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The Daily Northwestern

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Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

Northwestern University and Evanston's Only Daily News Source Since 1881

The Daily Northwestern

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Q&A: Chealen Berry explores nostalgia, romance, heartbreak in her songwriting

Photo courtesy of Chealen Berry
Singer-songwriter Chealen Berry said she wants to create music that people can relate to.

McCormick senior and singer-songwriter Chealen Berry challenged herself to release an original song on the first day of each month in 2023. 

When the new year rolled around, Berry’s “fun, little independent project” came to a close while radio stations across the world played her songs, she said. 

Last Saturday, Berry released her newest EP “You Have Been the Dream”, featuring six original songs. 

This week Berry sat down with The Daily about her songwriting process and journey as a performer. 

This interview has been edited for brevity and clarity. 

The Daily: Tell us about your relationship with music. How did it start?

Berry: It goes crazy way back. I started piano lessons when I was four years old, and I kind of fell in love with it right away. I also picked up the guitar when I was 10 years old, so from there, I started branching out and got into more of the creative realm with (music). 

The Daily: Who are your musical inspirations?

Berry: Ed Sheeran is probably one of them, because of his acoustic style and commitment to songwriting. I love James Bay as well. The lyrics mean something. Tori Kelly, too. I got really into her in eighth grade. She served as the inspiration for writing and recording music by myself.

The Daily: What themes do you explore in your music? 

Berry: My music has always focused a little bit on nostalgia, romance, heartbreak. I have a very acoustic style, because I play piano and guitar. It does have that raw, stripped-back feel. I tend to songwrite when I have strong emotions I need to get out. 

The Daily: What do you want listeners to take away from your music?

Berry: Honestly, just make them feel something, reflect on their own life. Even though these are personal experiences, they’re probably experiences that in some manner or another, a lot of people can relate to. This music is real — it wasn’t just a fake story. 

The Daily: As a part of the Songwriters Association at Northwestern, how has the organization affected your approach to the music process?

Berry: It’s opened up my eyes to a lot of new techniques and tactics you can use. Doing those different workshop activities that they offered has been fun and changed the way I approach songwriting, where it’s not just that emotional outlet, but also a fun, little activity.

The Daily: How do you balance music and schoolwork? 

Berry: (Music) provides a good balance (to) the hard sciences and allows me to find creative relief. I did a little campaign last year, where I released a new song the first day of each month. It’s been a fun independent project that I’ve kept in my life. This time, I tried to market my songs too. It’s been hours every month, sending cold call emails to different radio stations, music blogs. 

The Daily: What’s it like performing the songs you write? 

Berry: I am very much an introverted person. So it took a lot to get me to start performing in front of people. You’re sharing a piece of yourself that you otherwise don’t get to share. The more I practice, the easier it gets. But I think that’s kind of half the fun —- it’s proving to yourself that you can do it, even though it is scary. 

The Daily: How are you feeling about Notes from the Newsroom? 

Berry: I’m super excited. It feels like if you’re not a music major, it’s hard to find those opportunities to share your music. This is a chance for me to share my music, perform and have fun with that.

To catch Berry’s concert on Sunday, watch the recording on YouTube. 

Email: [email protected] 

Twitter: @JessicaGraceMa

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