Raised in Atlanta Georgia, John Berry observed a wide verity of music, helping him develop his own brand of country music. His influences range from gospel, soul, blues, and country, with his biggest influence being John Denver. He began recording his own albums at home and selling them at his shows, mostly in colleges throughout northern Georgia and eventually southeast Georgia. He produced and recorded many albums and his last independent album sold over 10,000 copies. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves.
Berry signed to Liberty Records in 1992 and released his self-titled major-label debut album in 1993. Berry opened for many major acts like Reba McEntire and Aaron Tippin and around this same time, he released his only number one song on the “Billboard” charts, “Your Love Amazes Me,” which has since become a country music classic. Berry was certified platinum by the Recording Industry Association of America and has never stopped performing. Today, Berry is still moving forward with success – and has a great new project with an accompanying tour, book and television show titled “Songs and Stories.” When we caught up with Berry at 2018 CRS, we asked him what gave him the idea for his new project.
“We call it ‘Songs and Stories’ because we tell the stories behind the songs or talk about how a particular song or moment changed our lives in relationship to a song,” Berry explains of the series’ title. “We started out to do two weeks of shows, but it was so much fun, we ended up adding more shows and eventually we ended up getting calls for them. We ended up touring for 22 months and we started recording some of those shows along the way. From those recordings we made a two-disc set called ‘Songs and Stories’ and every year since, we do a two week tour and go out and do a run of ‘Songs and Stories’ shows.”
“A few years back people started telling me I should put these stories in a book so that others who can’t make the performances can enjoy them. So my wife started to transcribe the stories I would tell from the original CD, then I took them and stretched them and tried to make it a good read,” Berry continues of how they developed the book from the live show. “From there, she started collecting pictures from our [photo] albums. For songs like ‘Standing On The Edge Of Goodbye,’ she found some awards where I had gotten Song of the Year so we could include pictures of those awards. She found a picture of my dad when he was 40 and I was 10 to go with a song about my dad called ‘Forty Again.’ So that’s how the 45-page book with CD was born.”
Berry began filming the show 25 years after performing his first showcase at Douglas Corner in Nashville, which serves as the venue for the “Songs and Stories” show. “I have guest stars and ask them what their life changing moment was in country music,” he explains. “Of course Billy Ray Cyrus’s was ‘Achy Breaky Heart.’ On the other hand, Collin Ray was in a band with his brother called the Ray Brothers and they did heavy rock ‘n roll. He heard the song by Waylon Jennings called ‘Dreaming My Dreams with You’ and he decided to pursue country music. There are so many stories to tell – so we just decided to keep going with it – and now we have this great television show.”
As for his own story, Berry told us how the Joe Diffie song lyrics “Those who stand on empty shores with ships that don’t come in” from his song “Ships That Don’t Come In” changed his life. “That was the moment I told my wife we had to make a change,” Berry says. “I had bigger dreams than being a club singer. So we decided to put on a showcase in Nashville every six weeks for a year and that decision changed our lives forever.”
Berry’s song “Your Love Amazes Me,” is still creating wind in his musical sail – but there is more to come. Berry always has his eye open for the next avenue to fulfill his dreams and if his television show goes well, Berry says he would like to open a small venue called “Songs and Stories,” potentially using the the newly renovated Palace Theatre in Gallatin as its home. All John Berry fans here at “SEN” are sending best wishes for Berry to have great success with his TV show, book and tour.