Clara Berry
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Clara Berry

Exeter, New Hampshire, United States | Established. Jan 01, 2008 | SELF

Exeter, New Hampshire, United States | SELF
Established on Jan, 2008
Duo Alternative Indie




"Creature Feature: Stay up Late for Clara Berry"

While much of Clara Berry’s new EP, Creature, is alluring and captivating, the first 45 seconds of her “Siren” might be the best 45 seconds recorded this year. Matt Ianotti, a UMass-Lowell-trained recording engineer, did a wonderful job of capturing Berry’s vocals, which are sultry and powerful, yes, but also absolutely exquisitely crisply delivered. Her genius is in her glottal stops, her aspirated Ts, her rumbling growl. Some mastering jobs might round off the edges, but here they are punctuation marks that provide important information, indeed.

“Just because you’re feeling low, and I am here/Does not mean I want to be/Your picture-perfect, damsel dear/Who licks your wounds,” and it gets better, Berry mixing Norah Jones and Jolie Holland and getting a playful lilt into a throaty husk, accompanying herself on piano and a captivating hum, and finishing the opening salvo in a piercing falsetto. What it builds to from there — strings, a Catwoman-vamp, Bougainvillea-tinged saxophone — is very nice. But I want to put that first 45 seconds in my pocket and be able to bring it out and peek at it every 15 seconds.

It doesn’t come as a surprise, either. The Sarah Vaughan-like scat that opens “Corner Child” and the disc is a grab-you-by-the-throat introduction and Berry never lets you forget that she can flat-out sing. She’s the first singer in a long time about whom I’ve felt I absolutely had to see her live after hearing her recorded work. I’m completely at her command.

But her band helps. Jesse Robichaud’s drums are subtle and know when to stay out of the way. On viola and cello, Theresa Cleary and Michael Coelho build tension and mood expertly. Berry is surrounded by a halo of gauzy muslin. Her training wasn’t bad, either, coming from Cerberus Shoal’s and Fire on Fire’s Tom Kovacevic.

As a closer, the beginning to “Suzanne’s Lament” is a “Siren” reprise, but Berry sings over Robichaud’s upright bass instead and this time the protagonist is more plaintive: “You feed him tea and oranges/Pray he never finds the door,” and while “He thinks that you’re half-crazy/And by that he is intrigued,” in the end “You’re just a girl that he is loving/Desperately.” That “he is loving” construction, with emphasis on the tenuous state of affairs, is the kind of small touch that separates this EP from standard singer-songwriter fare. - The Portland Phoenix

"Spin Down: Best of 2013"

“The Magician’s Wife” by Clara Berry & Wooldog: “Air Traffic,” the first track on “The Magician’s Wife,” begins with just Berry’s vocals and a piano. It’s an arresting, gorgeously arranged song that went to the top of my best-of list the first time I heard it earlier this year. “The Magician’s Wife” is part cabaret, part Regina Spektor, and part Fiona Apple, conveying haunting images that stay with you long after the album ends. Many of the songs on the record exist in a confined dark space, somewhere in the corner of a room, where they glowed like warm candles. Favorite tracks: “The Magician’s Wife,” “Miss Molly,” “The Bad Guys.” - The Wire NH

"Making Noise: Celebrating New Releases From Sammie Francis and Clara Berry"

ANOTHER CD that’s been in heavy rotation at my desk is “The Magician’s Wife” by Clara Berry & Wooldog. FYI, Wooldog is Joe O’Neill, drummer and musical partner to Berry.

Berry is originally from Kennebunk and got her start playing open mics at Acoustic Coffee and the North Star Cafe, two spots in Portland that are still missed.

As for the CD, to quote Depeche Mode, “I just can’t get enough” because it’s that good. It’s the kind of CD you just want to sink into and let wash over you.

Over the course of 11 songs you’ll hear a ton of piano along with drums, pedal steel and baritone guitars, sax, violin, viola, cello, trumpet, French horn and even a tuba. The title track is my current favorite. It’s mysterious and mist-covered. “Mumbling incantations in my head, draw the curtains closed and be my man,” Berry sings.

I also need to break one of my own rules about not comparing one singer to another. Berry reminds me of both Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple. Her voice can rise to siren highs and sink to the depths effortlessly. Said another way: it’s absolutely lovely.

I wish the best for Berry. May she have fair winds, following seas and an ever-growing audience because “The Magician’s Wife” should bless as many ears as possible. Hear it, love it and buy it at Then help her celebrate the release of the CD in Portland with Meghan Yates (another incredible singer) and Tom Kovasevic. Fun fact: Kovasevic was Berry’s music teacher for many years and she can’t wait to share the stage with him. - The Portland Press Herald

"Mad Mackeral's Top Songs of 2013"

"And The Song We Wished We’d Heard Before We’d Compiled Our Top Twenty" - Mad Mackeral

"First Clara Berry Rode "Wave", now she unveils her "Creature""

To call Clara Berry a dead ringer for Fiona Apple is doing her a disservice. Ms. Apple has her famous caged danger, and Maine's Berry has an appreciation for chromatic subtlety, lingering on leading tones as though she likes to dwell in the moment before the plunge.

With the release of her first full length, "Wave," in August 2008, Berry was getting attention statewide, earning deserved acclaim from any critics whose ears she crossed. When a chanteuse so young can package baroque turns in neat pop packages, folks take notice. When she manages this feat without cheesing out the joint with boyfriend lyrics, all the more power to her.

Artist to watch indeed; get your shot tonight at the North Star Music Cafe, where Berry will release her follow-up EP, "Creature." Stream her tunes at

Big night coming up for you with the EP release ... how are you feeling?

It's a mixture of excitement and nervousness. We spent many months perfecting the songs and the recordings to get them perfected so I'm hoping the night will do our many late nights justice.

Of all the comparisons you draw, which is the most flattering? Which is the most off the mark?

I think being compared to Fiona Apple is probably the most flattering. I think her work, especially with "Extraordinary Machine," is really creative musically and lyrically. I often get compared to Norah Jones as well, which is flattering as she is very talented, but I don't think that we share much musically other than our use of piano and vocals.

What is the state of the music business? How do you make your way in it?

Haha, I don't think anyone knows what the state of the music business is, which is really rather exciting. Playing a lot of shows has allowed me to break even so far, but I, like most, have to subsidize breaking even with a part-time job.

Describe how the EP came together. Who helped? How does it differ from the full length?

Well, originally Matthew Iannotti, a fellow student at UMass Lowell, asked if he could record some stuff with me. We started working on "Corner Child" and "Bog Child" first (we naturally started referring to them as "our children") and we had a great creative chemistry, so when those two were done we saw no reason to stop there. We decided to do five songs because that's what we had time to really perfect, and with many people not buying full albums anymore anyway (what with iTunes), a $5/five-song EP seemed like an affordable and appropriately-lengthed taste of our work. We were really fortunate because some of the best musicians at UMass wanted to be involved in the project -- Elisabeth Toast-Hodge played both the upright and electric bass, Jesse Robichaud on drums, Michael Coelho on cello and viola, Theresa Cleary on viola, and Jonathan Bousquet on saxophone. They all brought a lot to the project in their performances and creativity. Elisabeth and Jesse will be joining me at the Northstar as well as Zach Robichaud on guitar.

How does the piano change character when you go from two hands to four hands?

Playing four hands means paying a lot more attention to the music and to your partner. It can be a lot of fun when you're in sync, and quite scary when you're not. It definitely allows you to expand your reach creatively and get a fuller sound.

What humbles you? What are you most proud of?

I have had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of very passionate teachers at UMass who perfect their performance and ours solely for the sake of music, and you have to be kind of awed when you see that at work. In the bigger world music may seem like a trivial luxury, but for whatever 60-minute block of time they have with their students they make it the only thing that exists.

I think I'm most proud of the teamwork that went into making this EP. The performers were showing up at all sorts of hours and Matt spent hours upon hours with the final recordings touching them up. It was a great experience for me to work with many more people creatively than I had in the past and it was definitely to the benefit of the EP.

Where will you be in 10 years time?

I have a lot of big ideas for the future, but realistically in 10 years I hope to be still performing and recording. I'd like to be touring nationwide and hopefully in Europe, and I'd also like to try my hand at film scoring and perhaps producing other people's albums, but we shall see where that goes. Ten years is not a lot of time to get all of that done.
- The Portland Press Herald

"Making Waves"

"Making Waves"-Portland Magazine-Todd Richard

Clara Berry offers a sophisticated take on growing up by the sea and the restlessness beyond.

Sparkling and dark, intriguing and entrancing, Clara Berry's music is so fresh it crashes over the sea wall and reaches the other side of the street. In just a few short years the Kennebunk native has transformed herself from "young aspiring songwriter' to 'accomplished performer gaining recognition in Boston and beyond.' Now, with the release of her new CD "Wave" the second-year UMass Lowell music-business major is clearly someone to listen to.

Tell us about the emotions that shaped the tone of "Wave"

I like to sit at the beach when it's stormy out. I like the drama of the ocean at these times and the fact that you always feel a little uncomfortable being near it. Its not so much that I have a particularly dark and sordid past that lead to my writing these songs (I'm nineteen and grew up with a backyard and a supportive family), but at some point we all lose people and things that are dear to us and we don't understand why.

Your use of dense and sometimes discordant chord structures dares to veer away from mass-market. Was this coming from an academic, intentional place, or a more free-spirited, irreverent approach?

I think I little of both. I don't consciously think "Oh I think I'll put a diminished 7th here". I write what I hear makes sense, and if I can replace a simple chord with something a little more disarming without completely throwing off the feel of the song I'm inclined to do it. I think it goes along with trying to work things out through music.

Is this something you learned in your studies with Tom Kovacevic? Are some of his Middle Eastern musical influences coming through?

When I was in middle school he challenged me, "Let's try something other than a basic triad". Without him pushing me to try more unusual sounds I don't think I would have developed that interest on my own.

Do you start with your lyrics or do you write from the piano?

I write lyrics both ways, but regardless of whether the melody or the lyrics come first I put a lot of thought into what I am saying. I mean, why have lyrics if they mean nothing?

People love attaching "sounds like" tags to new artists, and as a music-biz major, you know more about that than most, I'm sure. I hear hints of Suzanne Vega.

Its funny that you should mention Suzanne Vega because when I started writing I was listening to her music a lot. She has definitely been influential lyrically. Joni Mitchell was a pillar for me early on, as well as Leonard Cohen. Right now I identify most with singer-songwriters like Regina Spektor and Fiona Apple though I'm heavily influenced by a wider variety of artists.

I don't try to write in anyone else's style or communicate specifically with a pre-designated audience. As long as I am honest to myself as an artist I won't face the pigeon-holing that can come with identifying too closely with another performer.

Are your studies affecting the way you look at music

Being a music business major has enhanced my career exponentially, and I am only just now taking business courses. Just being at a university with this kind of program exposes you to a lot of people and ideas that can help you further both the music itself and how you market it to the world. I have a much clearer idea now of how I want my career to progress and how I am going to make it happen, as opposed to before when I was just sort of hoping the stars would align and the business part would work itself out. - Portland Magazine

"Here's What Folk Music Means to Me..."

Watching young keyboard ace and gifted Maine songwriter Clara Berry grow and learn, from both mistakes and triumphs, right before my eyes as she performs to a sell-out crowd while opening for Cheryl Wheeler at One Longfellow Square in Portland.
--Bob McKillop -

"The Night is Young"

Opening the show is Kennebunk native and UMass Lowell student/singer-songwriter Clara Berry. I listened to three songs on her MySpace page and was especially taken with "The Widow's Watch." "Your son was waiting to be free, to join his father in the sea," sings Berry with an expressive voice that makes me think of Fiona Apple (and that's a good thing).

Piano is Berry's instrument of choice, and she plays it with marked sincerity. While you're at it, also check out the possessed, experimental "Bones."
- The Portland Press Herald

"Singer/songwriter Clara Berry releases album"

I first heard about Clara Berry when she opened for Cheryl Wheeler down at One Longfellow Square on May 17.

She was kind enough to send a copy of her self-released CD, "Wave," upon which she's recorded 10 tracks with just an acoustic piano and her beautiful voice.

For the most part, the songs are introspective and haunting in nature with a couple of more spirited moments (the playful "Crossroads" and the cautionary "Lizzie Borden," to be exact) thrown for good measure and also to add sonic and stylistic texture.

This mood is highlighted by Berry's expressive vocals -- in the style of Tori Amos and Carole King -- that can go from soft and breathy to strong and confident from song to song; her piano playing is eloquent and simplistic, which really adds greatly to the overall presentation of her original material, like "The Widow's Watch," "Nightwalker," "On this Boat," "Doubt," "The Doll," and "The Iron Gate."

There is a wonderful version of "Motherless Child" and her "Old Man River" (which weaves the familiar theme into her original lyrics). Berry's unique voice -- her bending of notes and frailty -- makes for an interesting listen throughout the 10-song set.

As always, I'm impressed with the diversity and quality of Maine-based musicians and Clara Berry is definitely one of the best.

Hopefully, she'll head up to the central Maine area to perform. Slates in Hallowell would be a great place to experience her music live: An intimate venue would really accent her talents.

For more information, go to or

Lucky Clark is a music journalist living in Sweden, Maine. He may be reached at - Kennebec Journal

"Clara Berry"

Portland, Maine's Clara Berry is an enigmatic singer/songwriter with a sound and style that's nearly born of another era. The pianist writes with a flourish that recalls early Tori Amos, an intensity reminiscent of Fiona Apple and a dark searching quality that's almost Baroque. In 2008 Berry released her debut album, Wave, earning recognition from The Portland Press Herald as one of "10 Maine Bands To Watch". With songs recorded in essentially one take each with minimal over-dubbing, Wave presents a performance that's practically live. This means you do get the occasional oops, but it's possible that you'll be so intrigued you many not even notice.
...Ultimately, it's a great introduction to Berry, who's currently attending college to study music and continue to grow in her craft. Artistically, she's already got something special, and those flashes of songwriting brilliance are a strong indication that more will come. Make sure you get to know Clara Berry now, as the time may come when she's become too big to get to know.
- Wildy's World Blog Reviews


Still working on that hot first release.



Clara Berry grew up by the sea in Southern Maine, writing delicate, twisting melodies and enchanting story-based lyrics. Meanwhile Joe O'Neill, the primary force of Wooldog, grew up on Boston's South Shore garnering influence from Billy Martin and John Zorn whilst wailing on pickle buckets in the Cambridge streets. The two met at a show in Lowell, MA and later found their styles to be perfectly complimentary.

Not long after they would commence recording with producer Bradford Swanson (The Bad Plus, Mason Jennings) on a full-length album released in October of 2013. The Wire NH & The Portland Press Herald named it among the best local records of 2013. The first track off the album, "Air Traffic" was used in the first free online music production course presented by NYU-Steinhardt, MIT-Media Lab and P2PU. 

Their music has been featured on The Bob Edwards Show, Soundcheck, The River Boston and a number of local stations throughout New England. In December of 2013 the duo recorded and released the single "Riches & The Girls" with Dean Baltulonis (The Hold Steady, Gay Blades) a preview of things to come in 2014.

Band Members