Singing from the soul

Singer/songwriter returns home for a heartfelt holiday concert


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2001 Chugiak High graduate Chelsea Berry is performing a show Saturday, Dec. 28 at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy in Eagle River at 7:30 p.m.

PHOTO BY LOUISE WELCH

Growing up in Eagle River, Chelsea Berry dreamed of becoming a conductor or composer.

Instead she became a successful singer/songwriter. She credits much of this to Alaska folksinger Robin Hopper, who was her babysitter and her mother’s best friend. Throughout Berry’s childhood there was always folk music playing, always talk of musicians and songs.

“I would probably have ended up in music one way or another if I hadn’t of grown up in Alaska but maybe not doing what I’m doing now,” she said. “It’s what I’m equipped to do, what I love to do.”

Berry is home for the holidays and will be performing Saturday, Dec. 28 in Eagle River.

Berry, who presently lives in Cambridge, Mass., is making a name for herself along the East Coast. She’s opened for Chris Isaack, Vance Gilbert, Cheryl Wheeler and Chris Smither.

She’s also been touring with Livingston Taylor and had the opportunity to travel with him to Martha’s Vineyard to meet his family.

“It was surreal and magical and wonderful,” she said. “I kept thinking, ‘This is actually happening to you. This is your life now.’”

Getting to where she is now hasn’t always been easy.

“The two things I’ve learned is that you need to know how to take constructive criticism,” she said. “And the second sounds like a cliché but you have to keep going. You can’t back down.”

She readily admits that she’s had her share of setbacks, her struggles.

“I’ve been in places where I thought I’d never end up. I’d look around and think, ‘I’m a smart kid, what am I doing here?’ But I kept going.”

Berry has reached the point where she only performs one or two shows a week.

“It used to be two years ago that it was four or five shows a week in bars but now it’s in actual theaters,” she said.

Now that she finally has spare time, she spends it reading, kayaking, skiing and walking in the woods.

“I do most of my writing when I’m out walking in the woods or kayaking,” she said. “It helps clear my head.”

Berry, whose songs are personal and reflective, has been compared to Joni Mitchell. Some of her pieces carry a steely verve similar to Lucinda Williams.

“I write about experiences that are really tough for me or emotions that are hard,” she said. “It’s therapy. Every single time I sing a song it helps me to let go.”

As far as the future, Berry hopes to continue playing a show or two a week while extending her tours across the country.

“I’d also like a place in the woods,” she said. “I love to perform. It’s my happy place, being on stage. But I also love to get away.”

Berry is playing at the Alaska Fine Arts Academy on Saturday, Dec. 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $10 and can be purchased at www.chelseaberry.com or call 688-5835.

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