

JH: I'm here with Ms. Charlie Berry, thanks doll for the chance to interview you.

CB: It's my pleasure…thank y'all for having me.

JH: No problem…

JH: So how did you get into music?

CB: I literally can remember being a little girl and I could speak little words like hi and bye and I really couldn't understand what they were saying...but I would be singing all loud with radio, it's just always been something I love. It's funny I can remember one experience in pre-k, I went to Kiddie Kollege and we had a performance over at Hannah Hall, at TSU and I was such a diva…I just had to get out front. My grandmother is a music teacher and she taught violin in H.I.S.D., so the violin was my first instrument and then piano but I stuck with voice. What happened was, we kind of moved around for a short time in my life but the voice you can take anywhere with you…anywhere you go! My dad also has a musical background, he plays the French horn, the bass and he can also sing. He was in the first graduating class of HSPVA. So he would always play songs for me on his bass when I was growing up and I used to sing along with him and that's how I really got a love for it.

JH: Tell me about your training growing up, formal or informal?

CB: I use to go to choir rehearsal with my grandmother but my upbringing was a little different, we were episcopal and I also went to catholic school. We sang hymns but we didn't sing gospel songs but I would sit in with them. Even the group I was in, we would go to whoever's house to practice dance steps and go over our arrangement. I also had certain teachers who took an interest in me and helped me out. I started taken voice lessons in high school. What high school did you go to? I went to high school in Massachusetts; actually I went to a boarding school. When I was in middle school my counselor approached me about boarding school. I ended up applying and getting in. I really had an opportunity to really travel the world when I was in high school. I went to Turkey, Greece, The United Kingdom, and Scotland for about a month. We did New York, D.C. and we also did a Texas tour. We went to Houston, Dallas and San Antonio. My teachers were classically trained but I was president of the gospel choir in high school, so I had the opportunity to do both. I was in a madrigals group that sung all acapella and then I actually ended up getting into Rice University for music. Me and my music teacher had an oil and water relationship, I knew that I didn't want to be an opera singer but I wanted to get that background and it was really hard because I had my own band too. I was performing at least once a week, if not twice a week and trying to make the grade was a lot! And my music teacher didn't really understand popular music and I didn't want to do opera…so we didn't get along. So what's your degree in? Music, my focus is voice.

JH: What's your biggest challenge with music?

CB: I think to me the number one thing is the internal struggle…just to believe in yourself enough to say that you really have something to offer. Because it's tough, especially when things happen, I think that just keeping the faith through it all, you know? I still love it and I still have the desire to really touch people. I think just to continue to believe and just fight through everything. I think that's part of what I have to sing about, just to share with people. To say that everyone has trails, you just have to keep on pushing. There have been some things that happen to me personally, like losing my sister…I lost her at a time when I was pursuing my career. I was out there doing this reality show, supposedly and while I was there, my sister died and I didn't even get to say goodbye when I left because I was rushing trying to get on the plane and go. I was in L.A. and it wasn't really a legitimate opportunity. I think that's another thing, just trying to figure out who's real and who's not.

JH: How has your music evolved over the years?

CB: Ummm I think the way that it has changed is because it's more of my spirit and faith coming out of the music...and I think that's really huge. Whereas before, I always believed in God but I always listened to people say things like, "are you gospel", "are you this or are you that". If you listen back to a lot of the stuff I have done, there's hardly anything out there that I did that I'm not proud of…now I may have sung on a song with somebody who was saying whatever, but I didn't do that because I was always so conscious of my gift. But now I just feel like hey, we're one and the same…I love music, I love art, I love being able to express myself and I love God. And now I don't feel like those things have to be so separate and that's where I feel like I've evolved. Just to understand that hey, I'm me and I can be who I am and share that with the people…and that to me has been the biggest change.

JH: What is the ultimate direction for your music?

CB: I really want to…I want to touch the world; I want to travel the world. One of the things I would like to do eventually is incorporate other languages into my music and that speaks back to my classical training because I've sung in all different languages. German, Russian, Latin, Spanish, French and I've always had a passion for languages too but that's something I'd like to do because music is such a universal thing…just to able to say a phrase to the people, wherever they are in their own language. Even the old stars from back in the day like Nat King Cole and Frank Sinatra had songs in other languages or with at least a phrase like, "Que Sera, Sera…Whatever Will Be, Will Be". So I want to do that, I just want to be apart of people's lives and I don't want to be an object of desire but when I think about how many singers I just love and it could even be from just one song or three that I've heard from them, but that made them apart of my life…they are apart of the soundtrack of my life. And I remember a lot of those things that I've heard in my life, period…it's just apart of me. That's what I want to do; like when someone has a memory…I would love to be apart of that memory or even if it's something to help them through a tough time.

JH: What's your favorite style of music?

CB: A favorite style of music that would be hard to pick, there is so much and I love so much…I would have to say jazz. I listen to a lot of Billie Holiday and Sarah Vaughan. I love a lot of gospel like CeCe Winans and I like Otis Redding. So you have a lot of jazz and gospel, especially the singers that have clear way of communicating to me…like Yolanda Adams and CeCe Winans. Classic R&B like The Isleys, Aretha Franklin…I grew up trying to sing Mary J. Blige songs and we would arrange the harmonies and stuff like that because I loved her so much. And you know what, I love a lot of classical music too…so all of those are apart of my life.

JH: What keeps you in this…what keeps you going?

CB: It's definitely tough and like I said before I've definitely had some road blocks, that I've had to say "ok, get back up on the horse and get back in the saddle". What keeps me going is that music is such a part of me and I just can't imagine not doing it. You know, just knowing that there is something that I can share because you listen to all these voices of people and everyone has their own tambour, their own texture and their own way of delivery. And I have my own and so if I'm not doing it to the best of my ability and sharing this gift, then I feel like I'm falling short a little bit in the purpose of my life. I really do think that I have a something unique, just to be able to reach people and help them heal. The main thing is just knowing that we're all in this together and just to encourage each other to keep going and to keep growing.

JH: What is the impression you want to leave or what do you want people to take from your music?

CB: I would like them to have a new perspective on how they always thought about things, maybe change their mind about something or just to feel like they want to be better or to do better. Not that I'm telling them that they aren't but its more like stay on the path and live your dreams, I would say. That's huge, live your dreams and follow your calling…that's what I would want people to know and don't be afraid. There's a line from one of my songs that says, "I'm where I'm supposed to be right now, and right now is the time for conquering unbelief…I believe". I just want people to know that wherever they are, they can go from that moment and move forward…to make the decisions, put in the work and do whatever it takes to get where you're suppose to be.