Cape Ann native and singer Chelsea Berry is striking a chord in the music industry. By Jill Diver
When you listen to 29-year-old Chelsea Berry and her Joni Mitchell-type voice, you’d never guess that she was formally trained in opera and classical music. You’d be even more surprised to learn that she started touring at the age of 15, accepting every invitation she was given to play at festivals, coffeehouses, and bars. Right away, however, it’s plain to see that Berry is a woman who knows that her success depends on her commitment to hard work.
Berry, a Berklee College of Music alumna and Manchester-by-the-Sea resident, says that living in her Cape Ann town has been a great incubator for her folk music. “Folk music can be a narrow window,” she says. But it seems that even in such a niche genre, she has done well. She recently played with Marshall Crenshaw, best known for his songs like “Someday Someway” and “There She Goes Again,” and has opened for Chris Isaak, known best for his song “Wicked Game.” She’s even played at New York’s Carnegie Hall.
Until now, all of Berry’s work was based on folk music by the likes of Carole King. She explains that while her other albums “never had a cohesive idea to them—they were just songs that I put together,” she hopes that her new project will segue into something that’s more like a combination of Ani Difranco, Florence and the Machine, Sheryl Crow, and Alanis Morissette, complete with loud, rippy guitar.
Berry’s current project is titled Devil and the Deep Blue Sea. “The thing about this album is that I’m trying to get away from the singer-songwriter thing,” she says. “I’m trying to make the album have a more cohesive sound, and I want it to sound like a band and be a rock album.” Berry has already laid two tracks, which are, according to her, “so far, beyond awesome.”
Most of Berry’s recent shows have sold out, which is what her team expects of her February 9 show at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport. All the same, she continues to work toward new and ever-changing goals. “I’m hoping we’ll always be doing bigger shows,” she says.
Of her future, Berry says, “I’m interested in always doing something different and not settling for anything…I would rather be doing something I love and not [making] any money. Any other way and I don’t function.”Although she’s happy with her musical life as it is, Berry says she’s finally signing contracts and earning “legit money.” “It’s not for tips anymore,” she says.
Devil and the Deep Blue Sea is a work in progress, and the message Berry wants to send is one she says she tries to convey all the time: “Take care of each other. [The idea] comes from my dad. He’s always said, ‘Do something good for someone and don’t tell them.’ I love to inspire people to go out in the world and do good.” chelseaberry.com.