‘Born in Liverpool to a heroin addict father and a mother desperate to keep him on the right side of the law.’ Dangerous. This extract from Louis Berry’s website seems to have been reproduced in every interview he has given. Louis’ website goes on to describe him as ‘a confident little fucker.’
You can’t deny his winning smile. Giant white teeth take over Louis’ face when he grins and, in fact, every time he speaks. He is a gleaming, glowing, charming contrast to his black and white Hitchcock-esque press shots. I can’t imagine him knocking about on a Kirkby ‘sink’ estate, more like the pitch of premiership football club. Okay, maybe League One. He’s the kind of guy that would offer to make you a brew even though it is way below his pay-grade. He leads me down backstage corridors to small room: ‘It’s not the best but at least it’s quiet,’ he beams, pulling me a chair up. There’s that smile again.
‘I was supposed to do a radio show today and play live but my voice is going. I’m worried I’ll have to miss the next show,’ Louis frets. Apparently the cure is to drink a lot of ginger tea. And it must have worked because he made the next show and the many nights he played after that. Does he enjoy touring? ‘Home’s the back of the tour bus, y’know what I mean?’ He says. But, Louis admits on his recent visit to Nashville to record some songs, he didn’t see much of the city: ‘I was on my own without my regular band so I didn’t get to see it as much as I’d like to. I was just staying in the hotel, going to the studio, finishing up, going for like a pint on my own or something and then I’d do the same the next day.’
Although he has less time to get back to Liverpool these days, Louis tells me it is always a warm welcome: ‘There are little kids from the estate running up to the car and all that. I don’t even know the kids, but I get to know them.’ Why am I reminded of VTs from the X Factor when contestants go home and the local bakers has a giant poster of them over the window? Maybe it’s because Louis wouldn’t look at all out of place in front of the blinding LEDs of the giant X. Dressed in all black, his outfit is Yeezy inspired with a River Island finish. His short dark blonde hair is brushed to one side and is perfectly in place. After a string of shows, most bands by now would look tired, dishevelled and would probably have a beer in hand. Louis’ clothes look freshly pressed and he tells me he needs to eat something soon so he has time to properly digest it before he goes on stage.
But Louis makes a point of being different from other musicians. His Twitter bio boldly claims that he is ‘Rock & Roll’s finest.’ His YouTube profile states that he is ‘A very lonely rebel with a very revolutionary mind.’ I ask him what it all means. ‘I’m not a lonely person but I’m lonely as a rebel in this music game. I don’t see any other rebels who make music. I see the same old people doing the same old things they’ve just got different names. They’ve got the same haircuts the same beards, same pointy shoes, same skinny type of jeans – do you know what I mean? And they just sing the same songs. Most of the songs they didn’t even write them so I feel like I’ve got to rebel against that and bring some truth back to music. If people like it they like it, if they don’t they don’t. I’m not forcing them to like it I’m just doing my thing for me.’
Defensive of his own place in the music game and quick to condemn artists like Jake Bugg not writing their own songs, I wonder is Louis has faced resentment from other bands for his quick rise to success. ‘I signed my publishing deal after my first gig and then signed a recording deal after my second gig so I kind of did everything backwards. I suppose some people might be disheartened that they’ve had to try it for longer but that’s their path in life and I’m creating my own. I don’t concern myself with other people’s opinions. I just do what I do. I believe it and I saw it in my mind when I was writing those songs in my bedroom. I saw myself standing on those big stages with people in front of me. I see it in my mind and I make that come true. So I think, you know, just having complete confidence in what you do I the key to success.’
Speaking of other people’s opinions, I want to know what Louis thinks about social media, as his channels have a corporate feel that are at odds with his personality. Does he interact with fans online? ‘I prefer not to use social media at all, I just have to use it for the music. I understand the game. The game’s got to be played to be successful but personally, you know, I’d rather have one of them Nokia 3310s to see what’s going on do you know what I mean? Just phone me.’
‘I believe in interaction and there’s so many people aspiring to be something that they see online that isn’t true. It’s a five second clip of what’s going on in someone’s day and then you know the rest of the time they could be living a completely different lifestyle to what’s being put out there and I don’t feel like that projects itself. Especially when people need that direction in life.’
So where does Louis find his direction? With days in different towns and different countries, I wonder what he tries to keep the same each day. ‘I always pray for a start. I’m a big believer in prayer and I pray every day and say thank you for the situation I’m in. I always exercise. I do mixed martial arts when I’m at home and when I’m on tour I just do like loads of press ups and things before I go on stage. I try to speak to my grandparents too because they were like parents for me.’
Louis doesn’t watch TV and isn’t into other bands. There aren’t any films or podcasts he would recommend. So where do the slices of free time he has take him? ‘In my free time I learn things. I learn everything: I love history, I love languages, I just like to read, things like that. Not maybe books and things like that but I’m on the internet and I’ll be reading stuff online. I won’t be on YouTube watching clips I’ll be on Wikipedia scrolling for hours and when a little bit of blue writing comes up I’ll click on that and get on to something else. I just like to always educate and better myself knowledge is power do you know what I mean.’ Also unsurprisingly, Louis could never see himself going back to formal education: ‘I think its too regimented and theres not enough room for creativity and free thinking you know. I like to be a free thinker and explore all things.’
In the crowd every accent I hear is broadly Scouse. At the bar a man sticks a ‘Total Eclipse of the Sun’ sticker to a tap, with the ’96’ Hillsborough flame burning on it. A few Indie regulars clutch their tote bags and look mildly terrified as the crowd, who range from late 40s middle aged women with pixie crops and leopard print vest tops, to young girls in tight dresses, to polo shirted men with hardened faces, fill the room with vape smoke and carry plastic cups brimming with booze past them, spilling a good 30%. The atmosphere is electric as the audience not only appreciate great musician, but one of their own making it. Pride oozes from every angle and bodies are hoisted on to shoulders from the first song. Louis struts around stage, eyes twinkling, winking at audience members and sticking his tongue over those giant teeth and throwing his head back when guitar solos hit. He seems completely mismatched to the music he is playing and the voice that comes out of his mouth through that permanent smile. Louis Berry: Unpredictable and not even close to the Rock ’n’ Roll mould. 2017 is perfect for him.
Words: Alex Bee