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Country musician John Berry sees performing as honor
Singer talks about his career, Christmas show
John Berry said he loves performing his annual Christmas concert because it’s the chance to share what the holiday is all about. The concert is at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 17, in Pearce Auditorium at Brenau University in Gainesville.

John Berry will return once again for his annual Christmas concert in Gainesville, but he is bringing something new with him this year.

He has five new Christmas songs and four new country songs to sing in the show, which will be a treat for the audience.

But before Berry cruises into town, he carved out some time during his tour to talk with The Times and give us some insight on his career and the upcoming performance

Question: How did you get started in the entertainment business?

Answer: I started playing guitar when I was like 12 years old, and I knew so little about it. I didn’t grow up around it or anything, and I just thought you would start making records. My dad helped build a little studio in the basement of our house, and I cut a record. My first one in 1979, a record called “Humble Beginnings.”

Q: Did you always want to be a singer? And why?

A: It’s all I’ve ever wanted to do. I just love doing it. I truly, truly love singing, and I love having the opportunities I have to be able to get up and share my music with rooms full of people. It’s a real treat and honor to get to do that.

Q: What are some of the major highlights of your career thus far?

A: One of those career moments for me was singing on the 1995 CMA Awards show. I sang a song called “If I Had Any Pride Left at All.”

They had asked me to sing on the show, and they said they’d like for me to do something with my guitar. Just me and my guitar. I was like, “Really? Do we have to have another inspirational moment from John Berry? Can’t I go out there with the band and rock the house too?”

Of course I said OK, and I walked out there with my guitar and I did that song. It was a huge moment for me, and I’ll never forget it.

Q: What purpose do you feel you have as a singer, or what message do you try to convey to your audience?

A: I want everything to be uplifting, to let people know that they’re not going through things and they’re the only ones — that people are not alone. Life is not an easy thing. It can be very difficult, and people face difficult situations, and a lot of times people get this feeling like “I’m just all by myself in this.” I just want to reassure folks that they’re not all alone. We’re together in this journey. I also want folks to know that there’s peace and joy that can be found in Christ.

Q: Why do you do the Christmas concert?

A: I truly love getting to do the Christmas story. We have so much fun. To me, it’s just a bomb getting to go out and do these shows and share this music. For me, this is the big show. This is the big show we do every year. We’re doing 22 cities this year, and we carry all our own lighting, all our own sound and our own video. It’s just so much fun to get to see it all come together.

Q: How do you pick the songs you’re going to perform in your Christmas concert?

A: Well there are certain songs that we just kind of have to do that are just standards for our show. Then we have some songs that we kind of swap out each year, and of course we had to make room for these new ones on this new album.

Q: What is your favorite part of doing the Christmas show?

A: All of it. I love all of it. I love getting the bus ready to go. I love fueling the bus to go. I love driving the bus to (Georgia). I love unloading the trailer. I love watching it all go up, but they don’t let me help set up because I get in the way. It’s just fun to watch it all go up and go from a pile of gear sitting on the stage to being this beautiful setup. It’s just exciting to be a part of and do all this.”

Q: How did this event get started?

A: Years ago when Robin and I got married — we got married in 1988 — at Christmas that year, our church asked if we would just do a little thing that night right before Christmas Eve. It wasn’t Christmas Eve but maybe the night before, the Sunday night before Christmas.

The church pianist; my wife, Robin; her sister-in-law, Tracy; and myself just did a 45-minute Christmas thing. Everybody really enjoyed it and the next year they asked us to do it again, and we added a few players. The next year it got bigger and we added whole own band and the University of Georgia got a string session to come play with us. We did it for like six years every Christmas.

Q: What does this Christmas show mean to you personally?

A: It’s just a whole opportunity to go out and share what Christmas really is. The name of the tour is “It’s Christmas,” which has two meanings: One meaning is it’s Christmas — how exciting is that? Here it is, it’s Christmas! We just love it.

The other one is it’s Christmas — don’t call this any other thing but Christmas. This is not winter holiday. This is not some generic holiday. Snowfest: that’s not what this is. This is Christmas.

And I hope folks will come. I hope they’ll bring their kids. I hope they bring their parents. It’s one of those shows that nothing is going to happen that’s not appropriate for anybody to see.