Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Todd Berry

Artist Interview: 1-on-1 with Todd BerryConsidering I am from a small town, it’s no surprise that I like country music. As of late, country music has pretty much turned into pop music, but there are still a few guys out there producing some good old school country. For example, listen to the new Eric Church album. He even has a song called Country Music Jesus. In the song he talks about needing “God, send a country music Jesus To come and save us all.” So when I come across a performer that actually sounds like country music, I take notice. I mean, the guy I am sitting with today has a song called Politically Correct Redneck. If you have never met a redneck… do yourself a favor and add that to your bucket list. Country people are great, that’s all there is to it! I couldn’t tell you how I was first introduced to this guy, but I am glad that I got the chance to sit down with him for an exclusive artist interview. The guy not only sings, but he also produces. Oh yeah, and is legally blind! But we’ll get to that here in a second. It’s my pleasure to introduce you to Todd Berry.

Todd Berry is a pretty good name… is that the name you born with, or did you change that for show business?

Yes sir, that’s my first and last given name at birth. My father was Mark Berry from Cincinnati and my mother Marti was born in Muncie, Indiana where I was  born. My father was a police officer (now deceased) and my mother worked as a secretary at Ball State University in Muncie where she retired recently.

Wait a second… you are legally blind? No way… how in the world are you able to produce such incredible tunes if you are blind? And respond to emails for that matter!

Born blind as a baby and then as a young child I had several operations to improve my sight, although it improved my sight I still am legally blind and everything is little fussy beyond 100 feet. I am able to do most things with my powerful glasses but I cannot drive a vehicle. When I look at a computer for an example I have to have everything enlarged.

I love your voice… it’s has a little Johnny Cash in there. I bet that’s not the first time you have heard that… but is that on purpose?

No, this is my natural voice, which has developed over time. Obviously Johnny as well as all the early country and rock n roll stars, as introduced to me as a young boy by my mother; had a influence on me.

Speaking of Cash, who are some of your biggest influences?

Elvis was the first artist that was introduced to me and when I was ten years old I was asked to get up in front of friends and sings a Elvis tune, Mom hear me singing; one of the people there worked at a retirement center and asked if I could come to the center and perform for them. I did and from then on I became an Elvis impersonator until I was about fifteen were I added more songs to my show from other artists like Buddy Holly, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis, The Platters, The Temptations, Dion and many more. Ever since then I have continued to add songs to my song-list. My current songlist consists of over two hundred songs, but I know more. I now can perform country, country rock, rock and roll, rhythm & blues and gospel.

You cover some songs, but I also hear some original tunes in there as well. Do you prefer to play covers, or your own stuff?

I love to write and produce my  own songs as well as for others. I believe I have a unique style as evidenced by my recorded songs. Covers have made it possible for me continue in this business and that’s what pays the bills. You see, because of my blindness I can’t hold a normal job or drive to work so thank God he has lead me and given me the talent to sing and perform. This is all I know and do fulltime since I was about fifteen when I quit school to provide for me and my family.

Do you write all of your own lyrics?

Sometimes. I have in the past met other songwriters through friends or in the business that I have worked with to develop songs, but most of the time I have put together the entire song. I did have to learn to play the guitar to help with that process. It has been a lot of fun and I love to write. Five of the songs on my current country CD “Better Days to Cry” I wrote.

Where do you get inspiration for a new track?

Oh man… mostly real life experiences. I have written about girls I’ve known, relationships I’ve had,  people in my life, love I’ve known and dreamed of, good days and bad times. And sometimes it can be about a feeling that I’m experiencing at the moment. Memories are a good source of music. Sometimes it just a hook, verse or melody.

Since we are on the topic of inspiration… where do you get your motivation to get up there and perform? Do you ever get bored with what you are doing?

Being blind and being blessed at what I do is inspiration enough. I get to do what I love and get paid. I make people happy and I love to do that. Sometimes I get people to think about something that inspires them or memories that makes them fond of what they heard. I’ve never been bored, tired but never bored. I do a lot of shows, up to fourteen in one week and that at times gets tiring and hard on my vocal. I drink a lot of water.

So you said you can’t have a day job… 

No, this is all I’ve ever known. I love to sing and perform and I’ve been blessed to be able to do that all over the country. I’ve played before small and large crowds. I’m very thankful indeed.

Tell me a little bit more about your relationship with the Access Entertainment Group.

I was looking for a record label or  agent to help me with my career for several years after I realized in order for me to go farther with my career I was going to need some professional help. Everybody told me I was good enough. The internet provided me with a great source of info on what I was looking for and one day I found Spotlight Records now a division of Access Entertainment Group online and I thought what the heck. I started calling them over and over again without success, then one day I got a hold of Robin Bruce the wife of the owner and she told me that she would let her husband know. As the story goes she told Jim Bruce, her husband; about this kid from Indiana that wanted to speak to him about his career. And that he had called several times.

So that is how you and Jim Bruce met…

Finally Jim called and asked to speak to me. After telling him what I was wanting to do and what I did he seemed impressed, but that he would get back to me. I thought for sure I would never hear from him again when one day he called and invited me to a cookout at his house for an audition. I accepted and off I went to Ohio scared and excited too. My wife and I loaded up my equipment and headed to Ohio. When I got there I met Jim and he introduced me to his family and asked that I set up my equipment on the back patio. I performed several of my best songs and afterwards he smiled and said that he would like to help me with my career. And he is.

There are so many country shows out at Verizon Wireless Music Center this year. Who are some of your favorite country artists?

Garth Brooks, Jason Aldean, Big and Rich, Lonestar, Toby Keith, Martina McBride, and Reba McIntire.

I REALLY like the new Eric Church album. Are you familiar with his work?

Yes, he’s really good. I hope someday to be as big.

Random… but what are some of your favorite hot dog toppings?

Ketchup and cheese.

A lot of modern day country songs are about beer… about drinking. Are you a beer drinker? 

Not really. Occasionally. More free thinking then beer drinking. Like my song Politically Incorrect Redneck.

Tell me a little bit more about the Buckeye Song. You produced that, but J Kootnz performs that tune. What was that process like, producing a track for someone else? (That’s not country music you know… that’s almost hip-hop!)

Believe it or not, my driver Justin Koontz that drives me from appointment to appointment said he likes to sing so I audition him and I was thoroughly impressed, so I had him come to my studio to do some test recordings and sure enough he could sing and sing well. He also stated that he was a songwriter and offered to share some of his work with me. One of the songs was called Buckeye Boyz and it was hip hop. I like the lyrics so I added melody and beat as well as some chorus and presto we had a song. I liked it so much that I recorded Justin, mixed and mastered it myself  using Pro Tools in my home studio. I then did a limited release under my label Galaxy Records and it has taken off, well liked by all the buckeye nation so I pitched it to Spotlight Records a larger independent label, the same label that I am signed to and they agreed that this could be big and has agreed to sign J Koontz as he is known now to a pressing and distribution contract in hopes of getting it out there farther.

So are you on Spotlight Records then?

Yes, Jim Bruce who has over twenty-three years experience in the music business owns Spotlight Records and he signed me to a recording contract  in 2009. We released a EP of four songs, which was gang busters; in 2010 and he was instrumental in getting me my gospel recording contract with Tate Music Group. So now I am actually signed to two record labels one country and one gospel. The gospel CD was released June 25th and we are about to release my full country CD titled “Better Days to Cry” this year.

You have traveled all over the country performing… do you ever get sick of being on the road?

I’m currently waiting to go on the road when my labels are ready to do just that. I have performed all over the country, and I love it. I can’t wait to go back on the road with record label support. This has been a very busy year with appearances  totaling up to fourteen per week. That’s alot of singing, mostly local stuff just to get my name out there. Next year will be even busier with more fairs, festivals and larger events again with label support. This is what I live for.

I used to watch Scrubs, and there was a character on the show with the same name… they called him The Todd. Does anyone ever call you The Todd? Can I call you The Todd?

No, not yet, just Todd or Todd Berry and that’s fine. The Todd is not bad either. You can call me anything, but don’t call me late for dinner. Is that another song lyric?

What’s the biggest crowd you have ever played for?

15,000 people at the Indiana State Fair where I opened for Neal McCoy and Colin Raye. I’m sure they were there for them, but I can dream can’t I? I was scared, but loving every minute of it.

The smallest? 

In the beginning I had a lot of small crowds or gatherings. I think the smallest was five people, but it was fun too.

Love the name of your band… When Rock Met Country… tell me more about the other guys in the band.

Unfortunately, that band did not stick together, and that old band is using it now. In my current band I have a female drummer by the name of Julie Grisez , bass player Kenny King, rhythm guitar Matt Kelly and lead guitar JC Williams. All of them have great vocals and can really play.

I have had the chance to see some of your set lists… and man; you have a TON of tunes in your catalog. Do you ever forget the words while performing?

Yes I have, but rarely. If I do I improv… Rarely does anyone ever know and I do a pretty good job of covering up. It’s sort of fun when it happens, but very rarely.

I have to say, you look good as Elvis! Are you still a fan?

Definitely. Elvis and Mom where the reason I got started in this crazy business. I even got married at his mansion in Memphis. I have been singing his songs since I was ten and today I have a very theatrical type Elvis tribute show that my manager Jim Bruce is booking in theatres throughout Ohio.  You’ve got to come and see this show. I will be at the Wapakoneta City Schools Performing Arts Center in Wapakoneta, Ohio on September the 10th at 7:00 PM.  It’s a very moving show and it also benefits the local foodbanks wherever it is shown. So bring some food stuff and get a $3 credit off of your ticket price. No one should go hungry!

Tell me more about Tate Music?

Tate Music Group is a large independent record label that just signed Neal McCoy and Kenny Rogers out of Mustang, Oklahoma. They are primarily a gospel label but record all kinds of music. Jim Bruce submitted me to them and early in 2010 and we signed a recording contract with them. This past June they released my CD and we are currently promoting my CD at all of my events. The title of the CD is “There He Is” after the smash hit that a friend of mine wrote. There are nine songs four of which I wrote. The other two songs that are getting alot of airplay are Where a Soldier Stands and Calvary’s Where You Look.

Where do you see yourself in five years?

At the top. That has always been my dream and still is.

When this is all said and done… when your career has come to an end, what do you want to be remembered for? What is the Todd Berry legacy?

A singer with strong vocals with range…. that I had a lot of drive and passion when it came to his music.

In all of the interviews that I have done, I always give the artist the last word. Go.

Thanks for all your support and I’ll never forget the fans because the fans are the real reason that I continue doing what I do. I love everybody and I hope they get a chance to see me in person, on stage and performing.