Liverpool's rising star opens up about poverty, crime + record deals
Cai Trefor

14:04 29th January 2016

"My songs are about real experiences. People getting shot, people dying," says Louis Berry. "People dealing with drug addictions in my family, and outside my family. People borrowing money to try and live and when they can't borrow money they just have to go hungry. They're not simple problems , like, 'Oh I've got to pay my student loan off'."

These stories, collected in Berry's brutally honest, raw, self-taught songwriting, derive from his upbringing with a heroin addicted father and a mother trying to keep him on the right side of the law on one of Merseyside's most notorious sink estates, Tower Hill in Kirkby.

Growing up in poverty had an impact on his education. "I used to jump the fence and bunk school as I was involved crime, because crime was the only means of survival - it's very real for me" he says, whilst just touching the surface of some of the intense formative experiences. "But that's the reality for millions of others on council estates, I was just one of many."

Berry's songwriting isn't about putting himself at the heart of the situation, but realising that his songs will ring true to so many other people living through difficult times in Cameron's Britain. There aren't enough songwriters telling personal histories from his perspective in pop music. Whilst the Prime Minister talks about knocking down places like Tower Hill, Louis Berry humanises it with his incredible voice.

Although Berry isn't entirely alone in vividly telling the troubled side of life from the council estates. Jake Bugg received considerable praise for it on his first album

"I don't think it's a fair comparison. Jake Bugg doesn't write his own songs, he co-writes and things like that. I don't find nothing wrong with writing a song with someone - some of the best songs ever have been written like that. I just feel like what I'm doing is more authentic, it comes from my own experience. I don't think it could be written with anyone else." He pauses, and adds: "You get some songs in the charts and they're written with six writers, how can that mean anything to someone?"

Part of the reason Berry packs in only the most real experiences into his music is that he didn't grow up listening to singer/songwriters. He came at it from an entirely unique approach.

"I listened to rap, I didn't listen to songwriting. I was never into this kind of music, I just found myself making it. It just came about naturally. I'm not trying to copy or mimic anyone. I kind of rap with a guitar basically. It doesn't come across as rapping but there's there's similarities."

This raw sense of honesty from listening to hip hop, sung with his deep, gravelly, and intimidatingly powerful voice, that has shades of Don Cavalli, Johnny Cash, and Elvis, is irresistible to listen to. Singer/songwriters of this calibre don't come around often.

His rare ability didn't take long to get recognised: "I did my first gig in Liverpool a little over a year ago and I got a publishing deal. The first gig was very much the first gig. I never even went to gigs before to see anyone else play. I didn't really know what I was doing and somehow I ended up performing the songs. On my second show I got a record deal. There's not been much of a lead up to it, just a lot of writing and making sure my first two performances counted."

Since those deals - which indicate what an immense performer he is live - were signed, Berry has been touring and playing festivals, leading to a very different life to the path he was heading down on the estate. "I'm going to record my debut album in Nashville in February." he says. "I've got a lot of people around me at the minute who have helped narrowed the 500 songs or so that I've written for the album."

Although it's a long way away from being released at this point, just hearing how much of himself he's putting into his music, and how diverse his experiences have been, all the signs point towards a very strong debut.

For now though, his new single, '.45' - which is out on 5 February - remain on constant repeat.


Photo: Press