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Interview: Deborah Berg

Deborah Berg is a performing songwriter and teacher whose distinctive voice, songwriting talents, and warm teaching style characterize her 38-year musical career. She is proud to be an official Martin Guitar and Sennheiser endorsed artist. In 2012, her single, “Goin’ Nowhere” from her album “No Rush” played on over 87 terrestrial radio stations, and Deborah was a featured “Artist to Watch” on iHeartRadio NEW! Discover & Uncover. New Road Home evokes a musical travelogue that transports listeners to parts both unknown and familiar.

Easygoing and intimate, “New Road Home” evokes a road trip through the mountains to both parts unknown and familiar milestones. Deborah’s inquisitive lyrics, lucid storytelling, and signature voice create classic country songs with plaintive bluegrass echoes.

Deborah took time from her busy schedule to answer some questions in this interview…

Music Existence: Thanks for taking the time, Deborah.  We are honored to be speaking with such an incredible singer-songwriter. What inspired you to follow your chosen career path as a musician?

Deborah Berg: Hello! Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate the opportunity to talk with you about my life in music.

My launch into music was serendipitous. I wouldn’t call it my chosen career path at first. I was raised in a musical family, my mother was a musician and my father was a Methodist minister, so there were a lot of hymns and old time music floating around in my earliest memories. You are my Sunshine, A Bushel and a Peck, I’ve Been Working on the Railroad, those kinds of songs. My mom was an excellent pianist and loved show tunes, so many of my first vocal attempts were singing along while she played songs from her favorite Broadway shows like, South Pacific and My Fair Lady.

As a preachers kid, I first started singing publicly in church choir. I sang in choir pretty much every week until I graduated from high school. I didn’t really think of it as a career path. Music has always been connected to my core and to my family, there is no denying that. But as many young people were doing back then, I was determined to be something other than what my family destiny was pointing me in the direction of. I was interested in something a little outside the box. So, I went the way of the performing arts through dance. I studied and danced for 25 years, until my knees conked out.I still love dance in it’s many forms and I find that all the counting I did while learning choreography is a valuable addition to my musician’s toolbox.

With music, I caught a lucky break, which catapulted me out of the dance world and into a record deal with Warner Brothers Records. My former music partner and dear friend, Julian Marshall and his wife Arabella came to a dance performance I was in. I had injured my knee and was singing with the musicians instead of dancing with my company that night. Julian was looking for a vocalist to start a new project with and he asked me if I might be interested. The rest is history. Julian and I formed a duo called, Eye to Eye and recorded two albums with Warner Brothers Records. That serendipitous experience opened a door that allowed me to become a full time, full tilt musician.

ME: Was there any one event in your life that led you to record and release, “New Road Home?”

DB: Not one event, no. It had been a few years since I had released a solo album and I felt a sort of self inflicted urgency to put out a new record but I was also dealing with some personal hardships that set my enthusiasm and energy back. I realized, as much as I wanted to push myself and complete the album, I just had to weather the storm for awhile and wait. Not that I did nothing. I just took it all down a notch. I wrote, and cooked more, I read and listened more I formed a songwriting group and spent time with my family and joined a gospel choir. It all helped get me through that difficult time. As it turned out, simplifying my lifestyle and clearing my calendar for awhile was a valuable element to writing and completing these new songs.

ME: How did you come up with the title and what does it mean?

DB: New Road Home is the title track to the record. A dear friend of mine was going through a troublesome breakup and we were talking alot. (The perils of being friends with a songwriter is that your story may possibly turn into a country song! But she gave me her blessing). I was supporting her difficult decision to bite the bullet and break out of a dead end relationship and start fresh, somewhere new. New Road Home describes her spirit of adventure as she follows her heart and hits the road to find her future deserved happiness. “Pack your guitar and drive all night, time for moving on.” True Story!

ME: Who has been your single biggest influence, musically?

DB: All in all, I would have to say the Fab Four, John, Paul, George and Ringo, the one and only, The Beatles. The moment I heard them I was hooked. They rocked my world. Their harmonies, and phrasing and musicality was all just delicious. And they were cute! They had sex appeal and they were somehow approachable. Even as a little kid, I knew all that. Their music was fresh and appealing. They blew my mind. I coveted their music as my own. I pretty much still do.

ME: How about personally?  Who influences you in your daily life?

DB: As my friend Charles describes them, agreeable strangers influence me daily. Living here in NYC we share space pretty well but we are busy and things move really fast. So when someone is especially kind to an elder person on the street or makes a little fussy kid smile, or stops to give someone directions, it just makes me feel better. People helping people influence me daily. Dogs too! Their, “happy to be here” attitude reminds me to not be so serious and to stop and smell the roses! A smile or a sense of humor goes a long way in this busy world we live in.

ME: “You’re Gone” is your new single.  Tell us about the song, the recording and writing process for it, and what you hope your fans will get from it?

DB: I have attended an acoustic guitar, adult music camp in the Pacific Northwest for over twenty years. I am mostly a student but I have had the honor of teaching there as well. The song came together while I was listening to some wildly talented Bluegrass players jamming away into the wee hours on their cabin deck. Bluegrass music was wafting up from the holler below, up to our cabin. Some of the imagery in, You’re Gone came to me years before. The early version of the song was called, Good Friday Blues, which had been sitting in my “Unfinished Songs” folder. Something about those Bluegrass players going hell for leather in the wee hours of the morning inspired me to finish my old song! So I made the rest up in my head and re-named it, You’re Gone. I could just feel the characters. They were young lovers, finding time alone together at a party in the woods, feeling passionate and free until it all went south as impulsive love affairs often do. The voice in the song is from one of the lovers, after some time has passed. “I tried to reach you today, once more for old times sake, so hard to say goodbye and watch you go”. Sigh. Who can’t relate to some such incident in our lives? It may have felt like love at the time but it was not love that was meant to last long.

What would I hope my fans get from it? I hope it inspires them to run around in the woods with someone they are wildly attracted to!

ME: I know it’s a tough choice, but what is your favorite song on the new album, and why?

DB: Picking a favorite song on an album is like picking a favorite child in a family. It cannot be done. I am proud of each song for different reasons. That said, I do consistently enjoy listening to, When I Slow Down. I think the song was recorded and mixed beautifully by my illustrious producer Ken Rich. The song has the perspective of a young man who has made some impulsive mistakes that landed him in trouble with the law. The music is simple in it’s complexity. I try to pepper my songs with a little bit of faith. Just a smidge. An example of that in this song is: “Any prayers you wanna offer this messed up kid, I surely could use”.

ME: What do you enjoy doing, outside of the spotlight?  Any hobbies?

DB: Music is a very large part of my life. Besides writing, recording and performing music, I teach vocal ensemble to senior citizens and I sing backup for other people’s music and I go hear music and I sing in a choir and I love jamming with friends. My husband and I love going to music festivals. I am what you call a music slut. We have a large, blended family and we love spending time together too and I love yoga and travel and spending time with friends, but mostly, I love my family and I freakin’ love music.

ME: Any plans for a follow up single?

DB: I would imagine maybe Muddy Weather could be a contender as a follow up single. It is an up-tempo song on the record that lends itself to toe (or steering wheel) tapping. It’s catchy. I love the sentiment. Again, it’s a song about communication. This person is realizing as they are driving away from a newly busted relationship, through a thunderstorm that the best thing to do is to turn around and go back and just when they realize this, the storm passes over, the rain stops and a new morning is breaking. “Hand to God, you are the reason why. I am willing to be changingcause of you”. Gotta love an optimistic ending!

ME: What has been the biggest musical accomplishment of 2019 so far?

DB: The biggest musical accomplishment of 2019 so far is the release of my new record, New Road Home in February! We had 94 people cram into a house concert for our first official gig. Another big accomplishment is that airplay for You’re Gone is climbing the charts. The word is, DJ’s love it. We hit #15 on Airplay Today New Music Weekly chart this week with the greatest spin gain. Kudos to Star 1 Group and to Michael, Sherry and Laura!

ME: Which do you prefer, the studio or the stage?

DB: I love the studio, the quality and control of sound. I love sound, but I also love the lack of sound. My happy place is the mastering studio. The pure, clean sound in that room before any music is added is just stunning.

But I love playing live too, to get the reaction of the listeners, especially if they feel compelled to dance. My band is like a herd of wild ponies when we get on stage. There is a lot of wonderful live energy that re-charges me. I love people coming up to tell us how much a song touched them. That is something I love to hear.

ME: How about some parting words for your fans?

DB: If you love music, find it in your community. Join a choir, volunteer to play music for elders or kids or for folks in the hospital, form a songwriting group with friends, or put a band together with other parents in your kids school. Pay it forward. Now’s the time. What I have found to be true is, if you share your musical talent you will be richly rewarded. I hope I see you somewhere on the path! Thank you!

Deborah Berg on Spotify

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