Interviewing singer-songwriter Charles Perry was one of those unexpected blessings to a journalist, in that he actually likes to talk about what the music he creates means to him. And not in an ego-centric way, since the majority of our conversation related to the people who'd been inspired by his music and the joy he felt when they reached out to him directly. When he did talk about himself it was in the spiritual sense, as if he'd knew where he'd been going all along with 3.1 million streams on Spotify and counting on his debut single with a full length album to be released this year.
Even though I was holed up in my NYC apartment, with the door dead-bolted and the 24 hour train screeching overhead I felt less alone from the moment that the conversation began, I was allowed to respond and never felt as though I were interrupting. And it ended with a simple, "Thank you for choosing me, I am honored," which I think sums Charles Perry up as an artist in his entirety.
EARMILK: I have to say that I loved your single “Stranger To Love,” listening to it was kind of the high point of my day.
Charles Perry: Well that’s such a blessing, that my song did that for you. It’s been such a journey with that song and it’s really been remarkable. That process of reaching people, changing lives can really only be described as “Wow.”
EM: Is that what inspired you to write it?
CP: I’m not sure if I meant to write it, the song is more my own personal testament to heartbreak. I would say that it’s about being a “stranger to love,” for so many years and as I told my friends just the other day, it feels as though I’ve just been loved wrong, that I don’t know what it feels like to be loved right. For me it came from a place of loneliness and when I wrote it I discovered that there were 3.1 million people on Spotify who felt the same and said by listening to my song “Mr. Perry you’re not the only one.” It wasn’t just me, there are others out there.
EM: Yeah, I would be one of them. There really were a lot of relatable elements on the track, because there are a lot of people, more than you would think and sometimes it does feel like you’re the only one. But you’re not alone and that was my immediate reaction.
CP: Definitely, that’s what it is. And like I said there are so many people that feel alone and I know that I’ve felt that through the years, like my heart was being crushed. I felt that I was alone and I learned when I started hearing the testimonies and confessions of the people. There was a gentleman who’s been married 64 years and he said “Mr. Perry, she pays me no mind and has not loved me unconditionally like I’ve loved her.” It meant a lot to me the “Stranger To Love” has had such a cross-appeal.
EM: Because you can be with someone and still feel alone. You can be in a relationship and feel more alone than if you weren’t. I really liked the lyric “Wait until you find yourself an angel, until then just be alone.” What was behind that?
CP: I grew up in the church background and my mother always told me “Wait your turn,” and that quote is actually from her. She said that it is important to understand that there are benefits in the wait, and that a lot of times we hurry and rush the process of life. She wanted me to understand the benefits of waiting and just to be patient for your angel. And that was important to me and everything that I learn in my life always goes back to that.
EM: Yeah it’s true, you don’t want to just take the first person that comes along.
CP: Yes definitely, because we choose mates prematurely and become involved with situations that cause us tears. In the long run, it’s important to wait it out and make the best decision for yourself.
EM: And it is OK to be alone.
CP: Yeah, it’s important to love YOU first. It’s important to celebrate YOU first. That is important.
EM: I heard this saying once, it came from someone that I really liked but didn’t end up being with, but a friend of his had said to him, “You can’t love anyone until you love yourself.” That is probably the truest statement.
CP: That’s very right. The last relationship that I was in, I expected somebody half to love me whole and it’s impossible. You can’t expect someone broken to love you completely. It’ll never happen. What I’ve found is that we set ourselves up for the wrong type of love and I’m in a place where I need easy love, light love. There’s a way where we are loved wrong and I need to be loved right. That’s important.
EM: It’s not two halves make a whole, it’s two wholes make two different people.
CP: So, so true. And times have really changed. It’s not about tradition and people are not as loyal anymore.
EM: How would you describe your version of using old-school aesthetics in a modern way?
CP: I believe that we’re taking the soul and the power, the foundations of the past and bringing nuances to make it compatible for the times.
EM: That makes sense, especially in the genres you’re working in. I saw that you got your start in musical theatre? I can hear some of that in your music.
CP: It was amazing. I grew up as a kid in it and at that time I was the baby in the cast of “Mama, I Want To Sing Part 3” and toured with toured with a few Grammy award winners as well as Oscar and Grammy award winner Lisa Fisher and Cissy Houston. That musical really changed my life, it taught me how to flow, it taught me how to connect with the people and it taught me how to be in the moment. It taught me connection with the soul and with the spirit and how people are moved by both of them. These women, they were my mothers even though the world knew them as megastars, you can’t be around those icons and legends and not pick up something and they really passed on and helped mold the gift. I learned so much by being around legendary people and doing those shows day in and day out every day and having to be consistent.
EM: Musical theatre is also so interactive. It’s really telling a story.
CP: It is. When you’re doing theatre it’s a whole different beast. You’re telling a story nightly, it has to be consistent and you have to really be truthful with it. It’s an amazing thing theatre.
EM: I read that you worked for awhile as a vocal coach before you were signed?
CP: I did do some vocal coaching and found a lot of passion in it, understanding the anatomy of the voice, knowing how to command the stage and sing in character. I really enjoyed impacting and changing lives through teaching music, children from inner city schools and just watching them come to life. There’s nothing like teaching somebody and watching them be empowered right before your eyes. I really got a kick out of that, seeing that fire burn.
EM: I saw that you were chosen to sing back-up for Whitney Houston and Michael Jackson?
CP: Man, singing at the Michael Jackson Anniversary Special really changed my life. I had the chance to sing with Michael and Liza Minnelli and that was just an experience. I’ll never forget that when I was sixteen and was returning my microphone, Lisa Fisher came to me and said that Luther Vandross wanted to have five minutes of my time. She said, “Would you want to speak to him?” And I said, “Are you serious? I’ll give him a hundred hours.”
EM: You seem to have a very intense sense of humor and personality in your performances. Are there influences for that or is it just you?
CP: It’s just me. I would say that my personality is very big and bright. My Dad is one of the greatest comedians and so are my grandparents. So a lot of my humor and personality really stems from my family.