Saturday July 1st 2017. Sudbury’s Larry Berrio is on stage playing before 25,000 people at the Canada Day climax to Timmins Ontario’s eight-day Stars and Thunder Festival. It’s true that the majority of the audience that day were in attendance to catch show headliners Keith Urban, Johnny Reid and Meghan Patrick. But for that 45-minute period, that audience was his to impress.
“Yes, I knew that audience wasn’t there to see me but it was my opportunity to piggyback onto their audience and play for their fans,” explained Berrio on the phone from his Sudbury area homestead.
And to say Berrio didn’t capitalize on the opportunity would be an understatement. As the power sports ambassador for Tourism Ontario for the past two years, he had enjoyed the perk of having a camera crew follow him to various functions and performances around the province. So when that prime spot on the Stars and Thunder festival was secured, a five-person video crew were on hand, complete with camera drones to provide key footage for the video “What A Ride”, his new single release.
Definitely a defining moment and career highlight for Berrio who has performed with the likes of Johnny Reid, Brooks and Dunn, Terri Clark and even former Styx frontman, Dennis DeYoung but has so far kept his recording output down to two albums; RPM in 2009 and The Journey in 2015 because he is particular about the subject matter of his material.
“My music is about blue collar, hard working people where I’m from in Northern Ontario,” Berrio informed. “I grew up around miners and factory workers and these are all gearheads. They love their power sports machines and jacked-up trucks. I don’t want to write stuff about Southern Alabama, stuff I can’t relate to. Some people write songs about Memphis because they are trying to appeal to a specific audience. I’d rather write about my own personal experiences.”
The irony of Berrio appearing on the same bill as Johnny Reid is that the two performers share much in common. Like Berrio, Reid spent a lot of time toiling in the Quebec and Ontario club circuit back in the 1990’s before connecting with a mainstream audience. “We played the same bar circuit, I have a photo of a place in Oshawa called The Corral. On the Marquee it says, performing this week, Larry Berrio, performing next week, Johnny Reid.
“Every time I bump into Johnny, either at a show or at the Canadian Country Music Awards, it’s always a big hug and a “how are you doing”. He’s always supportive and continues to encourage me not to give up.”
To say Berrio’s career path has been unorthodox would be an understatement. A graphic artist who ran his own business for 10 years in the Sudbury area, he developed a love of country music and released his debut RPM record in 2009. He claims his biggest influence is Dwight Yoakum, I love the image of the cowboy hat, ripped jeans, pointed boots and the fact that Dwight never moved to Memphis to promote his career.
Berrio’s debut album launch party was staged at the Valley Inn, in the Sudbury suburb of Azilda and when the lady who ran the venue, invited her daughter, Terri up from Toronto to meet this budding Country star, sparks flew and the pair eventually got married.
An important development in that Terri was studying child psychology in Toronto and the pair spent time in both Toronto and Thunder Bay as she completed her studies and internships. The pair later relocated back to Sudbury where Terri is CHMA director of autism for the Northern Ontario region.
A devout power sports enthusiast and outdoorsman, Berrio is also a forceful self-promoter. Skills he has used to talk himself onto shows like The Red Green Show, Snowmobiler TV and Fins and Skins and ultimately win the gig as Power Sports Ambassador for Tourism Ontario.
“I would just call the producers of these shows up and say, “Hi, I’m Larry Berrio, and I want to be on your show, and they’d say “But who are you”.
It was this kind of bravado which got Berrio a spot on Henry Waszczuk’s Fin and Skins Classics Adventure show. “I had called the producers up about appearing on the show but hadn’t heard back from them. Then one day, I get a desperate call from Henry. He had booked ex-Ottawa Senators hockey player, Mike Fisher to be on the show but Fisher’s friends had booked a stag for him (prior to his marriage to Country star Carrie Underwood). So Henry asks if I want to go Muskie fishing on the Ottawa Rive followed by a round of golf, my answer, “I’m There!”
Berrio’s live performance reputation and outdoor power sport skills have recently been utilized by Quebec-based CF MOTO who have just appointed him as ambassador for their power sports division.
WIND ZONE CFMOTO’s line of ATV and SIDE X SIDE machines has been making strong inroads into the highly-competitive ATV market. With WIND ZONE introduced as a hot new lifestyle brand, over 100 WIND ZONE CFMOTO dealers were set to stage a convention at the Bob Rumball Centre for The Deaf in Parry Sound in September.
“Shelby Mahon, our brand ambassador, (whose Back Country Motor Sports Media company shot key promotional footage for both WIND ZONE CFMOTO and Berrio’s Tourism Ontario exploits), indicated that we needed musical entertainment for our conference and she suggested that Larry would be ideal,” noted WIND ZONE CFMOTO marketing director Piero Manzini. “So we check out his videos and felt he would be ideal for the conference.”
Manzini felt that music and power sports would be an ideal relationship and the company’s new two-tiered trade show trailer worked ideally as a concert stage. So having been duly impressed by Berrio’s live performance in Parry Sound, the company offered him a Power Sports Ambassador position.
“Aside from being a great live performer, we were blown away by his energy and his personality,” enthused Manzini. “And the fact that Larry is fluently French (real name Larry Barriault) helps us in the highly-competitive Quebec market.”
Plans are for Berrio to utilize this dazzling self-contained stage set-up when he heads out on a major 2018 touring schedule that will take him to several key country festivals and dealer-sponsored events.
As for “What A Ride” (co-written with guitarist Chris Syrie), Berrio is touting the single as the lead off track for a new EP which will be released early in the new year. “We are excited about our musical direction, it could be more blues oriented, I’m currently big on people like Colin James and John Mayer, I have his cd’s in my truck and I love playing the harmonica, that’s my instrument.”