New talent Berry Soul may only have a few tracks under her belt, but the now London-based singer-songwriter has a natural talent for putting pen to paper and creating soulful music that'll instantly be on repeat. With a drive and work ethic that matches artists who have been in the industry for years longer, Berry Soul is an artist to keep your eye on. Before heading to Gothenburg, she came to an East London studio to chat to us about growing up in Sweden, her influences and putting her shyness behind her when it comes to music.
Alex Rorison: How’re you doing today?
Berry Soul: Good! I’ve been really good, the sun is shining today, and I’ve been doing lots of writing. I’ve been sitting on my balcony all morning just writing.
A.R: How’s your trip been?
It’s been really really relaxing. I needed this trip, I felt like last year was hectic, so I needed to relax for a couple of weeks and just gather my thoughts.
A.R: Where have you been?
In Sweden, in Gothenburg. This is where I was born and my family lives here, so I come here often.
A.R: Did you have quite a musical upbringing?
Not within my family, but within myself. I was always musical, I think it all started growing up in front of MTV. I was born a month after my parents immigrated to Sweden, they didn’t really know Swedish that well so they would put on MTV to listen to music instead of TV. So there was always music around, and I think that’s why I’m very into R’n’B. I’ve always done a lot of music, and dancing, I’m very into the arts.
A.R: Did your parents listen to much music?
They would mostly listen to Middle Eastern music and Kurdish music - so there was a good mix in the house. I’ve grown up with a few different genres.
A.R: Was it always music that you wanted to do?
Yeah deep down. I always knew this is what I wanted to do, but it never seemed like something I could actually do until I turned 12 or 13. Then I thought why shouldn’t I go for it?
A.R: How long have you been singing and songwriting for?
Maybe 6 or 7 years!
A.R: How do you think growing up in Sweden has affected the music that you make?
In Sweden, we’re very influenced by American culture, and in the last couple of years the UK scene has come into Sweden as well - there’s Swedish drill music now which is really cool. But before that we were always influenced by American music, and I think that’s why I’m very American in my singing. I’ve got more into the UK scene now though.
In Sweden there’s a good mixture of everything, there’s a huge Hip Hop scene here which is influenced from America, but also from their own culture. There’s a lot of Middle Eastern people growing up here, as well as loads of other ethnicities, you can really hear it in their music. You can definitely hear the mixture of cultures.
A.R: Is that important to you when you’re making your music?
Yeah, culture is very important. It’s telling your story and carrying on a legacy - I find it really fascinating.
A.R: You went to University in London didn’t you?
Yeah! To do music.
A.R: Do you think that helped in shaping your sound?
I wouldn’t say it helped in shaping my sound. It was more helpful to get myself out there. I wouldn’t have moved to London if it wasn’t for Uni - that was the first reason why I moved and stepped out of my comfort zone. I think my sound has been shaped by the culture and the people I’ve always been around.
Berry soul wears headscarf ARTIST'S OWN
A.R: Did you like London whilst you were here?
I really love London. London has a spirit to it, there’s so many opportunities and open doors you need to just go and grab it. It really makes you feel like there’s nothing you can’t do - if you know what you want to do, just go and do it. You need to keep up.
A.R: When you’re writing, do you have a process?
I usually have a beat, and then a melody will pop up. I’ll just mumble the flow and then put words to it. My first lines never make sense.
A.R: Do you produce your own music?
I normally work with producers - I have one main producer who I work with; he’s so sick, his name is Kanuga, he’s so good.
A.R: Are you quite hands-on with the music he makes for you? Or do you let him get on with it?
He’ll normally send me a bunch of tracks, and I’ll write to them. There’s not normally much I want to change in his tracks. But the times we’ve been in the studio working together, I’m really hands-on.
A.R: How do you come up with your lyrics? Do they have to come from a personal place?
It’s been a mixture; before it was quite personal, whatever's playing over in my mind. I find writing very therapeutic, like writing in my diary. I don’t always write to make a track, I usually write to figure out why I’m upset or why I’m feeling a certain kind of way. But, I can also just get inspired in everyday life, and I’ll just go with that. I think most of the time the music is just for me. But then if there’s something there I’ll let other people hear it.
A.R: Are you quite protective when you release music?
I’m a perfectionist, I always want to get it perfect and I usually get caught up in it and then I get really upset with myself, but then I’m like, ‘fuck it, just release it, it’s not that deep. Just go for it’
A.R: Who are your biggest musical influences?
When I was really young (and still now) Beyonce, and Christina Agullera and the 90s pop stars. But then I grew up and I started to really listen to music, how it was made and hearing the lyrics as poetry. I got into J Cole - he’s one of my favourites. Lauryn Hill too. There’s a bunch of other people as well.
A.R: What did you think of J Cole’s new album?
I was a bit disappointed. Well... not disappointed. I just love when he’s criticising society; as a fan I’m not used to seeing this side of him. I love his other stuff way more.
A.R: What about influences outside of music?
It can come from anywhere; movies, going for walks, everyday life really. Sometimes if I’m on the train I’ll look at a couple, I’ll make up a story about them. I’ve always been quite artistic, so something usually comes to my mind when I look at something simple.
A.R: You’ve released three tracks so far, do you have a favourite?
‘Tired’ - my latest one. I really love that track, it was so fun to make, it was so easy. It was just very effortless, and I like that.
A.R: Have you done any live shows yet?
Not yet, but I’m really really excited to play live.
A.R: Have you got many tracks hidden away that you’re ready to play live?
I have so many, and I think there’s a lot of tracks that I want to play live before releasing them. I want to get the crowd’s reaction first.
A.R: What would be your dream venue?
Madison Square Garden!
A.R: That’s a great one, I thought you would pick something in London…
That’s the top one, so why not that!
A.R: What are you working on at the moment?
I’m just writing a lot at the moment, I’m still exploring my sound and what I want to make.
A.R: You’re back in London soon aren’t you? Any plans?
I’m so ready, I just want to go to the studio, meet up with everyone, write, record. I want to write with other people as well. That’s something I haven’t done yet, I really want to co-write with someone.
A.R: If you could write with anyone, who would it be?
The dream would be to write with Lauryn Hill. Or J Cole, oh my gosh yes, a J Cole feature would be the best.
A.R: What about a tour?
I would love to go with Cleo Sol, I would love to be in the studio with her as well. And a girl called Kaiit, she hasn’t released anything in a long while, but she needs to.
A.R: What do you want people to get from your music?
If I get any emotion from someone that listens to my music, then I’m happy. It doesn’t matter if it makes them sad or it makes them angry, as long as I spark something - then I feel like my job is done.
A.R: Have you played much in front of your family since you’ve been back?
I don’t really show them tracks. I don’t show anyone anything until it’s finished. If I’ve got a good demo I’ll show them, if I don’t then they don’t get to hear it. I have a couple of friends that I would ask for their opinions, other than that I don’t want to get too many opinions from different people even if I’m really close to them.
A.R: Any plans for music videos?
I have so many ideas in my head, I just want to go and make them.
A.R: Are you quite comfortable in front of the camera?
Before I did the shoot with you, I was thinking I don’t know what I’m going to do. But I just got on with it. I don’t think I am camera shy - I’m very shy in my personal life, I’m very introverted. But because music is like work for me, when it comes to work I just kinda switch on, I’m like ‘let’s not waste time, let’s just do it’.
A.R: So you’re confident to go on stage?
I think so, you don’t have any options other than to do it and do it great.
A.R: And finally, what’s your favourite F Word.