To call Clara Berry a dead ringer for Fiona Apple is doing her a disservice. Ms. Apple has her famous caged danger, and Maine’s Berry has an appreciation for chromatic subtlety, lingering on leading tones as though she likes to dwell in the moment before the plunge.

With the release of her first full length, “Wave,” in August 2008, Berry was getting attention statewide, earning deserved acclaim from any critics whose ears she crossed. When a chanteuse so young can package baroque turns in neat pop packages, folks take notice. When she manages this feat without cheesing out the joint with boyfriend lyrics, all the more power to her.

Artist to watch indeed; get your shot tonight at the North Star Music Cafe, where Berry will release her follow-up EP, “Creature.” Stream her tunes at


Big night coming up for you with the EP release … how are you feeling?

It’s a mixture of excitement and nervousness. We spent many months perfecting the songs and the recordings to get them perfected so I’m hoping the night will do our many late nights justice.


Of all the comparisons you draw, which is the most flattering? Which is the most off the mark?

I think being compared to Fiona Apple is probably the most flattering. I think her work, especially with “Extraordinary Machine,” is really creative musically and lyrically. I often get compared to Norah Jones as well, which is flattering as she is very talented, but I don’t think that we share much musically other than our use of piano and vocals.


What is the state of the music business? How do you make your way in it?

Haha, I don’t think anyone knows what the state of the music business is, which is really rather exciting. Playing a lot of shows has allowed me to break even so far, but I, like most, have to subsidize breaking even with a part-time job.


Describe how the EP came together. Who helped? How does it differ from the full length?

Well, originally Matthew Iannotti, a fellow student at UMass Lowell, asked if he could record some stuff with me. We started working on “Corner Child” and “Bog Child” first (we naturally started referring to them as “our children”) and we had a great creative chemistry, so when those two were done we saw no reason to stop there. We decided to do five songs because that’s what we had time to really perfect, and with many people not buying full albums anymore anyway (what with iTunes), a $5/five-song EP seemed like an affordable and appropriately-lengthed taste of our work. We were really fortunate because some of the best musicians at UMass wanted to be involved in the project — Elisabeth Toast-Hodge played both the upright and electric bass, Jesse Robichaud on drums, Michael Coelho on cello and viola, Theresa Cleary on viola, and Jonathan Bousquet on saxophone. They all brought a lot to the project in their performances and creativity. Elisabeth and Jesse will be joining me at the Northstar as well as Zach Robichaud on guitar.


How does the piano change character when you go from two hands to four hands?

Playing four hands means paying a lot more attention to the music and to your partner. It can be a lot of fun when you’re in sync, and quite scary when you’re not. It definitely allows you to expand your reach creatively and get a fuller sound.


What humbles you? What are you most proud of?

I have had the opportunity to be exposed to a number of very passionate teachers at UMass who perfect their performance and ours solely for the sake of music, and you have to be kind of awed when you see that at work. In the bigger world music may seem like a trivial luxury, but for whatever 60-minute block of time they have with their students they make it the only thing that exists.

I think I’m most proud of the teamwork that went into making this EP. The performers were showing up at all sorts of hours and Matt spent hours upon hours with the final recordings touching them up. It was a great experience for me to work with many more people creatively than I had in the past and it was definitely to the benefit of the EP.


Where will you be in 10 years time?

I have a lot of big ideas for the future, but realistically in 10 years I hope to be still performing and recording. I’d like to be touring nationwide and hopefully in Europe, and I’d also like to try my hand at film scoring and perhaps producing other people’s albums, but we shall see where that goes. Ten years is not a lot of time to get all of that done.


Mike Olcott is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.