This is the song that more than any other convinced me to do a full album, after we had finished recording “Say I Do.” Originally I was just going to focus on that song and release it as a single and video, but “Cariboo” kept going through my head, such a simple heartfelt tune, I just knew I had to record it too as a fitting memorial for my father. And if we were going back in the studio for one more song, might as well do eight more and make it worth it!

When my dad, Gordon Perry, passed away in June of 2016, one of the ways I processed my grief was writing, as I had with my mother the year before. I wrote two new songs about him and our loss which, along with several more I wrote while mom was going through her year-long battle with cancer, will come out at some future date, packaged together as some kind of “In Memoriam” EP (it’s still too fresh now). We had his service a couple of months later, so I had time to think about what I would do for that – I knew I would have to pick up his guitar (the first guitar I ever touched, my guitar now but forever his) and play a song or two. I did end up playing one of the songs I wrote, fresh with grief, called “Picture of a Life” – very personal (Gord was a well-known photographer in the Quesnel area), pretty sad. Not ready to record.

But since he had also left behind volumes of poetry I thought I should go through and find something I could set to music in his honor, a posthumous father-son collaboration. There are some good candidates for songs among his poems, many in the range of cowboy poetry, others deeply thoughtful, more of them whimsical or outright silly (he loved Ogden Nash). But one stood out, a poem about the homeland he loved so much, written from the perspective of missing that home, and longing to see it again. As I read “My Cariboo” the longing and nostalgia in its lines applied as much to my thoughts of him as they did to our shared homeland, BC’s beautiful Big Country of forest, lakes, mountains and sprawling open range that we call The Cariboo.

I started in the key of C, a key that I can’t seem to avoid when I think of country or my dad’s generation and preferred music – it’s just where I naturally go. I played something slow, singing the lines simply, made the usual changes to F and G, but it wasn’t really clicking. The moment it took off was when I played around that open C-chord with some riffing notes, hammer-ons and pull-offs in a style I distinctly remember my dad playing himself. He loved that kind of melodic guitar playing, and though he was no master of our instrument, this was something he could do well – to a young me, supposed to be sleeping up in my room, this is what my dad would sound like downstairs late at night “noodling” around on the git-box.

What changed the song for the better was shedding the sadness and slow dirge-like tone – that happy riff and a good uptick in speed made it more of a celebration of the life he loved, exactly as I know he would’ve wanted it. In fact the ending of my rendition, where the pace picks up even more to a country-style rave-up, was a conscious addition I made knowing I would be playing it for all the people at his Celebration of Life in Quesnel – he doesn’t want you all out there shedding tears and mourning, let’s put a little smile on some faces! That and the laugh I let slip as we transition to the end part wipes away the last trace of sad reflection (also a nod to the laughter added at the end of George Harrison’s “Within You Without You”).

The verses all worked perfectly with my new song structure, his words fit remarkably well and unlike other poems set to music did not have to be reworked (I did change one line only, which one I’ll leave open for guessing). But those five verses were the whole of the poem and I needed a chorus. I found the chords that would work (nothing new or inventive, these are pretty standardized forms), but wasn’t sure what words I should add to the whole piece so I started out just singing “ooo-oooooh” in a sort of falsetto pseudo-yodel. Then of course I realized I could sing the word “Cariboo-oo” itself with that high “ooo” continuing the semi-yodelling. In the end I didn’t need to add many words, I simply continued the theme of calling and turned it into “recalling” to close out the refrain – “My Cariboo / How I’ve been recalling you.” Right in line with Dad’s theme; perhaps bringing in a little of my own nostalgia for the land where I grew up.

The still-life photograph (of all my mementos and story-pieces relating to songs on this album) includes a portrait taken of the 67th Scots Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force to World War I, with the hand-written caption at the bottom, “The Cariboo Boys.” They were pioneers living on the frontier (The Last Best West), so very few of those brave men you see standing there (my grandfather among them) were born anywhere near the Cariboo, but they rose when called to defend the land, or at least its governing nation’s interests.

My father was born in the bosom of the Cariboo, and so was I; but Hugh Henry Perry chose it as his homeland, though he was born thousands of miles and an international border away. And when the crunch came, he joined up with his fellow homesteaders in defense of his adopted country, of the rough and wild land they all loved. He was American still, but fought for the British as a Canadian – really, as self-identified “Cariboo Boy.” The land where he chose to make his life, he bequeathed as a legacy to my father (and all those uncles, aunts and many cousins!) which my father passed on to me. Home is what you love.

Album Release Announcement

Welcome to the official Scott Perry Music website, finally ready to share with the world at large! Huge shout out to Brandy Bernard for building this for me from the digital ground up.

As you will see, I do have my debut album Road to Freedom up so you can check out my earlier songs (and buy them if you insist!) – but the main purpose of this site is to launch my upcoming full-length Songs of Serenity, which is close to completion. Feels like it’s been close for some time, but there’s always something more to work on. With no outside pressures forcing a rushed process, we have definitely taken our time to get things right.

After a little more singing (harmonies and small touches) this past week, some wicked slide guitar added by the talented Scott Fletcher (pictured right, in his awesome Beatles kicks!), and a great violin part by Meghan Engel, the actual recording is now done. Editing and mopping up the tracks continues, making sure every moment is the best it can be, and then it’ll be time for final mixes starting next week. That means I can finally announce some dates!

The lead-off single, “Say I Do,” will be officially released Friday, August 11th – just in time for the new Scott Perry band’s first live show, Saturday, August 12th at Pub 340 (340 Cambie St), opening for the always entertaining Danny Echo. Watch this space for special deals, promotions, and contests to hear it (and others) early. Plus, everyone who comes to that show will get a free download of the single.

We’ll be playing at the Fairview (898 W. Broadway) on Thursday, August 31st, for the International Pop Overthrow touring festival, with more offers and deals available to gain early access to the new material and other goodies.

But the big one, (the moment I’ve all been waiting for!), the official release date for Songs of Serenity is set for September 8th, 2017. That just happens to be my birthday … some coincidence! Think of it as a sort of rebirth: the day I finally deliver this little nine-song collection to the world, cut the cord, slap its bottom and see what it can grow into. The album will be available for pre-order soon, with bonuses and incentives for those who pony up before the release.

Adrian Buckley (drums), Scott Perry (hair), Eric Lefebvre (bass), Derek Macdonald (keys)

That Friday, September 8th the band and I will be playing our big Album Release Party at LanaLou’s (362 Powell St), and it will be a night to remember! If you live here in Vancouver, mark your calendar; all my out-of-town friends – plan the trip and get out here, you won’t regret it!!! We’ll be making an event out of this, with special guests, fun diversions, contests and giveaways; celebrating my birthday and the culmination of a lot of work by many great people to bring this album to life.

The next couple months will bring this all to fruition, and there will be some cool deals and special treats coming up, so be sure to sign up for my mailing list to hear about them first. Emails will be sent sparingly, only when I have something really cool to share.

Thank you for checking out the site, and I can’t wait to play my new music for you!

Fathers and Songs

This Father’s Day is a hard one for me and my family, exactly one year after my dad Gordon Perry passed away on June 18th, 2016. It hardly feels like a year since he unexpectedly fell ill and was quickly lost to us. He died one year and one month after my mother succumbed to cancer May 18th, 2015 – so it’s been a trying couple of years for us.
After my mom passed I tried to make the most of our remaining time with Dad, and I’m glad I was able to see as much of him as I did. The last weekend before his heart failure he spent with Brandy and me, walking around our neighbourhood, taking lots of pictures, watching some playoff hockey, simply enjoying life. The next time I saw him he was unconscious in a hospital bed with machines ticking off precious metrics that made no sense to me. And then he was gone, after a mercifully short time sustained by tubes and electronics.
Grieving never truly ends, but the sharp edge of losing both parents has blunted, and now I want to honour their memory the best way I can. Fortunately, Dad left behind a lot of material, not just the enormous volume of photography from his career, but plenty of writing as well — he published six books, with plans for more scattered among various papers, which I hope to one day gather together as a summary of his life and work.
The first thing I thought of for his Celebration of Life was to put one of his poems to music, and the choice was obvious: he wrote “My Cariboo” about the region where we both grew up and he spent nearly all his 81 years. It’s about home, nostalgia, and love of the wide open country in central BC. These lyrics truly hit home for me and a song came out quickly, in my own style of pseudo-country as a nod to his musical tastes, which formed my own earliest influences in guitar and singing.
The song turned out well enough that I knew I had to record it – in fact, it’s part of what drove me to do a full album and jump-start my intermittent music career. While planning the album (with quite a few of my unrecorded songs to choose from), I stumbled across another poem he wrote about Willie Nelson and his beat-up old guitar, Trigger. Willie was one of the artists my dad loved (along with Merle, Wayland, Kris, and Johnny Cash), and being of that age (born within a year of Willie), he mused that the oldtimer and his old guitar would bow out “about the same time,” sticking together right to the end. It’s a slim poem, I had to add a fair bit to flesh it out, but I managed to make it a late addition to our recording sessions and get it on the album.
Thus, the record I am about to unleash is steeped in Home, and with these two father-son collaborations bookending it, will be a fitting tribute to my parents and my roots. I know they’d be proud, but even more I know how thrilled Gordon would be to have songs he wrote recorded! My fondest hope now is to share this story with Willie Nelson and play that song for him – I’m pretty sure he’d get a kick out of it, and it would be the most incredible outcome for a little 12-line poem my dad wrote on a whim one day.

Recording update

Making a record and preparing it for release takes longer than you expect – even with all the time I can now devote to it!  The good news is the lead-off single “Say I Do” is finished and ready to go, but needs to be coordinated with a firm release date for the album.  You can’t just dump these things out there.  The video is still being edited as well, so there’s that to look forward to – and much more to do before I can announce dates, but we are close now.

I had a full day booked last weekend in Echoplant B (one of Ryan Worsley’s excellent pair of studios) to tackle all the remaining vocals.  I needed to nail six lead vocals (the most important part of any recording, no getting around it), and about 15 harmony parts for the songs still in progress.  With me were Adrian Buckley (drums) and Derek Macdonald (keyboards), who both also sang on “Say I Do.”  As did Eric Lefebvre (bass), but he was unavailable that day, off recording with Danny Echo – great musicians are always in demand!

However, I got my good friend Graham Myrfield (Stumbler’s Inn, Canada Sings) to come over from the island to harmonize with us.  A full circle moment as I shared “Say I Do” with him when I first wrote it and we bounced a bunch of ideas back and forth.  He even recorded a hilarious series of covers of it in various genres that we may share down the road.  Graham’s been on a musical hiatus the past few years, so it was a coup to get him back doing what he loves so much (and we love him doing)!

It was an amazing day, ten packed hours that went by in a flash.  I knocked out all the leads early so we could focus on getting everyone else’s parts down.  Most harmonies I have written already, but the best moments recording are when you come up with something new on the spot.  Creating in the studio is not easy to plan for, you have to be open and willing to explore, let the spontaneous energy flow.  As songwriter I have to let some things go: a new part by a different singer in their voice adds more to the overall song.  And we had some great moments!  Two songs got the full treatment of the whole group around one mic singing four-part harmonies live, my absolute favorite thing to do in the studio.

We’re now editing and reviewing tracks to make sure everything is down – or I’ll need to book another session.  But quite possibly the main job of recording is done, and mixing can begin.   By next week, I’ll have a date I can commit to for the album, and then make the single available well ahead of that – before the end of this month!

I can’t wait to share this music with everyone!