Meg Berry is a singer-songwriter, producer and a functional strength and regenerative fitness expert. After years away from the music business, her surprise return in 2020 has resulted in #1, Top 40 hits and New Music Award nominations alongside the likes of Dua Lipa and Billie Eilish.
What do you do, who are you?
I was a singer in a rock band with long flowing purple hair who had decided that my contribution to the world would be to create intense hot rodding rubber burning rock songs that would help people exercise their ability to have intense emotional experiences easily and enjoyably.
I had grown up in a multi-ethnic, multicultural, multi-lingual buddhist household mostly in Asia and Africa and I noticed how people outside of the US had a very robust stamina for the human experience whereas in the US, we had so many privileges to experience, SO much to live for and yet it genuinely seemed like people felt they suffered from “this thing called life” instead. I wanted to use sound to create a space to exercise those emotional muscles to make it easy to feel intensely and hopefully to add some pleasure to that intensely feeling experience.
I was very successful in my mission, attracting three major label offers within 11 months of releasing my bands first “CD” (how quaint right? A CD), being named as one of the next great singers to watch out for in Billboard, charting at #1 on a well-respected College station.
And then I discovered that I was ready to survive war, coupes, famine, violence and complete and total tumult but I was NOT prepared AT ALL to weather what I later learned was “success stress” and I went splat against the First World almost overnight success wall and broke into bits.
“I was NOT prepared AT ALL to weather what I later learned was “success stress.””
In a strange twist I was invited to Harvard’s Graduate School of Arts and Sciences where I escaped to 10,000 BCE, co-founded the field of Music Archeology/Archaeomusicology and studied things like evolutionary biology, anthropology, the agricultural revolution, the archeological roots of Tantra, all of which have turned out to be profoundly helpful in the “applied” world.
I left Harvard because I am a very “applied” person – I like to build things. After a very successful stint in social entrepreneurship and fundraising for nonprofits, I settled into a career as a functional strength and regenerative fitness expert with a specialty in perinatal strengthening and recovery. I am grateful to say I’ve worked with well over 10,000 people from all walks of life to profound results – from professional models, actors, athletes and yes, a celebrity or two, to Fortune 50 CEOs, hedge fund managers, stay at home moms, teachers, teenagers, entire families to everyone in between.
But then, on March 6th, 2020 I shut my studio Artful Body down because for the first time ever in my career, a quarter of my clientele had pneumonia almost overnight, over half of my clientele had a respiratory flu and the clients of mine who tried to get tested for COVID simply couldn’t. It was terrifying. With so many vulnerable populations in my studio community the only thing I could do in good conscience, to protect everyone, was to close my doors and they have been closed to the public ever since.
I did a variety of things to bring my unique functional strengthening programs online to support people and keep them moving and I discovered quickly that, with three kids schooling from home myself, I had to pick one population to serve and so I chose kids and I focused on teaching kids from every continent on the planet how to bring their minds into their bodies and heal from the trauma of sudden isolation and become comfortable connecting and learning online through game-playing, soundmaking, movement, play and community-building. It was profound to watch how simple yet powerfully effective and life-changing my program Zoo Core was.
Then in October of 2020, I heard from Loggins Promotion because Paul Loggins (Kenny’s cousin) had heard a few songs I wrote, sang and produced and not only deemed them hits but new Holiday Classics. Loggins Promotion reached out to see if I would share them with the world via radio. With my studio closed by then for seven months, I was completely tired of not being able to lift people up on a daily basis – to make them smile and feel more confident. I was starving to ignite that feeling of hope and possibility that was a daily given for people coming in and out of my studio Artful Body in South Orange, NJ so I thought, “What the heck? What’s a little more complete madness for the pile? Let me see if I can reach people via the radio and make them smile, distract them from whatever pain they might be struggling with right now….”
My “Happy Holiday Song” debuted at #3 on the Holiday Charts on Thanksgiving Day of 2020 and a year later, I was proud to celebrate my 2nd number 1 song of the year, along with a myriad of Top 10’s and Top 5’s across Top 40, AC/Hot, Country as well as Holiday Radio. And I got the full ride in 2021 beyond topping the radio charts – an influencer picked up my song for a challenge on TikTok called the Pop Balloon Challenge which made my daughter’s music video she made for me and my song for Mother’s Day go viral on YouTube. I just found out I’ve been nominated for 2 New Music Awards in the company of major label legends like Adele, Billie Eilish, Dua Lipa, P!nk and other amazing artists. It’s really been something.
So, you could say I’m a #1 Top 40 Singer-Songwriter Producer and 2-time New Music Award nominee who is also a founder, functional strength and regenerative fitness expert, consultant and mentor.
How did you get into the industry?
I was a force of focus to be reckoned with. The first time I entered the music industry, I wanted one thing – to reach people to the core of their beings via rock and roll, specifically commercially-supported rock and roll, and I wanted to reach them because I wanted to move them in order to serve the satisfaction and beauty of their lives.
One of Joseph Pilates’ best friends nicknamed me a “Tornado on Fire” and I think many would agree that is an apt description of me when I get focused on something. I don’t want to make light of my first round in the music industry, when it didn’t work out it was completely devastating – I am truly grateful I survived it.
I think it is completely beautiful though that the methods I used to put myself back together again eventually became the tools I used to change moms’ lives for the better in my program MomCore Rx, and to shepherd kids into higher levels of learning and resiliency during the sudden shut down of the schools via my kids program Zoo Core.
And now, I’ve come full circle such that when my wellness studio closed due to COVID, the music business gave me an outlet to return to to recover from losing my wellness business which I worked so hard to build over 10 years and which I lost almost overnight and without warning. It has been a profound process of coming full circle.
What does your current job entail?
Constant hustle. Humility. Deep and unabiding love for music, music making, and the privilege that it is to engage the power of music to serve a better day for people. Self-love – lots and lots of self-love and forgiveness. Letting yourself feel things deeply and honoring that and also never ever taking things personally. Having a gargantuan sense of humor. Putting your physical conditioning first because being a commercially active musician is like being a pro-athlete.
Being comfortable saying no and never hesitating to say no, even when it’s uncomfortable or you don’t want to say “no” but it nonetheless feels necessary to decline politely. Being present with whatever comes up – which is generally not anything you are expecting. And always moving forward no matter what.
What does a typical day look like for you?
Oh wow, a big part of what I do is being ok with the fact that no day is going to be typical and that that is a privilege and often a pleasure, but also a lot of work.
I would like my typical day to look like sending my three kids to school, doing my breathwork and meditation, walking for two hours, vocalizing for an hour, working out for an hour and then spending every other waking hour of the day running my record label, publishing company, and new event company while managing to have quality time with my family and meet their needs.
That’s what I’d like my typical day to look like and as soon as I invent a quantum time folder, I’m sure that’s exactly how my day will look. Until then, it is a constant juggle. Multi-tasking is my best friend as is self-love and forgiveness. I’ve learned to love mediocrity too – because something done is always better than nothing, even if that done is not as perfect as you’d like.
I can’t tell you how many times I’ve shown up to do something I didn’t want to do or felt like I couldn’t do or couldn’t do to my standard, but I showed up anyway and that showing up turned out to be EVERYTHING. Currently, I’m mastering the art of working out or getting things done in 5 mins increments. I call it Tapas-style fitness and the science is robustly there.
I can definitely fall into the trap of “if I can’t finish it, I shouldn’t start it…” OR “if I can’t do the full hour workout it’s not a workout.” So my life is a masterclass in embracing the power of small bites. I just unwittingly 10xed my Twitter following in four weeks, while being sick and laid out for one of them, by spending 5-10 mins a day participating in threads, sharing my material when relevant to the thread, and what I found was that people on Twitter don’t care about my number ones on radio or my award nominations, they respond to my contribution to the thread which is genuine.
What do you think are the most interesting developments in your area of the industry?
“The” music industry is more bi-furcated than I certainly ever recall it being and, arguably, than it has ever been to the point where I think there is pretty much an industry consensus that it’s not actually one industry any more.
The streaming-verse has a whole different set of practices, rules, needs, conventions, rhythms, requirements… a whole different set of everything than radio. Contrary to people’s perceptions, radio is NOT dead. At all. And it has its own set of rules, needs, practices, conventions, rhythms, requirements, everything than streaming. And the two do not overlap. At all.
So not only is radio a completely different world disconnected entirely from streaming, but within streaming you have DSPs AND social media outlets and not only are the DSP players and social media outlets constantly shifting, but sometimes there is overlap between DSPs and certain individual social media outlets, however usually not. TikTok overlaps with YouTube. Clubhouse overlaps with Instagram.
There is the question of retail… kind of like everyone thought radio was dead, everyone assumed retail was dead because no one buys downloads anymore, but that’s not true either – just look at vinyl sales followed by cassette tape sales. So, for me, it’s yet a whole other separate ecosystem that is an open question to explore.
“The learning curve this year coming back to the business of music has made graduating Cum Laude from Harvard look, literally, like Harvard was nursery school.”
And then there is the whole question about live music – what role does it play? How does it interact with these two entirely separate ecosystems of radio and streaming, not to mention all of the micro-climates of streaming? No one can possibly know the answer to that right now with everything either still being shut down or only just starting to open up again. I will tell you, the learning curve this year coming back to the business of music has made graduating Cum Laude from Harvard look, literally, like Harvard was nursery school.
What’s been the most unexpected thing about the job?
The sheer and utter joy of getting to share this ride with my kids!!!
It’s one thing to tell your kids they can do anything they set their minds to or to love them and hug them when they feel like a failure and tell them they are so much more than the nothing they feel like because something didn’t work out. It is QUITE another to show them that by living it.
My kids watched my song “Colored Balloons” get short-listed for a blockbuster super hero movie and my song lost out to a legacy tune being pushed by the director. Everyone I know who privately knows about my song being short-listed for a certain scene in this movie agrees that my song would have been epic for that scene.
It was both liberating for my kids to see my song would have been better (because remember I am their mother and I am still the ultimate cringe so they love my music but their fandom is not a given, it’s earned), and it was also painful for my kids to see my song would have been better at the same time and to see that even still another song won out.
But I think it was really good practice for them to see that you win and lose but your family loves you no matter what and even if you “lose” out, you still win by showing up and having tried. As a mom I was like “Yes!!!” because now they know what it’s like to go through that and be okay.
By having a front row seat and watching me go through this they learned firsthand that yes, if you put yourself out there you might lose but that loss might simply be another step on the path to much bigger success. They also know that even though my song didn’t win out, that music supervisor called my performance “Grammy worthy” and wants to use it for a related TV show.
Do you know what their response to all of this was? They figured out how to place my song “Colored Balloons” in to the soundtrack of one of the video games they play (my song was considered to be an ironic accompaniment to a fight scene in said blockbuster movie) and they recorded their own fight scenes using my song as an ironic anthem for victory and liberation to make me feel better. It was AWESOME. I was so touched, so moved. You can go to my YouTube channel to see one of these videos.
What’s the coolest project you’ve ever done?
I have been so blessed to do some really cool stuff, working with super cool people – I couldn’t pick one. The coolest project I’ve ever been involved with though was initiated by my daughter. When the local schools closed the second week of March 2020 due to COVID, all three of my kids were sent home with packets of paper and in our case that’s it – no online live contact with teachers or fellow students at all, pretty much for the rest of the year.
It is very tempting to me to wax loquacious about the role isolation or the threat of isolation plays in literally everything about our survival programming and evolution. Fending off isolation is THE SINGLE criteria for ensuring survival. But what kids all over the world went through suddenly being physically isolated from their schools and social communities overnight with almost no warning or preparation was a big big deal.
My daughter who was 11 at the time asked us if she could download a $35 program that would allow her to teach herself how to animate and we said of course – we were grateful that she could think of something that brought her positive engagement. And then, we completely forgot about it.
In January of 2021, after my second song “Colored Balloons” went to radio, she asked if she could make me a music video. She watched me scramble to get a music video made during the COVID shutdown after my “Happy Holiday Song” debuted at #3 just two months prior and she knew that the most realistic music video had to be an animated one.
After telling her that of course I would love her to make me a music video, I also pretty much forgot about it until Mother’s Day of 2021 when she gifted me the animated lyric video for my song “Colored Balloons”. THE VERY NEXT DAY, she returned to school in-person, for the first time in 15+ months. It could not possibly have punctuated more how completely our lives had changed during those 15 months our local schools had been completely closed due to COVID.
Two months later, “Colored Balloons” went to #1 on Top 40 Radio and shortly after it did, an influencer on TikTok used my song for the Balloon Pop Challenge and for a hiccup my song went viral on TikTok too. Because there is crossover from TikTok to YouTube, that moment of virality on TikTok kicked off my daughter’s animated lyric video going viral on YouTube. I don’t think there can be any project cooler than what she did during the COVID shutdown.
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever gotten?
I have been the grateful recipient of SO MUCH sage advice – and I am grateful for every bit. Psalm Isadora, one of my mentors comes to mind. She had some really great sayings… “The only way out is through.” “Hurt people hurt people.”
Do you have any predictions or hopes for the future of the industry?
I do have one prediction having to do with the music industry. I will finish by saying, each and every person reading this Synchblog is the next major record label President. That is because each and every person who consumes music or who has the potential to consume it is, literally, in my opinion the next major record label President.
“With the revolution of technology and the algorithmic choices that companies like YouTube and Spotify make, we have the potential for the music marketplace to finally be an independent artist’s marketplace.”
With the revolution of technology and the algorithmic choices that companies like YouTube and Spotify make, we have the potential for the music marketplace to finally be an independent artist’s marketplace. Potentially. Thus far, while there are more cracks in the ceilings of convention and dents in its grate than ever before, no single independent artist has fully realized this promise (no matter what any truly excellent corporate marketing by say Spotify or any other company might have convinced you to believe).
So the new industry that is being pitched as an independent artist’s game is a promise as yet unrealized – it’s pure potential, yet to be fulfilled. To me the promise of an even commercial playing field for independent artists to compete with the corporate giants so that it is a merit-based economy and not a monopoly-based one is realized in one single way and it has nothing to do with the artists putting out music or the companies seeking to make money off of music – it, alone, has to do with all of us consumers of music.
Everytime you stream a song you exercise your power as the new major label record President. Every time you press like on a song or video, you are acting in your true power as the new record company President to make an artist’s career. Everytime you subscribe or follow an artist you like, comment on something they’ve put up online or share their work, you are exercising your power as the new record company President.
The promise of an even playing field for independent artists, in my opinion, will only be fulfilled when each and every listener steps into being an active curator and consumer of their sonic diet. If you care about the power that art plays in your life, you can’t afford not to actively participate in your diet of creative consumption – you’ve GOT to like, follow, subscribe, comment on, and share the artists you like.
If you don’t, that passive consumption, that silence instead of engaged feedback is literally the equivalent of you, as the new record company President, taking this artist you love who is signed to an 8 record deal and shelving all 8 of their records and never releasing them to the public. You have great power as a consumer – in fact, one can argue as consumers, in this new music biz world, we consumers have all of the power. We need to wield it actively and intentionally or well…. I really don’t know what will happen but art won’t benefit and neither will independent producers.
Vote for Meg Berry for AC Breakthrough Artist of the Year and AC Female Artist of the Year at the New Music Awards.
Enjoyed this interview? Why not check out others in the series:
- Joel Speaks to His Neighbors: Bill Bressler, Emmy Award-Winning Audio Engineer & Composer
- Joel Speaks to His Neighbours: Spek, PopArabia & Reservoir
- Joel Speaks to His Neighbors: James Friedman, Passé Publishing