A Saturday Conversation With Ricky Berger

Ricky Berger’s First Album will be available in a couple months and features a cover image created by Berger herself using wood, yarn and blue paint (songbird blue to be precise) and photographed by Caitlin Bellah.

In person, Berger seems a lot closer to her age. She’s exuberant, open and friendly. During our conversation this past Saturday afternoon, outside Crepeville on L Street, she joked about her dislike of Kenny G and her animal allergies and exuded the easygoing nature you’d expect from a young adult. But make no mistake: The talented young songwriter takes her music very seriously—and you should too.

When I first was doing some research on you, I came across another Ricky Berger on Myspace, and he was this guitar shredder type guy.
About three years ago, two and a half years ago, he messaged me and was like, “Hi, I’m the real Ricky Berger. I was wondering if I could have the URL”—it’s just myspace.com/rickyberger—”I was wondering if I could have the URL because I’m the original Ricky Berger.” He wanted to know if I could change my name to “r-i-k-k-i” or something. I was like, “It’s my name!” [laughs] I mean, the original? Come on. How many Bob Smiths are there? I guess Ricky Berger is a little more unique than that, but seriously though.

One song he had was this shredding guitar version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” or something like that.
There’s an Austrian Ricky Berger as well. We’ve actually talked. We’re like friends now. He did this Photoshop thing where he took a picture of me and a picture of him and photoshopped us together, and he sent it to me, and it said “Ricky and Ricky.” We’ve talked on Skype and stuff; he’s actually a really cool guy.

So it’s actually possible for you to go on an all Ricky Berger tour.
Yeah. You’ve got every flavor of the rainbow there. He’s [Austrian Ricky Berger] a sort of cool jazz—a smooth jazz kind of guy. Smooth jazz”¦what would you call that category of music? Very Clear Channel Radio. [laughs]

When I first heard your voice, I didn’t realize how young you are. You’re 19, right?
I just turned 20 a week and a half ago.

How long have you been writing songs?
I started playing piano when I was four. I started writing more classical stuff when I was a little kid—no words or anything. But then I got older and the emotions”¦ [laughs] I started feeling. I started writing poetry when I was like 14. It’s funny; there was a gap between like age 11 and age 16 when I didn’t play any instruments at all. And then when I turned 16, I started experimenting and started combining the poetry and the music together.

Do you still perform songs you wrote back then?
You know, not really, and that’s only because I write a lot. I have a lot of feelings. [laughs] I write, probably, three or four songs a week. If you write that many, you can only play so many songs in a set. It’d be hard to cover new songs, and all the way back then. I play them by myself. I still play songs that I wrote as a little kid to myself. I used to write songs to make my fingers stronger when I was younger. I wrote exercise pieces”¦ I started playing flute when I was 8. I took up playing guitar about three years ago.

I saw on your Myspace page, there were songs with accordion and ukulele.
I just started playing accordion and ukulele about four months ago, but I play them all the time. I’m kind of an obsessive person. I just sit in my room all day like, oompa, oompa, oompa. Could you imagine that? Aren’t you glad you don’t live with me?

Have you written any polka-style songs yet?
Oh yeah, I have a few of those. I love the accordion. It’s a beautiful instrument. When I hear the accordion, it’s like, “Oh, my heart’s swelling.”

You were talking about polka-style songs. Do you like experimenting with different styles?
Yeah, I have some songs that are a little more country sounding—like almost more Brazilian jazz. I have a couple of songs that my friends say sound like they belong in a silent movie. Like back in the old days, you know. I guess when you have such a wide range of music that you listen to, you’re influenced by a lot.

Listening to different stuff and writing different type of material, do you feel like you’re still searching for your voice as a songwriter?
That’s a tough question to answer, because every situation that you’re in”¦ I base most of my judgment on instinct completely. I think in every period of your life, if you really are doing what you love, and you have strong convictions about it, you always feel like you’re doing the right thing in the moment. I’m not saying that I don’t think I’m going to grow by the time I’m 40. I’m probably going to change—ever evolving, I guess.

Stay up to date on Ricky Berger at Facebook.com/rickybergermusic