Life In The Fast Lane with John Berry

Whew! If time flies by when you’re having fun, this high-strung Georgia boy must be breaking the sound barrier. Life couldn’t be any faster for singer/songwriter and husband/father John Berry. Unfortunately, Berry can even document the allegation with a recent speeding ticket.

“Can you believe it — 40 in a 35?” says Berry shaking his head. “I got a ticket for doing only five miles per hour over the speed limit. Somebody help me,” he laughs. “I need a witness here.”

Taking in some cruise time on his Fat Boy Harley is just one of the things that this busy entertainer does to relax during his incredibly hectic schedule. Of course, he never expected to be ticketed for it. “I never drive fast,” he admits. “My motorcyle has never been over 60 miles per hour. Even on the interstate, where the speed limit is 65, I only go 60.”

Okay, so Berry does not literally live life in the fast lane, but the rest of his life sure races in high gear. In addition to playing his usual 250 dates a year, including a recent West Coast tour with Deana Carter and several shows in both Australia and Canada, Berry also juggles a nine-year marriage, fatherhood, a Georgia farm and an incredibly long list of other time-consuming projects.

His devotion to various charity organizations, such as the American Red Cross, seems endless. He also serves on the Country Music Association’s International Committee; oversees his own web site for his fans; lends his vocal talent to such projects as Atlantic Records’ forthcoming Civil War soundtrack; and is building his own recording studio with a customized vocal booth out on his Athens, Georgia farm. The farm, itself, requires nonstop time and attention.

Even though music has long been a vital part of Berry’s life, the singer knows that home is most certainly where the heart is. And home for the Berry family is often out on the road. His wife Robin is a back-up singer in the band, and their three children–seven-year-old TaylorMarie, three-year-old Sean and two-year-old Caelan James–frequently travel with their singing mom and dad. Berry’s tour bus is equipped with a lower-level playroom, complete with television, toys and games.

“I just plan certain times of the day to spend with my kids everyday.” Berry explains. “Usually we travel overnight, so by morning we’re there. We also have a trailor we pull behind the bus that we call the ’toybox.’ It has everything in it from my Harley to rollerblades. By about eleven o’clock, it looks like a Toys-R-Us warehouse has set up beside our bus. We have a lot of fun. We take the bicycles along for the kids. Late in the afternoons, between soundcheck and showtime, we like to let the kids ride their bikes if there’s the right place, while Robin and I walk.

“At home, we go horseback riding everyday,” Berry continues. “A day cannot go by that Daddy don’t saddle up the horses. So we ride the horses and we play drums. I have a little PA system that I use when I do in-store performances that I set up in our garage. They have their microphones and everything so they can sing.”

When the Berry’s children are in school, creating quality family time isn’t so easy for the entertainer. But still, Berry knows where his priorities lie, even when his schedule becomes more complicated.

“It’s difficult every day,” he states. “It’s just difficult being a parent every day–no matter where you are. But if I had to be on the road, out of town and didn’t get to see them at all and was missing those kids growing up, you wouldn’t be seeing me out there for long. I’d be finding another line of work.”

It’s such strong determination and family commitment that makes Berry stand out not only as an entertainer, but a well-rounded role model as well. His effort hasn’t gone unnoticed either. Berry was recently invited by the M.M.A.I. (Modeling Association of America) to be an honorary inductee into the Modeling Hall of Fame–not as a fashion model, but as a role model.

“Somebody from the organization had read about my commitment to the type of songs that I do,” he explains. “I do have somewhat of a ’thing’ that I have to run by my kids. If I can’t put my music on in the car and have the kids listen to Daddy sing these songs, I just won’t do it. I don’t care how good of a song it is, if it’s not the kind of song that I want my kids to listen to and learn from. They know every song they hear,” he laughs, “and they know the words to every song I sing. So that’s really important to me. Plus there’s the fact that I take my kids on the road with me. I guess that could be looked at as being sort of a role model.”

Hands down, Berry is a role model in the music world. He’s racked up several major award nominations, a long list of hit records such as “Change My Mind,” “Your Love Amazes Me” and “If I Had Any Pride Left At All,” and recorded three albums, including his current Faces disc for Capitol Records. Berry’s brand new single, entitled “I Will If You Will,” is expected to be equally as successful. The power ballad features the two-time ACM Female Vocalist Patty Loveless singing back-up harmony.

Whether he’s singing and recording, writing songs, driving another charity bandwagon or playing Father Knows Best, Berry knows that time is too short to let life speed by. He also knows, however, that he can’t speed by a motorcycle cop either.

“I think the cop was just ticked off because he was only riding on a Honda.”