Songs of Serenity

See also: Follow UP ;  Road to Freedom

Scott Perry is a singer-songwriter in the classic tradition of guitar-driven tunesmiths like George Harrison, Jim Croce, Gram Parsons, Johnny Cash and Elliott Smith.  His melodic and intimate songs tell stories of home, inspiration, connection, and love.  A veteran of Vancouver’s music scene in bands The Orchid Highway, Top Drawers and The Winlaws (with Steven Drake of Odds), he’s become known for his versatile guitar work and harmony vocals, while contributing the odd song (see: Beatle George).  But the passion for writing kept calling him to step out front with his own songs (see: All Things Must Pass).

Though his solo debut was 2006’s Road To Freedom, Scott continued to play and tour in bands while honing his own voice and finding the players to bring his vision to life. Losing both parents in the space of a year led to a soul-searching hiatus from playing and then the major decision to quit his day job, walking away from a career of twelve years to focus on music full-time.

The result is Songs of Serenity, a collection of songs that follow a narrative path of love through nostalgia and loss, back to love and home.  Lead-off single “Say I Do” was written as a surprise for a niece who asked him to MC her wedding.  Scott realized the song had a broader appeal, moving from proposal through planning to the big moment and celebration that follows, a fun 3-1/2 minute romp down the matrimonial aisle. The album pays homage to the past and home, especially “Cariboo,” composed from a poem of his father’s about their homeland in central BC. That song and “Trigger” (a down-home barn-burner from another Gordon Perry poem) reflect some of his dad’s country influence. Other songs touch on sadder moments and challenges in life, but everything wraps up on a positive note in the lushly arranged love song, “Above.”

Songs are only dreams until someone wakes them up to reality, and Scott’s have been realized by the talents of bassist Eric Lefebvre (Top Drawers, Danny Echo, The Walk-ins), keyboardist Derek Macdonald (Gold Stars are for Suckers, the Bad Beats), drummer Adrian Buckley (Cass King and the Next Right Thing), and Steven Drake (The Odds, The Winlaws), who played steel guitar on and also mixed “Say I Do.”

The Songs:

Say I Do – When my niece asked me to MC her wedding, I needed something to do other than stand at a podium speaking. I set out to write the classic wedding tune, from proposal through planning and anticipation, building up to the big moment when those words are spoken, then finishing with a party atmosphere, gang vocals and handclaps. Funny thing is, I’ve been happily unmarried to the love of my life for 11 years (I guess we “didn’t need the proof”), but married or not, common-law, non-traditional, what have you — the last line says it all: “I want to grow old with you.” Yes. I do. (Read more)

Cariboo – My dad left behind a poem called “My Cariboo” that I set to music while trying to come up with something to do at his funeral other than stand at a podium crying. His influence was country, and the poem is all about longing for your homeland when you’re not there – a sentiment that applies more to me than him, since I haven’t lived in the Cariboo for many years. It turned into a song celebrating his life and home but also my own wistfulness looking back at the land that produced me. (Read more)

Onboard – This was from a poem of my own, called “Expressions”, all about the artistic process. Everything that ends up expressed as art comes from somewhere but goes through little twisting changes — we need to shake things up to see them from a different perspective. The Romantic poets, especially Shelley, obsessed over inspiration (literally: breathing in) which inspired all the wind and air imagery in my chorus. The opening image of a boat and floating away to a distant shore also came straight from Shelley. (Read more)

Serenity– The title song of the album: this is what we named our floating home on the Pacific as soon as we moved in. It is an oasis from the rest of the world, a respite from work and daily concerns – every evening I’d get home and sit on our back deck letting it all drain away. The song itself came to me as a didgeridoo part in my head droning on the repetitive chorus line, “I’ll get back to you later”, which became a sort of mantra for me, said to the whole world from my floating paradise. But there’s also nostalgia for the past and my home again, friends and places you always think you’ll get back to sooner or later. (Read more)

gunsun– This song came to me in a dream, intact with the words (as few as there are!) right up to “Bombs.” I woke up and managed to capture it, realizing it was a perfect simple cry of protest at the numbing frequency of major gun violence. My waking self wrote the last verse with “Sun” and “Moon” to take the edge off and end positively (right to the sigh of “Aaaaah” at the end). It is the generic centerpiece to this otherwise fairly personal album. The title (no caps; not loaded?) can be simply “gun-sun” or “guns-un” (a sort of negation), even also hinting at “unsung.” (Read more)

All Seas– I had a riff I wanted to write a song around, and the first line “I broke it to her – could it ever be gently?” just popped out. That led me to an imagined scenario of a couple losing a child and struggling to deal with it. It was not lost on me that I hadn’t experienced anything like that grief, but a writer must be empathetic and I tried hard to imagine myself in those shoes. Days after I wrote this, I learned my mother had cancer. Losing a parent is hard, but at least the natural order of things (unlike the death of a child), so despite that awful coincidence, I never cursed my imagination for stirring up the darkness. And I still appreciate that I haven’t had to deal with tragedy like this song describes. (Read more)

Todays – Life is a series of todays, and history a series of lives. Everything we can do now was supported and influenced by what other people did in the past: technology, art, even emotion, have all been developed to this point by a long line of experiences that help to make you who you are. So this song is really about acknowledging that and realizing all that you have inherited. Standing (with Isaac Newton) on the shoulders of giants; recognizing (like Tennyson’s Ulysses) “I am a part of all that I have met.” (Read more)

Trigger – My father wrote a poem about Willie Nelson and his beat-up old guitar that I found one day months after he passed away. He had given me his hand-written draft of it, and I knew I needed to work it up into a song. I had a lot to fill in though, as it was short, but the first stanza made a great first verse as is. Willie and my dad were nearly the same age, and he was one of the country greats my father loved and introduced me to (along with Merle, Kris, Waylon, and Johnny Cash). He called it “Ode to Willie Nelson” but I changed the title as it’s more about the guitar, which Willie named Trigger way back in 1969. (Read more)

Above – The oldest song on the album, I wrote this after hearing a friend tell me she would whisper “I love you” in her sleeping boyfriend’s ear, to try to implant that love in him. A little insecure, but I loved the image and thought it would make a great song. The verses are whispers in the lover’s ear, wondering if it’s being heard, imagining the effect; the chorus gives the common ecstatic phrase “I’m in heaven” a new twist as it applies to the awake partner looming above the sleeping one. And there’s a dream section where the sleeper seems to be subconsciously “picking it up.” We can never turn our ears off, even asleep they are constantly picking up sounds. Otherwise, it’s a simple love song, a tribute to “real love” and the way I wanted to end this album. (Read more)