In 2022, where the pop princess (à la Dua Lipa) reigns supreme, Berit Dybing AKA Ber is heart-wrenchingly able to articulate the human experience – something the Minnesota-native is sharing with her quickly growing fan base – counting 73K followers on TikTok, 62K on Instagram and boasting almost 2 million monthly listens on Spotify across her growing portfolio. And while “authentic” is fast becoming an overused term, Ber’s Bon Iver x Taylor Swift (in her Folklore and Evermore era) sensibility is proving she is a storyteller to compete with the best.
We caught up with the singer-songwriter fresh off the back of her debut tour supporting Sigrid through the US to discuss her inspiration, coming out the other side of COVID and using TikTok to stay relevant with Gen Z.
Growing up in musical theatre and graduating from Leeds Conservatoire in 2020 with a degree in popular music and songwriting, she explains “writing has always been a very therapeutic process for me…I’ve learned a lot about myself since I started writing.”
Taking inspiration from Lennon Stella, Gracie Abrams, Taylor Swift and The 1975, it’s no surprise she has been able to nail the art of storytelling, especially in a way that resonates with Gen Z. “I definitely write about whatever is in front of me at the time,” she says. “My songs are very autobiographical in the plainest sense. I’ve been writing about the same heartbreak for several years now, so each song sounds and feels like a new side to the same song for me…but it’s awesome that they tackle different aspects and emotions that I associate with the same experience,” she says.
From heartbreak to COVID (a formative experience for many young artists developing their creative process), Ber explains “I found COVID season very isolating and was severely depressed…I’m quite a social person, I crave that, so touring has been very fulfilling and validating and overwhelming in the best sense.” And where COVID, in many ways, kickstarted the golden age of TikTok, she is hyper aware of the role the app played in not only catapulting her career, but allowing a deeper connection with fans of her music. “You know, at this point I could never bash that app,” she says. “It really changed the game for me and so many others.” But with the gratitude also comes an awareness of the social media landscape almost exclusively possessed by Gen Z. “I’ve really had to alter my perspective on it though, while TikTok is an awesome tool, internet fame and followers doesn’t magically equate to streams and ticket sales,” the singer explains.
“Virality and views shouldn’t be the deciding factor for whether or not you finish and release a song. My favourite songs from the EP are songs that have never had a moment on TikTok, and I’ve lost track of the times that that’s made me doubt them and my own talent, and I think that’s where TikTok can really get in the way,” she says.
And where the likes of Halsey, Charli XCX and Florence Welch have all been vocal about being forced to engage with the app by their respective labels, Ber is realistic in her reflection, “I do enjoy it, I spend way too much time on the app but I try not to equate my worth and relevance to Gen Z by my internet following, because that’s a dark hole, and automatically makes everything about music competitive.” Keeping it casual is key, she explains, her priority remains to use social platforms to keep up with friends, often forgetting it has inadvertently become a crucial part of her day to day “work”.
But with all the downsides and pressures that come with TikTok, the platform more often than not rewards those with genuine stories to tell. “I’ve always considered myself an open book…I’m definitely a communicator (to a fault, probably), so being open on the internet is just an extension of that. I’d much rather share all of it than skip over the messy parts,” she explains, the messiest of them all being the ones that resonate the most strongly.
“When ‘Meant To Be’ went viral, I got so many messages from people thanking me for writing that song, but I was like “are you kidding? NO, thankyou for listening” because truly when we wrote that, I didn’t know if anyone would understand it,” she says. “It’s not exactly a conventional break up song…[so] to have so many people be like “YEP”, and so loudly, just made me feel so understood and heard as a human. The virality of the song was a bonus for us, but connecting with people that had felt that was the most important part of all of it.”
With single ‘Superspreader’ coming out in August, and ‘Boys Who Kiss You In Their Cars’ in September, Ber will be releasing her second EP in early 2023. When it comes to career highlights, her first live performance ever at SXSW in February of this year tops the list. “Linda Perry introduced me…I’m not sure it gets much better than that. My manager and I both experienced shock backstage afterwards, it was surreal.”
Looking to the (very bright) future, Ber reflects on the past “I would tell myself to enjoy the ride and take myself less seriously. I really rushed myself through high school and college…and even now, I have to remind myself to slow down and look around me and take it all in.”