The Argotist Online
Berry was born in Killen, Alabama, USA to a musical family. His mother plays
and taught piano, his father plays guitar. He began playing guitar regularly in
the 1990s and started writing songs shortly thereafter. He
Do you think of your lyrics as poetry?
No, I think of my lyrics as telling a story in a poetic way. I may tell a story
for various reasons but for me itís more storytelling than poetry writing.
Do you think it is important that songs rhyme and if so why?
No, if the melody and/or groove are strong enough then you can sing most
anything and itíll sound good. 'Louie, Louie', who can understand the
words to that song? But we all love it. Also, I would always sacrifice the rhyme
to get the feeling right or to tell the story accurately.
Do you think song lyrics must conform to recognised song structures such as
clear rhyming schemes, choruses, refrains, hooks and bridges or that songs can
also be like free verse?
No, songs lyrics donít have to conform to any structures. Free verse, streams
of consciousness are fine but the melody will have to grab me and hold my
attention if the lyrics arenít carrying me along. For example 'Beercan' by Beck,
I have no idea what heís singing about but the melody and the groove and the
arrangement are so good it really doesnít matter. So 'Beercan' gets you with the
music. But on the other side of the coin 'Thunder Road' doesnít conform to the
verse, chorus, bridge format but ďThe screen door slams, Mary's dress waves.
Like a vision she dances across the porch as the radio playsĒ gets me every
time. So both songs abandon conventional song structure but both are still great
songs but for different reasons.
When you read poetry in school or elsewhere did you recognize any connection to
the music you enjoyed?
No not really, not specifically. Iíve always thought of lyrics as a poetic way
of saying everyday things but not that they were poetry. McCartney once said
that 'Fixing a Hole' was simply a poetic way of telling about patching his
roof, and cracks in his door and painting a room. So song lyrics can be poetic
without being able to stand alone as a poem. However, there is a world of great
songs that are simply poems set to music. Poems can be great song lyrics but
song lyrics arenít necessarily great poems.
Q: Was there anything about poetry in books that influenced your songwriting?
directly. I like the feel of a poem that has a strong meter. In that way a poem
becomes like a song with no music. If you can write a lyric with a strong meter
then set it to music youíve got the best of both worlds.
Why do you think songs are more popular with people than poetry is?
words are much easier remembered when set to music. Songs are more popular
because people can remember them. They can sing them in the car and in the
shower and play them on their guitar. And people want to celebrate, they want to
move and music can get most people to that place more easily than poetry.
copyright © Jeff Berry