Elliot Bryant sits down with Louis Berry to discuss his tour, his sound, and the key to being a successful artist.
How’s the tour going so far?
Really good – I’m tired, but it’s been good. We’re doing venues a lot smaller than what we can do now but I think it’s important to go to these cities when people can’t always reach the big cities like Glasgow. Obviously, Edinburgh’s on this one, it’s a little bit different, but in England we’ve been doing cities like Coventry and Dover, places you wouldn’t usually go, so it’s been interesting.
How would you compare performing at a small intimate venue to a larger one? Which do you prefer?
I like both, I like the big venues, the bigger the crowds the better for me. I love that, but at the same time, doing smaller, more intimate venues, keeps your head in the game - it takes you back to when you started.
You’ve released several successful singles, what’s next and how long will you keep fans waiting for the album?
The next single will far exceed the other ones before it - there’s been a bit of a delay putting a new single out as some people may have noticed, but it’s all for good reasons. We’ve been making sure everything is right and I’ve rerecorded tracks twice in two different studios to make them sound right. Also, I’m doing some collaborations with other artists, I won’t mention any names, but quite well-known artists which is exciting, and the album will be out early next year.
You’re a versatile artist, what sort of sound will the album have?
Well I think anyone can get on that stage and just smash those cymbals and just say ‘this is indie music’. That’s easy – I could do that in my sleep. I think it’s important to do the rock-n-roll stuff and then also be able to showcase another side and show that I can write these slow songs, these ballads.
How would you describe your approach to writing? Do you need to be proactive or is it more of a natural process?
I write every day unless I’m on tour - if I’m on tour I’m too tired. I don’t think about it too much though, for me it’s a duty to write - I have to write. I’ll wake up and go do a few hours in the gym and then I’ll go home and then I’ll literally write all night. It’ll take me anywhere between five minutes and an hour to write a song - I used to be a lot quicker, but now I think about it a little bit more. Obviously when you start working with bigger producers, and have better studios and better musicians you learn a lot and you have to become a little more methodical which I don’t like, but it is necessary at times.
You said you’ve been writing for other artists as well, is that something you enjoy or do you prefer writing for your own music?
I enjoy all aspects of writing - I write songs for girls and things like that you know what I mean? I think it’s important, as I said, to showcase different styles of writing and that for me is what an artist is. I’m trying to be an artist- I don’t want to be a performer. I don’t want to stand there singing someone else’s songs and lie to people that are paying money for gigs- that’s not what I’m about. So I’ll write a song that’s true to me and if people like it, they like it and if they don’t, they don’t - as long as it’s honest.
It’s refreshing to see you up there with just your guitar, do you think it’s a problem with the industry that more and more artists are going up on stage with laptops and other electronic equipment?
I hate it. People are paying money for gig tickets and they’re coming to watch a live performance. I’d say 80% - even more, 90% of bands I’ve seen on the road have got some kind of backing track playing. People who haven’t got a trained ear to that kind of thing won’t always notice it but I’ve been at festivals or touring with people and they’ve been on the stage and I’ve heard these vocals coming out yet no one’s on stage yet! I can’t do that, I have to be honest with the fans musically.
Which artists do you admire at the moment?
I don’t know you, you know… There’s aspects that I like of lots of different artists. I like a lot of American artists and I’m into my rap and things like that, that’s the kind of background I come from. It’s just by chance that I fell into making guitar music. I like the likes of J. Cole, I think he’s a really honest writer and he’s great at what he does. In terms of British artists, I think that Sam Smith is great; I’ve got the same producer and I’ve heard some of Sam’s stuff before it’s out and honestly all I can say is that people are really gonna love it. It’s really good music. We’re using the same gospel singers and things like that on some of the tracks and I’m excited to hear all of his stuff when it comes out. I think he’s a great artist.
Tell me the story of your grandad’s guitar and how you discovered music.
Well my grandfather plays the guitar, but he only plays three chords - he’ll play you any song with those three chords though. He had a guitar at the bottom of his bed, and I wasn’t allowed to touch it but I had a little go. I still remember the first four chords I played – funnily enough I’ve never written a song with those chords but I should do, I was thinking about it the other day. Anyway, I showed him that I could play the guitar and he bought me a banjo! He said "play a banjo, everyone plays the guitar" and "you'll go further with a banjo". But you can't write rock n roll songs on a banjo so I switched back over to the guitar.
Where do you think you'd be if that moment hadn't happened? Has music been important to you in terms of keeping you out of trouble as you were growing up?
Yeah, it's kept me out of trouble, even now being grown up. The background I'm from is not a normal background of the people that get into music or even people in my band - they're coming out of universities or things like that. It’s a great thing for them to learn aspects of music in that way but I’m from a completely different route, I was a criminal before I got involved in music and music gave me my only avenue away from that lifestyle so I'm very grateful to be here doing what I'm doing.
What have you learnt so far from being in the industry and what advice would you give to an aspiring young artist?
Well don’t let people change your minds that’s what I’d say, but who am I to say? I’m no expert here. I’m still trying to achieve what I need to achieve, and when I do achieve that, maybe I’ll have a little bit more advice. I’ve got a lot to learn.
But I think just stay true to yourself, don’t let anyone change your mind or persuade you in any way and don’t try and sound like other artists. I hear so many bands trying to sound like other people, but by the time you’ve released that stuff you’ve copied off a band you like, that band will be old news. So, it’s pointless - times change fast. When I started with this sound, you know it’s like a rock-n-roll sound, people think it can be compared to older stuff, but if I told you it was gunna be getting 'hottest record' on Radio 1 and things like that you would’ve laughed at me. That single was played on Radio 1 and it’s rock-n-roll music - anything’s possible if you stay true to yourself.