All Seas

My father’s watch was not an expensive one, but all our time is worth the same – priceless – and he at least lived a good long life. He passed away in 2016 at the age of 81, and it was hard losing the father I loved so much, who had such an impact on who I am, but I recognize that is the natural order of life. This song is about someone taken well before their time, and the tragedy of parents having to outlive a child. The blurred photos on the upper left of this shot are of dad’s dad Hugh Henry Perry, who knew loss very well, two children taken at 5 and 9 in accidents, and a couple more stillborn – the hard life on the frontier. And he was a tough old man by all accounts (my uncles used stronger words than this to describe him!), who probably took everything in stride and got on with what had to be done.

Still you have to wonder how he felt about these deaths, how it affected him in ways he likely wouldn’t admit or couldn’t see. Even my grandmother seemed a very stoic hardened frontier woman (though she was absolutely lovely in her later years when I knew her, she was still very direct and not afraid to call it like she saw it), so I don’t know exactly how she took these tragedies at the time. Of course it must’ve broken her heart but such things just weren’t spoken of. The family in this song does not take it well, as I know many do not. The premature death of your offspring would cause strain on any relationship I think, but must really have a terrible effect on any existing strains a couple might already be experiencing.

All Seas” started with that opening riff played on guitar, and I needed to sing something over it to start to build a verse or something. A phrase came to me, “I broke it to her,” and I thought what comes after that, deciding on “…could it ever be gently?” as a play on the common phrase (and getting a little nod in to Burton Cummings). But they were really just random words that sounded good, without any plan or idea whatsoever. I had to go from there, and imagination took over, painting a picture of a couple getting the worst news possible and going through that process.

Empathy is important, it’s how we truly connect as human beings, that ability to see things from another person’s perspective, walk in their shoes, understand what about them is different from ourselves, and what is the same (much more, usually, the more you look). So this was an exercise in empathy for me, fully giving in to the situation and pouring out what I felt I would feel if it happened to me. I have to admit I was conscious while writing this of not having experienced any major loss in my life, let alone the horrific one of losing a son or daughter.

Days after I wrote this song, generously extending my empathy to all those who’ve gone through such tragic loss, I learned my mother had cancer. It’s tempting to think things happen to you for reasons, or that what I was doing somehow affected the world outside me and led to my first major loss (as my mother died a year later in May 2015, followed by dad in June 2016), but I resisted those thoughts. Despite the awful coincidence, I never cursed my imagination for stirring up the darkness.

A quick note on the title phrase: I have no idea what it means. It popped out as these words that made that melody work, and I know I was generally going for the feeling of being trapped, or lost (like “at sea”), but I recognized it’s not an existing phrase or saying. I even tried to change it (“high seas”? “and at sea”?) but nothing worked except what I originally sang, so it stands as is. Maybe the uncertainty of its meaning even suggests the life-shattering confusion such a death brings.


When Brandy and I bought our home – which if you didn’t know floats on the Pacific Ocean over here at the edge of North America – we immediately named it Serenity. There are a few reasons for this, or maybe I should say, a few connotations to the word that made it the perfect choice for us. I’ll give the best one first, and yes, it is an homage to our favorite tragically-cut-short TV show of all time: Joss Whedon’s cult hit, Firefly. The ship in that show (as well as the movie that followed) is named Serenity, and it’s more than just a spaceship, it’s a home for the series’ nine characters (or as Whedon put it, Serenity IS the tenth character in the story). We were buying our first home, so this was the perfect name for it. The picture shows a prop engine sticker from the show, with detailed fictional manufacturer’s specs for the Firefly Serenity (note the “J. Whedon Proprietor”).

The next reference is equally nerdy, yet still relating to the theme of home: in Sailor Moon, the title character really turns out to be Princess Serenity, the name she had in her true home on the moon. Then there is the famous shouted phrase of George’s dad in Seinfeld, “Serenity Now!” which we at least acknowledged as a funny coincidence. Less a factor in our naming decision, but I’d be remiss not to mention as it is even more well known, is the Serenity Prayer (“grant me the serenity to accept…” etc.). But all of those references together still don’t stack up to the real reason this name applies to our home: it is truly serene here, floating just off the shore on our little corner of the Pacific. Serene; tranquil; peaceful (which is exactly what “pacific” means).

After a stressful day at work, I would completely lose myself floating serenely on our back deck, facing away from the city, and just let the whole day wash off me (the source of “strips the whole world bare”). Times like that nothing could get through to me, and I might find myself thinking to the world at large: “I’ll get back to you later.” For now, I’m in my happy place, and you’ll just have to get along without me. That became the general tone and theme of Serenity. Specifically the final verse is all about our home on the water, where the word is brought in (“Serenity erasing all our cares”) that named our house, this song, and indeed the whole album, Songs of Serenity. The lyrics trace back from there to other general situations where the phrase “I’ll get back to you” could apply, like the third verse about my original home in Quesnel, musing about all the friends you mean to stay in touch with, “though time flows on.” Even the image of spawning salmon swimming back upriver to their birthplace played a role here too, though thankfully I won’t expire if I go back there!

Interestingly the song didn’t come about sitting on that back floating deck, or in a dream like others of mine, but just suddenly popped into my head late one night as I was getting ready for bed. I heard it as a sort of droning refrain with a didgeridoo going through it all, which morphed into the words of the chorus. Those words occur over and over, but in an ever-shortening refrain…

I’ll get back to you later

I’ll get back to you

I’ll get back

I’ll get

…as the feeling of serenity “strips the whole world bare.”


In the accompanying photo you can see my copy of Alastor – the Spirit of Solitude, an early poem (1816) by Percy Shelley in which he first developed many of the themes that would inform his greatest works, written over only a few years before his death in 1822. One of Shelley’s obsessions was Inspiration itself, which he treated reverentially as an almost tangible taking in of a Spirit (essentially the spirit of Nature – which all the Romantic poets loved). Breathing and wind imagery in all forms are important. The word “inspire” literally means to breathe in, equivalent to the artist taking in all he or she sees in the world; while its opposite “expire” most strongly suggests death – another obsession for the poet who was destined to breathe his last at the tender age of thirty.

Shelley often wrote of floating in a boat along a stream or in the ocean (see “My soul is an enchanted boat” in Prometheus Unbound), especially when being propelled by the wind (inspiration). This is central in Alastor, where the narrator/poet finds a boat abandoned on the shore, gets onboard and is transported by raging winds to a different shore then up a stream through a forest, where he eventually lies down and dies as the ultimate communion with nature. He expires in an excess of inspiration. Indeed, Shelley – who couldn’t swim but loved the sea – would drown in a small boat off the coast of Italy only six years after writing this.

Onboard is a song I based on one of my own poems, “Expressions,” which I wrote before I was twenty and deeply immersed in the world of the Romantics. It is full of that imagery and symbolism I was drinking in wholesale from the works of Byron, Keats, Wordsworth et al. So my song is all about the process of inspiration, with wind/breath imagery that is anything but subtle: “Live and breathe and / bask in the gentle breezes we meet / Wait a while, the wind will inspire you.” The opening line “Get on board and float away,” is an invitation to embark on Shelley’s watery/windy journey of inspiration.

The shore is another important symbol, representing a boundary between land – where we live, conscious, grounded – and the vast mother ocean hiding its mysterious depths, where our footing can never be as sure. Artists exist along this edge between cold practical reality and the expansive hidden depths of beauty and truth in the universe. Which is why this song’s direction is to take us “to a shore / to see the space…”

Most of my lines involve flipping the script, turning around our expectations or experience of art: “where artists are created”; “Images imagining themselves into being”; “take the place of a painting” and so on. I had to cut one line from the poem that didn’t quite scan when singing, originally the “music box” verse ended with “magicians flock to learn the trick / and disappear unneeded” – but after all it may’ve been a little too clever to go straight from “musicians mock” to “magicians flock.” As an artist, you have to be prepared to kill your darlings!

Say I Do!

The story of this song starts about a year before I ever thought of writing it. My niece Amy was getting married and asked me to Emcee her wedding, a very nice gesture to involve me as more than just a guest (and guarantee my attendance!). I agreed of course, not without some nerves looking ahead to all that public speaking, without the structure of a song to cling to, or my everpresent guitar to hide behind. But I am always down for a challenge and she was quite organized in the preparation of the evening, so really it wasn’t going to be all that difficult. Still, if I was going to be taking the stage I knew I wanted to come up with something special, from my own personal set of skills: in other words, I determined to write a song for the occasion, smuggle my guitar into the reception and surprise bride, groom and all the guests with it.

If you’ve never tried to write a song to order, it can be pretty difficult and frustrating. First of all, I wasn’t even sure what kind of music she really loved – I wouldn’t want to do a country song only to find out they hated that. Her mom gave me some hints, and some possible story points to mine for lyrics – none of which made it in – finally you just have to start singing and playing chords and force something out. I ended up with a fairly generic, “How’d I get it so good?” type song, about spending “the rest of my life with you” – a pretty good tune that gets its point across and it went over very well on the big night. Amy and family were definitely surprised, and I think the gesture got full marks, so – success!

The following year, my other niece Andrea (I have two, along with 4 still-unmarried nephews – girls move faster than boys it seems!) approached me to Emcee her wedding that summer. Of course, I agreed. But now I was in a bit of a quandary: obviously I would need to sing a song at her wedding too, at least a few of the same people would be there (though neither niece or her immediate family attended the other’s wedding), and I can’t be seen to be playing favorites! Most of all, I can’t just reuse the same song – nothing special about that. So, fine, I set down to go through the whole process again, and write a proper wedding song for her, from scratch. It was even harder to do this again, without repeating myself, and I was well into a composition that was frankly sucking badly when I threw up my hands and walked away, totally scrapping what I’d spent the day on.

I took a quick head-clearing break out on my glorious sunny floating deck, and because I am me, I took the guitar out there too, just in case. I was thinking it needs to be simpler, more direct, what is the essential point here? I picked up the guitar and started bashing out a high-energy A chord and just sang, “Baby, I love you” which I immediately liked, good opening. That led right into “I hope you love me too,” a fairly obvious next line, but which also sparked me to continue, as I switched up to D, “And you do; I already know it’s true” – of course you would know that, if you’re proposing, you must be pretty sure they’re going to say Yes! So this whole first verse came all at once; A up to D suggests a good ol’ bluesy progression that demands a turnaround into E major. I dropped into E and out popped, “Say I do, I wanna tie the knot with you,” with “tie” falling on a D and “you” landing back in the song’s key of A.

Now, I had something! “Say I Do” is a key phrase that boils the whole matrimonial process down to its essence. I love the simplicity of that sentence: in a mere six letters, two important verbs surround one subject. I knew there was something catchy about that line, falling so naturally on the standard 12-bar turnaround chord. The other verses came pretty quickly after that, each stage of the process following a natural progression. Loosely, the first verse is the proposal; the second puts the ring on the finger; third is planning; fourth is the actual “moment” to say those words, the wedding; and the fifth and final verse is the reception, an all-out celebration after everything’s Said and Done (ha ha, see what I did there?) I still needed another part, a chorus really (though the title phrase was already there at the end of every verse), so I was thinking about the real commitment we make when we marry, to stick with each other “for better or for worse.” And that’s how my uplifting chorus came to be a kind of cautionary, “Happiness comes and goes,” and recognition that there will be “good and bad times.”

There was more tweaking, I added a solo section to be filled later (admirably executed by the talented Steven Drake on steel guitar), I repeated a couple of “Say I Do” lines at the end to build the drama, and finally stopped all the instruments for the singer to croon the final line, “I want to … grow old with you.” There too is the real essence of marriage for me (happily unmarried to the love of my life for 11 years!) – that willingness to get old in front of one another in real time. Someone must be special indeed to be worth growing old with.

I played this song at Andrea and David’s wedding, again to great surprise and joy, but I already knew I had a tune with broader appeal. More than anything else in my recent life, this song re-inspired me to make something of my musical career – it was the spark that started my latest solo project and is absolutely the anchor of the new album, Songs of Serenity. There is much more to the story too, especially surrounding the video, but that will have to wait for another time.



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!