John Berry talks about his recent musical collaboration on the recently released film Beautifully Broken.
Nineties country star John Berry is broadening his musical résumé to include Hollywood. In keeping with Berry’s personal faith and values, he contributed the vocals for the theme song of the movie Beautifully Broken. The film explores faith and friendship across countries and cultures in what Variety calls “an intelligently inspiring faith-based drama that links the fates of families in Rwanda and Nashville.”
The uplifting and encouraging song draws you in with sweeping guitars, crescendoing drums, anthemic chorus, and its powerfully positive message of encouragement.
Recently, we talked with Berry about the song and the film.
Cowboys & Indians: After being in the business for a number of decades and having so many accomplishments, what are some of the standout moments?
John Berry: It was a long time ago, but when I got to walk out onstage at the 1995 CMA Awards to sing “If I Had Any Pride Left at All” — that was a career moment.
C&I: Your most recent work is a collaboration with the film Beautifully Broken. Can you tell us about that project?
Berry: The movie’s produced by Chuck Howard. The significance of him in my life is he produced all the records that I’ve had hit songs with. “Kiss Me in the Car,” “Your Love Amazes Me,” “You and Only You,” “She’s Taken a Shine,” “Standing on the Edge of Goodbye,” “I Think About It All the Time,” “Change My Mind” — all those records were produced by Chuck. He called me up and said, “Man, I got this movie.” I knew he’d been making these movies over the years; done a number of them. And he’s always been wanting me to be in one of the films. He’s been trying to find the right song and the right movie. He called me up and said, “Man, I’ve got the song and I’ve got the movie. I sent you a rough cut of the film. Take a look at it. I’ll send you the song tomorrow when I get to the office. Let me know what you think of the movie.” And I watched this rough cut. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen a rough cut of a film before, but there’s no music at all. It’s just dialogue and film and there’s still lots of edits to go. … But anyway, I’m watching this film and my wife’s in the other room watching TV. I come walking out an hour and a half later [and] I got tears running down my face. And she said, “What’s wrong?” All I could do was point to the screen on the laptop. I couldn’t even talk, it was so moving. She said, “Really? You need to call Chuck Howard right now.” I called Chuck and I told him, “Chuck, I don’t care what the song is. If me singing this song will encourage anybody to see this movie, you count me in.” And then I heard the song. Oh my gosh. What an incredible piece of music.
Jenny Slate Lee, the writer of the song, lives a couple of miles from me. How crazy is that? She was at the premiere last night. I got to meet her. It’s a great song, I tell you. It’s moving.
I had another interview a few days ago and the interviewer asked me, “Why do you think the song resonates with people so well?” And I said, “Because everybody’s broken in some way. It’s either a broken relationship, they’ve been hurt badly by somebody, dreams that haven’t come true, aspirations for careers that have failed, didn’t make it through college — whatever it might be. There’s brokenness in everybody’s life. If somebody says they’re not broken, they ain’t living.” And so I just think people can relate to this song without a doubt.
C&I: What was the recording process for it like?
Berry: Well, it was really fast. Chuck called me and when I told him I wanted to record it, he told me what day to be there and I get there and the song is recorded. Everything’s done but my vocals and the background vocals. Since he had recorded all my hit songs, he knew what key it needed to be in; he knew what songs to put on there to wrap around my voice. I mean he just knew and just did a tremendous job.
Matter of fact, when they sent me the final mix, I called Chuck and I said, “Chuck, that’s what I’ve always wanted to sound like, right there.” That’s exactly how I always wanted to sound.
C&I: What do you hope your fans will take away from the film and the song?
Berry: I think my hopes for them to take away from this movie is that they’ll actually visualize what their brokenness might be — you know, what in their life that they’re holding onto that’s keeping them where they are. It’s kind of a weight around their neck, if you will. And then realize that they’re not alone. Everybody’s got that stuff. Third and most importantly, we have our Heavenly Father who loves us so much that He sent Jesus to die on a cross so we could have a relationship with Him. He died for those burdens, those weights around our neck — for those lost things and the broken relationships and those hurt feelings and all those things. All that can go away.
C&I: What’s been the most memorable part of the whole process of this movie and recording this song?
Berry: I have to say [the premiere], going to see the movie again, because since I saw it last time, I’ve actually been to Rwanda, Africa.
[The movie] t takes place during the genocide in Rwanda, Africa. In 1994, almost a million people were slaughtered in a hundred days because one group of people didn’t like the other group of people, so they killed them — just wiped them out. It was horrible. So the three stories [in the film] are the stories of two families in Rwanda and a family in Brentwood, Tennessee, and how God wove the tapestry where each one of those men and their families saved the other group. … It’s just so unbelievable.
C&I: Any fun stories along the way of participating in the whole process?
Berry: We had a great time recording the song. Then, after seeing the movie, the rough cut, I sent it to my son’s father-in-law, who’s become a dear, close friend of mine. He watched the rough cut and he calls me back. He said, “Hey, you know, they flew into Kigali Airport?” And I said, “Yeah.” He said, “That’s where we’re going on our mission trip in July. You want to go?”
So my wife and I went, and we were there for almost two weeks. We helped lead music during vacation Bible school at the school in Rwanda and then [in the capital] Kigali. We visited with people that live in the community. We got to go to the blessings of two wells that had been put in. … There’s a scene [in the movie] where a lady is talking to her daughter and they’re walking back to their hut that’s made out of sticks and thatch, and she’s got this big yellow water container she’s carrying on her head. When you see that, you don’t think much about it, but after you go to Africa and realize that every time they go to get water, they walk 3 and 4 and 5 or 6 miles a day. You just don’t think much about it till you’ve been there. …
One of the wells that we went to, 6,000 people come there every day to get water. There’s no water pipes. There’s no water pump. It’s just water that flows out of the mountain. It runs 24 hours a day; it just spills out. Two churches from Texas had raised money to put these two wells in. They were beautifully done, all concrete around and just really, really nice. …
C&I: Can we expect any more movie collaborations in the future?
Berry: Chuck has got a couple other films that he’s working on. He’s trying to find me an acting part in one.
C&I Speed Round with John Berry
Favorite western film or TV show: Big Valley, The Barkleys.
Currently listening to: My son, Sean Berry.
Must-have kitchen item: Microwave.
Wardrobe staple: The Jos A. Bank Reserve black T-shirts.
For more information on John Berry, visit his website.
For more information on the film Beautifully Broken, visit the website.