Pop, R&B, and jazz singer Mr. Phil Perry is an experienced voice within the pop, R&B, and jazz genres. He is also a freelance songwriter, producer, and studio singer.
His career has included collaborations with artists like Peabo Bryson, Chaka Khan, Anita Baker, and countless others.
As a recording artist, songwriter, and world renown performer, Phil Perry was inducted into the RnB Hall of Fame in Detroit, Michigan, in June 2019.
While speaking, Mr. Perry, you'll immediately notice his loving, kind, and gentle way of enticing you into his wisdom. He does this all with a smile and a down-to-earth nature sprinkled with a bit of spice and much sensitivity.
I found him to be delightful, knowledgeable, and engaging. His way of speaking makes people want to sit around him and listen to what he will say next. Interviewing Mr. Perry was such a pleasure. Here is what he shared with me about his career and life.
Mr. Perry, how are you today? Well, I'm having a great day! How is your day?
I'm having a wonderful day. Thank you for asking. How is the weather in America? Hot but beautiful. #
Thank you so much for your time. It is a complete honor to be sitting here with you right now. Thank you. We're just having a conversation; it's all good.
As we begin this conversation, please share with our independent artists a few encouraging words. Okay. I would tell them that there is no magic wand to wave. To succeed, you must study your craft and commit to it.
Yes, absolutely, and thank you for sharing those wise words with our readers. Mr. Perry, firstly, I love your voice and your music! Thank you.
My pleasure. May I ask where you are from and where you currently reside? I'm originally from East St. Louis, IL. But I currently live right outside Los Angeles in Southern California.
I was born in Chicago but grew up in Los Angeles, so we have similar situations. I have aunts, uncles, and cousins who have lived in Chicago. But my dad and mom both worked in the school system in East Saint Louis.
Wonderful! Yes. My dad was in physical education and my mom was in special education.
I'm impressed. Okay. It sounds like your parents had beautiful hearts and cared about others. You come from a wonderful family. Yes. Thank you. I inherited their qualities.
Yes, you did. What made you realize you were gifted with such a beautiful tenor voice? Well, I went to Catholic school through grade school. And I was asked to come and rehearse with the men and boys’ choir for a Christmas program. So, I did, and the lady who was the music director asked me, "Have I ever thought about singing?" I said, "I love listening to it, but I can do that." So, my first audience that involved singing was at midnight mass.
I heard this familiar tapping on the floor. It was my grandmother coming to mass. I didn't have to look to know it was her because I knew it was her by the way her cane sounded. I could hear that.
Yes. What did you sing? I sang “Adeste Fideles,” which is, “Oh, Come All Ye Faithful,” but in Latin.
Wow! That’s impressive! So, when I heard the cane, I said to myself, "I better not look down there." I decided to look straight ahead to avoid paying attention to the people.
So as the song started, I did exactly that, and surprisingly enough, when I looked down, the entire church was standing up, looking up at the choir loft.
After most of the people left, I went downstairs, and my grandma walked over to me, pinched me on my cheek, and told me that she was very proud of me and that I sounded great.
So, I said, "Ok, if that's the case, let me see what's up with this singing thing. And so that's when I made up my mind that since I loved music anyway, I may want to pursue music. So, I pursued it.
I was a member of a singing group called “The Montclairs” in the mid-60s. Our first album came out in 1968. As a result, we became an opening act for touring bands coming to Saint Louis. Therefore, the first time my mom and dad saw me perform as a professional was when I opened for Smokey Robinson and the Miracles at the Kiel Auditorium.
Wow, that's awesome! So, as time progressed, you got a recording contract, became a professional recording artist, and became "The Montclairs" lead singer. One of my favorite songs recorded by the group is "All I Really Care About Is You." The song is beautiful! What led to that opportunity? As my career began, I had less and less free time. So, my girlfriend at the time asked me, "Is music all you care about right now?" I said, "No, all I really care about is you."
After thinking about our conversation, I realized it was not a bad title for a song. Therefore, I had to determine how to form and structure the story in a way that corresponded with the title. So, I dug deeper and explored various directions to reach that conclusion.
Many pros influenced me, and one of the people I looked up to at home said, "Every story you write as a song can be two or three stories if you're not lazy."
So, at an early age, I started formulating. For example, If I'm saying something in this version, how can I say the same thing but not keep the same story?
In other words, how do I individualize it for individuals who don't know me without individualizing it so much that they don't want to hear what I have to say? I didn't want to make it so personal that it wouldn't be relatable.
Absolutely. A wise individual willing to listen to the wisdom of the wise can obtain such valuable advice. Good stuff. Mr. Perry, at what point did you leave “The Montclairs” to pursue your solo career? At the time, two other group members had families; they were working all the time, and it was harder to rehearse. Because of that, I didn't think it was fair of me to hold it against them for the life they had chosen before they chose music. And I wanted to see if I could do it on my own, and I did.
Yes, absolutely. That’s the goodness and favor of God. God has His hand on you. He always has.
Absolutely. Can you tell me about your first record deal with Shanachie Records? That was interesting because I wasn't familiar with the label. Chris Davis, a buddy of mine who is an excellent keyboard player, producer, and pretty good lyricist, said, "Mr. P., have you ever heard of Shanachie Records?" I told him no, so he sent me some information on them.
Initially, I contacted them to see if they were interested and ended up recording around ten or eleven albums for them.
Outstanding! Hands down, you're one of my favorite vocalists of all time! You are notable in your own right. Mr. Perry, can you name some additional renowned artists you've worked with throughout the years? Over the years, I've worked with many great artists. Amongst those artists are Lee Rittenour, Anita Baker, Peabo Bryson, Chaka Khan, Dave Grusin, the GRP All-Star Big Band, Patti LaBelle, Aretha, Quincy Jones, James Ingram, Barbra Streisand, Johnny Mathis, Boz Scaggs, Bobby Caldwell (may Bobby and James rest in peace) and many others. There are too many for me to remember or name them all.
Everyone you mentioned is equally talented as you, Mr. Perry. I appreciate you reaching back into your memory bank for me. Since my memory could be better, you did a much better job naming people than I could have. (laughs) As a solo artist, I never considered myself to be exclusively solo. I always wanted to work with other people because it's when you work with others that you learn what you do well and how to do what you don't do well a lot better.
You said it well. I consider you to be one of the greatest balladeers of our generation. Even though I know you can sing anything, what about ballads draws you to them? I can answer it in three words, love never fails.
Amen. It's the same with my music and my daily life. Love never fails.
Yes. It never fails. That's stated in the King James Version of the Bible in 1 Cor. 13. That's awesome! Love it! Until you experience love that never fails, you may not understand its blessing, but once you do, you know that love is always there for you, no matter what or who you love. As a people, we may fail. Love, however, never fails.
Even when it doesn't work out, it still hasn't failed. Why do I say that? Because you can see yourself and your shortcomings from both perspectives regardless of what happened, good or bad. Then, try to avoid repeating the same mistakes.
Beautiful, wise sayings. Mr. Perry, after many years of singing professionally, what would you say to other vocalists about how to keep their voices in tip-top shape? To achieve your fantastic voice and range, what do you do? I don't baby my voice, wrap my throat up, do warm up exercises before shows or any that.
For me to speak to the audience, I put myself in the audience's shoes and think about how I can express what's on the setlist in a way that engages and evolves them in the show.
I always felt like I needed to work to make a connection with the people, not just in how I sounded when I sang, but the stories that I was singing about.
Some entertainers believe when your audience leaves, they only remember the sound of your voice. I always believed it was how poignantly you said what you put to music and shared with them.
Out of all the things I miss in R&B music is Its poignancy. We've forgotten how to use the English language. And as a result, we haven't been the best moniker of how it should be done.
I'm sure you know this: few people in their mid-teens to late 20s are exposed to R&B love jams, but once they are, they don't leave.
It's part of the thread of making music that never ends. The spool never goes dry. There's always more thread that you can use to shorten the distance between you as an artist and the individuals who may be listening. And if you don't work on that, you've missed the whole point.
I know God gave me a voice, and I know He gave it to me for me to use. So, then the question became, how do I touch the most people with this? Since then, it has been a lifelong journey.
Oh, that's awesome, and you're so correct about that because music connects the dots of life to time, places, and feelings. From how it is expressed vocally to lyrically, it is a gift from God. If the artist understands the purpose of the gift of music and uses it correctly, it will be a tool that inspires, uplifts, sympathizes with wounded souls, strengthens, and excites happiness.
“Lyrics” are undeniably powerful. Putting a pen in the hand of someone who does not have love in their heart can be extremely dangerous, which can cause many who sing along to their songs to become captivated by their poison and think destructively. But if we can reverse the process and give the pen to the person who loves, we can influence the world to love, which is excellent. That's what you do, Mr. Perry. The lyrics are one of the things that are missing in today's R&B music. The younger composers haven't worked long enough on character and story development to bridge the gap between the artists and the audience.
It just takes work. There are great voices out there that we have yet to hear. But the question is, how will we listen to them? And the answer would be when they unconditionally love what they say they unconditionally love.
Mr. Perry, I love your wisdom. Thank you for sharing everything you're sharing because people need to hear it, especially up-and-coming artists. While we're on lyrics, do you write and produce your music, and do you own your own record label? No, I do not have my own label. Despite writing a lot of music, not all of it is written by me. I enjoy singing covers.
Many great artists sing covers. Luther Vandross was a phenomenal vocalist who also sang primarily covers. Whatever you sing, Mr. Perry covers and originals, you make them your own. I like doing covers because the covers that I do make me want to work harder to reach my goal. If the music of the 50s and 60s made a big impression on me, why would I want to leave that and try to make the same kind of impression on somebody else?
Music is simple. It's harmony, rhythm, and melody. If you pay acute attention to the elements of music, you know where your shortcomings and imperfections are. And if you love it, you'll be steadfast in minimizing how little you know about it.
In other words, many people sound good, but they haven't done the homework of the industry. It was my goal to do my homework on the industry.
Beautiful. Can you think of a story that has yet to be written lyrically or sung vocally that should be? There's always a song that needs to be written about a topic that isn't either by the individuals that are having the discussion, by the media, by television or by zoom.
But for me, if you are true to the game of music and believe that you were given your talent not to hoard but to share, maybe some of the things missing in music in 2023 won't be missing from music in 2027 or 2030.
Individuals who make music for a living and who attract young singers and musicians to their music determine the future of music.
You must love what you do because if you don't love it enough, you won't work hard enough to improve. And if you don't work hard enough to improve, though you were working at it, few people will hear you.
You're so you're so you're so wise. I love talking to you. I'm learning so much from you. My dreams are many, Mr. Perry. One of my dreams is that the world would love and be generously kind towards one another. Also, all humanity would see and know the goodness of God and how He sent His only son, Christ Jesus, to give His life in the place of mine so that we may have eternal life, which is the free gift of salvation to those who trust in Christ Jesus alone as their Lord and Savoir. That's my dream. If I said to you," I have a dream," How would you finish that sentence? Then, don't wake up until you know what the dream is about. If you had a dream, you had it when you were sleeping. Remember what was in you when you were sleeping and let some of that come out when you're awake. That's how you make the world better.
Absolutely. Acting on a dream is better than sleeping on one. Beautiful. In the near future, will you be releasing any new music or starring in any TV shows or movies? Yes. I've appeared in a few movies and done a few television themes.
Awesome! Tell me about them. Oh, gosh. Do you remember Red Fox?
Yes, I do. Growing up, I watched Fred Sanford and Son. Well, I was on the Redd Foxx Show. It was when he left NBC and went to ABC.
I was only there for about four or five months, but some of the things I learned on that television set made me look at myself in the mirror in an entirely different way.
It was a great opportunity for me. I was given the chance, so when I got there, I thought, how can I cut my niche and how can I become memorable without becoming a nuisance?
When you get an opportunity like that, out of the blue, you know, you didn't make it happen. That's when you pray and say, "Lord, you had to open this door for me because I couldn't open it myself. Then I said, "If you're not too busy, could you help me not screw it up?"
We often like to ask God for things, but we don't read the notes that He passes along once we receive them. Learning as much as possible is vital because, in doing so, you will grow and be able to teach those who follow you so that they may grow, too. It might be that they want to do the same thing as you, but do not know how to do it properly.
If you put all of yourself into something, the people around you who see you doing it will know what you do and what standard you hold yourself to.
They’ll see your musical integrity and how tight the shackle of music has you. Once you fall in love with it, there is no turning back.
To date, how many years have you been in the music business? Last year was my 54th year in the music business.
Wow, what a blessing! Yes. So now, I'm going to slow down and do fewer gigs and record less music than I have done previously. Throughout my career, I have recorded a lot of music. If somebody wants to hear Phil Perry, they have plenty of Phil Perry music to listen to. It's a lot out there. On YouTube, there are at least two and a half to three hours of performances of mine.
I never knew this would be my life, but I was given an opportunity I didn't create alone. Therefore, I took advantage of it whenever there was an opportunity.
Wonderful! What about jazz festivals? Yes. They can follow my performance schedule at philperrymusic.com.
Awesome! Mr. Perry, I value the wisdom of my elders. I'm from that generation where we had respect for those who lived longer and experienced more than us, like my dad. My father taught me the importance of having a relationship with Christ Jesus, which I am grateful for. Although he was not wealthy monetarily, he introduced me to Jesus Christ. That was the greatest gift of everything he could have given me. There are many kinds of wealth. There's monetary and spiritual wealth.
Yes, of course! Mr. Perry, I would appreciate you sharing a word of wisdom with our readers and young artists. I watched my dad go to work every day, but I knew he didn't enjoy what he did. I didn't ever want to feel like that. Therefore, music was all I did.
You don't have to worry about what else you'll do if you love it and your love for it is true. As long as you love it, you'll do it, and it will love you back.
Well said, Mr. Perry. Thank you.
My pleasure. It was an absolute honor to speak with you today. I pray that God will continue to bless you, keep you, and bless the works of your hands, be it done according to His will for your life. May the Lord keep you and your family safe and protected, and I want you to know how proud I am of all you have accomplished. Thank you again. May he bless us all. When He gets one of us, He gets all of us, but it just takes time. That's all.
Yes. It's coming. Until the next time, then.
Thank you so kindly. Thank you, and I look forward to talking with you soon.
Me too. Bye, Mr. Perry. Goodbye.
End of Interview
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Disclaimer: The words of inspiration posted by The Indie Post, written within ( The New American Standard Version Bible Verse) are not the words of the above interviewed.
"John 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, so that everyone who believes in Him will not perish, but have eternal life. 17 For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but so that the world might be saved through Him."
"Romans 10:9-13 9 [f]that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10for with the heart a person believes, [g]resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, [h]resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “WHOEVER BELIEVES IN HIM WILL NOT BE [i]PUT TO SHAME.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; 13for “EVERYONE WHO CALLS ON THE NAME OF THE LORD WILL BE SAVED.”