Happy Birthday to Me!

Mid-set tequila shots at the release of Songs of Serenity, courtesy of Shawn Major!

          On September 8th, 2017 I released an album, Songs of Serenity, and launched a new era in my life with a band of brothers that came to be named The EastVangelicals.  It was the day I turned 49, and as self-centered as it may seem to release an album on your own birthday, it really did feel like a new birth for me.  I had quit a long-term career-oriented job to focus on music in the wake of my parents passing away in quick succession, resolved to make one more attempt to do something meaningful with the songs I have spent my whole life writing.  Serenity was a grab-bag of tunes I’d written over many years, along with two of my father’s poems newly turned into musical pieces as a tribute to the old man (“Cariboo”, about our homeland and nostalgia, and “Trigger”, a whimsical piece about Willie Nelson’s guitar and the march of time).  It represented where I was at the moment, looking back on the places and people that produced me, family, home, all the aspects of love that make a life.

          I don’t mind telling you, it was a pretty major achievement to see that album through to completion and launch a band, website and new musical direction on the strength of it.  I’d been building up to this my whole life it seemed, and there it suddenly was, popped out on my own birthday at the start of my 50th year on this planet.  There was undeniably a ‘mid-life’ angle to the story, a dogged determination to rise above all the half-measures, failures, minor successes, and near misses that had accumulated from my twenties to date.  Rather than dwell on so much that could have gone differently, paths that might have been taken, all the time wasted; I decided to embrace the premise that “It’s never too late.”  Maybe that isn’t always true – at some point, it will be too late for everyone – but at this stage of my life (the middle if I’m lucky to live long enough!), I knew it was absolutely not too late to make something of my songs and put them out there.  You can’t go back; waiting till later gets you nowhere: all you have is now so make the most of it.

          Fortunately, I have written many songs over the years that never got a chance to be realized fully: performed live with a band, truly polished off, recorded and set down for all time.  I had the luxury of picking through this backlog to find the right songs for the moment, hidden gems I’d neglected, or stories that still resonated with my current situation.  In this way was Songs of Serenity constructed, becoming a fair representation of my journey to date, a snapshot of where I found myself in my late forties.  I came to recognize the essence of my endeavor was to leave something behind to say I was here; as hackneyed as it is, to create a legacy.  In the process I rediscovered the joy of being in a band, watching my songs change and grow through the amazing creative contributions of my close friends Adrian Buckley (drums), Derek Macdonald (keys), and Eric Lefebvre (bass).

          I spent my 50th year promoting that album and working feverishly on the next, which like the first served as a sort of clearing-house for old Scott Perry compositions.  Selecting which songs to build into a new album is itself an artistic process (art is all about choices; what’s included, what isn’t), and while I sifted and picked through possible tunes from thirty years of writing I began to see a pattern that threatened to develop into a full-blown theme.  I’m a big fan of positivity (a direct result of my upbringing), and I noticed that many of the songs I wanted to record had some kind of variation on that uplifting vibe.  So I conceived an album to unabashedly “Accentuate the Positive” (thank you, Harold Arlen), and naturally that led my punning mind to title it Follow UP.  Coming so soon after Serenity it had to be considered a companion piece following directly from that album (recorded at the same places with the same people), and the songs we ended up with each relate to a different aspect of the upsides of life (Love, Seizing the Day, Art, Spirituality, etc).  Eric even came to me with a song he’d never used in our other band The Top Drawers, a paean to comfort and reassurance called, “Be Alright.”  Despite this being my ‘solo’ project and a concerted effort to sweep out my song backlog, his song was such a perfect fit thematically that we did record it, and it became a centerpiece of Follow UP.

          At a breakneck pace rarely seen these days, we had recorded two albums in a year and ended up releasing the second on the same date as the first, September 8th, 2018, my actual 50th birthday.  Put another way, I began my 50th year with the debut album of Scott Perry and the EastVangelicals and completed that year with the release of our follow up album (pssst – you can buy either or both HERE!).  Not a bad annus mirabilus for a mid-life-crisis manager!  But I was far from done – with a hundred or so songs still tucked away and a taste for recording albums (itself becoming old-fashioned in these days of the ephemeral streamed single song), I had plans for several more LPs worked out already.

          At this point, it got interesting.  I knew my next album would be a long-awaited (by me, anyway) collection of songs that I wrote about the love of my life, especially in the early stages when new love always blossoms into creativity (how many love songs I’ve written!)  And I had also planned a proper full tribute to my parents, gathering together all the songs I wrote for my mother and father, with some more musical adaptations of dad’s poetry.  Hitting the halfway point of these four planned albums I started to see a larger pattern drawing the whole opus together.  Because our debut Songs of Serenity was so brown and autumnal, radiating rich earth tones and a slightly western acoustic vibe (veering close to Americana at times), I had consciously made Follow UP more green, with that sense of renewal and budding that comes in the springtime, all potential and looking up.  Thinking ahead to my album of unabashed love songs, I knew it had to be blue (my favorite color: my eyes, birthstone sapphire, the sea and sky) and embody all that is summer.  Brandy and I became a couple on July 1st, at the height of an incredibly memorable first summer together, spent under so many days of beautiful blue sky.  Following the seasonal scheme, the fourth album memorializing my passed parents needs to be winter-themed, with silvery/black hues, a northern vibe, a quiet whisper of reflection appropriate to huddling by fires in small comforting spaces, riding out the dark together.

I might’ve gone a little overboard with this…

          Once this pattern revealed itself, I couldn’t help fleshing it out to an almost ridiculous extent – now I see quartets of symbolism everywhere, and it’s been amazing how these albums line up with so many conventional foursomes.  The seasons (Autumn, Spring, Summer, Winter), cardinal directions (West, East, South, North), positions of the sun (Setting, Rising, Up, Down), times of day (Evening, Morning, Noon, Night), even the traditional Elements (Air, Earth, Fire, Water).  It all just seemed to fit, and the slow discovery of this underlying order has given me renewed purpose to see through the entire artistic project.  I know it might seem somewhat inflated to invest this much meaning in the simple process of recording and releasing music as a humble independent artist, but such is life as I see it.  I recognize I am out of step with my time: attention spans have shortened we are constantly told, songs are easy to access and play (and discard) immediately, sitting through a 30-to-40-minute collection seems increasingly rare.  If even a traditional long-playing album is considered cumbersome now, how does a four-album cycle hope to gain (let alone hold) any attention?

          Well, I don’t know, and ultimately, I can’t be concerned about that.  This is simply something I have to do, that I started and must now see through to ultimate completion.  Each album will of course stand on its own, and I do hope that each of the 40-odd songs going into this LP quartet will have a chance of grabbing some shorter-term interest along the way.  But I am proceeding with a larger picture in mind, and I hope that some of what I see arising from these thematic underpinnings will filter through to other ears and eyes.  It’s all I can do, maybe all we can hope for in this world: to make a small connection through whatever it is that we do with our greatest passion.

          So, it’s been a little weird for me to face this birthday in 2019 – the first in three years that I haven’t had an album to release!  But there were a few reasons I couldn’t quite keep up the album-a-year pace.  The boring ones are money and time (related, since I’ve had to take on new work to support my not-so-lucrative artistic ambitions), but the coolest reason is that the album we are currently working away on (to be titled Suite: Dreams, songs for the girl of my dreams ❤️) is shaping up to be ready to early in 2020.  Meaning we should be able to release it on another birthday much more appropriate than my own: Brandy’s, this upcoming Feb 3rd!  At times this whole enterprise has felt uncomfortably narcissistic (not unexpected for a solo project), so this is a great way to move out from Self to Other – to the other who has represented to me the best of humanity, and my most beloved window on the world. ❤️

          Stay tuned good people, summer will be coming early in 2020, expect that groundhog to stay out for good this time and soak up the shining blue-tinted vibes of some classic love songs!

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