Ber Apparent: Minnesota Singer Tops the Charts

Indie-pop artist headlines sold-out show Friday at Fine Line
Ber

Drew Anthony Smith

Editor’s Note: This article first appeared in June 2023. Ahead of Ber’s sold-out performance Friday, May 3, at the Fine Line in Minneapolis, we are reposting this interview.

At 25 years old, Berit Dybing already has lived multiple lives. The singer-songwriter, commonly known as Ber, was once a theater kid in northern Minnesota, a high school graduate taking a gap year in Norway, and a college student at a music institution in the United Kingdom. But an unexpected move back to the Twin Cities paved the way for Ber’s current chapter: a rising indie-pop darling who is taking the music scene by storm. In fact, she’s in the No. 1 position on The Current’s The Chart Show again this week.

The artist’s repertoire, full of upbeat jams and heartfelt vulnerability, has been nothing short of a success. She has amassed over 1 million monthly listeners on Spotify, and she landed a spot on The Current’s Chart Show Hall of Fame this spring. Ber released her sophomore EP, “Halfway,” in February, a few weeks before heading out on her first headlining tour across the United States. In April, she performed the EP’s breakout single, “Boys Who Kiss You In Their Car,” live at the Xcel Energy Center during a Minnesota Wild playoff game.

A listen through “Halfway” feels like an intimate reading of Ber’s diary, as she details the many nuanced emotions that come with heartbreak. The EP’s title track demonstrates the more complicated stages of healing, as the artist grapples with feeling “halfway good and halfway bad.” Meanwhile, the rage-filled breakup anthem “Your Internet Sucks” reveals the catharsis in shamelessly wishing the worst for your ex.

Before her radio hits and sold-out shows, Ber has always been a musician at heart. Growing up in Walker, Minnesota, and later moving to Bemidji, she spent her teenage years doing musical theater and performing Mumford & Sons covers in local bars. “I grew up in this world where music was at the center because it plays such a pivotal role in the community there. I mean, it’s cold, it’s dark, people need something,” Ber says. “I think there’s a big world of community musicians who really nurture each other and fulfill those needs, and so it was really beautiful.”

By the time she graduated high school, Ber was ready to expand her horizons. Embracing her family’s Scandinavian heritage, she took a gap year to study jazz in Norway before continuing her education at Leeds Conservatoire in England. There, she studied vocal performance and focused heavily on her songwriting skills. “I was writing a lot for other people—sometimes for myself, but hardly ever,” Ber says. “I wasn’t even thinking about my own emotions, my own brain, or anything I’d ever experienced.”

But everything changed in December 2020, when Ber’s visa expired and she returned to the United States to live with her aunt and uncle in Minneapolis. “When I came back home, it was just so isolating, and I was really dramatic for a long time,” she says. As a result, she spent the following year writing about her own experiences with heartbreak and trauma. “It wasn’t even a conscious decision. I just started,” she says. “It was the only thing I could write about, at that point.” She compiled six of these songs onto her debut EP, “And I’m Still Thinking About That,” and her career as an artist was born.

We sat down with Ber earlier this year (and again last month for a photo shoot) to chat about the magic of playing for local fans, her collaborative songwriting process, and why she leans into her Minnesotan identity.

Ber

Drew Anthony Smith

You’ve just returned from your very first headlining tour. How was life on the road and getting to share your music in person?

I love touring. It’s my thing. I’m obsessed with it. It’s such a funny thing for me to reflect on because I didn’t ever think I wanted to do that, but I was so wrong. I did two big support slot tours before this headline tour, and those were incredible and really eye opening. But this was a completely different experience. It was really cool to actually have an opportunity, for the first time ever, to get to know my fans.

Speaking of the fans, your final tour stop at the 7th Street Entry in Minneapolis was a sold-out show. Being from Minnesota, have you found that your experiences resonate with the local crowd?

This probably sounds so cheesy, but the songs that I’m writing are not for anybody else other than Minnesotans. I mean, I love the rest of the world. But all of this started when I had to start explaining my own emotions about feeling isolation and heartbreak in this cold environment. So, I didn’t write these songs for anybody other than me, and from the perspective I had at the time. All of my songs are about the world I live in here. So, it’s really fun to be able to play a show like that in Minneapolis, and have people scream the lyrics about Minnesota back at me.

And Minnesota fans live in a different world. It’s so fun, the shows that I’ve played here and been to here in comparison to anywhere else. There is a Scandinavian stoic-ness about it, like you either go to a show and it’s pretty flat-faced, or you go to a show that’s the most euphoric thing that exists, because people here love it. We really need something to get us out of our homes in the dead of winter. I mean, I hear stories of people literally skiing to shows in a blizzard because they just need to get out. People here are just passionate about it in a different way.

It’s been a few years since your tough move back to Minnesota. Since then, it seems like you’ve reclaimed the state and being Minnesotan as a large part of your identity as an artist. What is it about Minnesota that speaks to you?

We’re such proud people, and it’s fun to show up for the people that are here. I never intended to put a spotlight on Minneapolis, but bonus points if that’s what’s happening. There’s a beautiful scene here that’s so indie and that’s being fostered by people who really care. The rest of the experiences that I’m having in the music industry are in industry-heavy cities, like Los Angeles, or in London, or in New York. It’s fun to realize that music is so much more than that for so many other people. I have a completely different perspective on life than the artists that grow up in these other, big, industry places. I’m allowed to be home, and be who I am, and still be doing this music thing. It’s really special to be able to make music in these Minneapolis basements, as opposed to in studios in Los Angeles.

Your second EP, “Halfway,” is already a success. It feels really personal, and I think that’s why so many people are connecting with it. As someone who spent a lot of time focusing on songwriting, what does your process look like to achieve that level of intimacy?

I am so lucky to really love collaborative work. It’s something I really champion. Yes, people who write entire records and do everything by themselves are so impressive, but I don’t think that’s something that I’ll do. I love how connected I feel to people within music, so I wrote all of these songs with people I really admire and consider friends. The reason I started prioritizing sessions like that is because it’s a really fun day for me to show up somewhere, and hang out with someone, and talk to them about stuff and unpack things. That’s usually when I’ll say something like, “I feel like I’m halfway through this breakup.” And someone goes, “Whoa, what do you mean?” Then we end up writing these songs that feel like conversations with not only myself, but the person I wrote them with. They feel like time capsules for a moment in a friendship, which is really cool.

I know you collaborated with local musicians like Now, Now and Landon Conrath in creating this EP. Who are some other artists you’d like to collaborate with, from the Twin Cities or beyond?

Locally, I want to do something with Raffaella. She’s so cool, and I just love her stuff. I hope something happens there. On a greater scale, I think a dream collab for me would be Holly Humberstone. Or to go even further, I really love Gracie Abrams. JP Saxe would be really fun to write with. He’s a legend.

Ber returned from her first European tour in May

Drew Anthony Smith

In general, how would you say your experience has been as a young artist coming up in the Twin Cities music scene?

I feel like it’s just started. I only started performing live a year ago. It’s been a bit of a rollercoaster. I’m really lucky to have had a lot of streaming success prior to trying to do live stuff, but there’s still a lot of groundwork to be done, too. Personally, I would love to ride my way up in these venues. I think that’s the way to do it in this city. I’d be mad at myself if I skipped any steps here. But I feel really inspired by the people that have been in this scene for so long. Landon [Conrath] is a perfect example. People here are so nice, and they’ve been really supportive of me just, like, waltzing in and showing up.

Obviously, there are lots of big things happening for you right now. Do you have anything else in the works?

I’m lucky to be busy as hell this year. I’m going to be doing a couple college shows, and about 10 festivals in the U.K. I have headline shows in London and Berlin. Then in the fall, I’m hoping to head back out on the road and do the West Coast side of things, or maybe something in Europe. But there will be a lot of touring, and I’m working on my third EP. It’s simply crumbs at the moment, in the beginning stages.

Ber is working on her next recording now

Drew Anthony Smith