Monday, March 28, 2016

Interview: Chad Perrone (November 17th, 2014)

A few weeks ago, I got a chance to speak with Boston-based independent singer/songwriter, Chad Perrone. During our talk, Perrone opened up about his remarkable new LP, Kaleidoscope (reviewed here), the relationship woes and writer's block struggles that inspired the album, his new approach to songwriting, and the crowdfunding campaign that made the new record possible.

Chad Perrone (CP): So yeah, you got the new album!

Craig Manning (CM): Yeah, yeah, really enjoying it!

CP: Thank you. It was kind of a very different process than, like, anything else we’ve done before.

CM: Yeah, there’s a lot of 80s influence. I was wondering what you were listening to when you were recording.

CP: I think Dennis (Carroll)* said it best, but I think this is kind of like a record I’ve been dying to make for…probably since I left Averi. I just never had the balls to actually execute and commit. But I’m a kid of the 80s: I was born in that time, so my early influences were…you know…listening to some soft rock radio with my mom or going through some of my dad’s old CDs or tapes. And, you know, Phil Collins has always been a big influence on everything I’ve done. I think some of that has maybe has popped up in previous records a little bit, but this time around I just decided to be completely, unabashedly candid and open about where some of those previous influences came from.

CM: So it’s been…how long ago was your last one? Four years ago?

CP: Yeah, four years.

CM: So what’s been going on? Have you written since then?

CP: Well, I went through a horrible writer’s block for a long time. And I just really though that everything I was writing was complete shit. And that’s actually how this whole record came about. It was a combination of like, a conscious decision, and it kind of happened in a very organic way. Which is weird to say because the whole record is very (sonically) inorganic, I guess.

Every time I would sit down with just an acoustic guitar…like, it all sounded the same to me. I felt like was coming up with similar melodies, and wasn’t coming up with things that were fresh and new to me. So I started to—I mean, there are a few songs on the new record that were written in the traditional way, the traditional "Chad" way of just me and an acoustic guitar—but there’s a number of these tunes that, you know, I would play something on Garage Band, like play a chord progression on some synthy keyboard patch, and I’d put a hip hop beat behind it or something, and I would just loop it, and just sit there and see how many different melodies I could come up with.

I think the song "Match" was born that way; the song "For the Weekend" was born that way; the chorus of "Feel Everything" kind of came about that way. And it was just…it kind of forced me to kind of hear different melodies. Like, "Recovery is a Long Road" came out that way. But also, a lot of that stuff didn’t really start happening until the middle or the end of last year. So there was like, a good duration or period of time when I hadn’t really written anything. Nothing that I really liked, anyway.

CM: Yeah, the first track ("Minor Letdowns") I think is sort of a nice bridge between Release and this. It has the same soaring melody sort of thing as the last album, and then you go into the 80s stuff as the album goes on.

CP: Yeah, "Minor Letdowns" is a song…it was a song that’s probably more than two years old, but it’s kind of…I hated the original chorus, and I kind of rewrote the verses. I mean, it’s kind of just transitioned itself into what it is today.

CM: I was wondering a little bit about how all the crowdfunding stuff went. Did you do that for the last one?

CP: No. To be honest with you, I’ve always been really reluctant to do it. Namely because I feel like everybody and their mother is doing it, you know like, I think I started getting a little annoyed at the amount of emails I was getting from different people who were doing crowdfunding campaigns about their new record. And I’ve never been somebody…I would say that probably the biggest detriment to me ever being more successful than I am is the fact that I can’t stand promoting my own music. I hate beating people over the head about stuff, like about shows or about an album. I don’t like doing it. I don’t like soliciting things for money, or…I prefer to kind of just let things go about on the word of mouth thing. You put it out there, if people want to support, they’ll support. If not, that’s no big deal.

But yeah, so it was good! We got to like 50%...because essentially you have like a 60 day period to meet your goal, and if you don’t…

CM: Yeah, that sounds about right.

CP: And uh, so we got kind of down to the wire and then things picked up again and we got to our 100 percent goal.

CM: So what were you going to do if you didn’t make that…?

CP: I don’t know, probably go sit in the corner and cry. (Laughs) No, I think we probably would have explored other options. The other big difference with this album that made this much different than any other album we’d ever done is…every other record I’ve ever done has been this huge collaboration. I’ve got the group of guys that I play music with, but then it’s always been…so Steve (Belleville)* and Dennis have always been a part of it, but then you know, having all these other musicians on it. And like, tons of people touch the albums, you know, you have guest people come in, etc.

But it was really important to me that this album be just Dennis, Steve, and I. And so, there’s nobody else that’s touched this record. Nobody else sang or did anything on this album but the three of us. We played everything and programmed everything and…you know. And that was important to me too, because this is like the first time on any record, probably since…well, maybe even more so than when I was in a band, this album was a huge collaboration. I let go of the reigns a lot on this record. Steve and Dennis have been playing with me for almost a decade, so they get me probably better than other people do, but this is like the first time where I really kind of let two other guys, two people kind of come in and help steer the ship. And they’d do a lot of arranging and playing and I would just show up and I’d be like "That sounds great, alright, let me lay down a vocal!"

It also felt good too, you know, it worked out because I’ve got a full time job and couldn’t be there all the time. And we did some stuff like remotely where things would get uploaded to Dropbox and I’d lay down a track in my apartment and send it to them. So, it worked out. But it was really nice to not feel the pressure or the stress of having to be there for every single note that was played, which is what I think I’ve done to myself on past records. I’ve been a bit more of a control freak, and this time I kind of learned to let go a little bit.

CM: Would you say there’s an overall theme to this record? Or something that sort of inspired the title (Kaleidoscope)? Or I guess, an overall feeling you had when you were writing?

CP: Hmmm…so, this is the second time for an album where I didn’t come up with the title for the record, but the people who designed the cover did. Pilot Studio, they also did the cover for Wake. And, you know, they had asked me kind of a similar question, like, did I think there was a certain vibe, and I said, "No, not really." You know, I think, obviously a big chunk of the record…I was engaged for awhile. And that ended. Not necessarily 100 percent my decision. And so, a lot of the songs lyrically (not all) were born out of that period of time and it was kind of encompassing not just the one point after the break up, but it kind of encompassed a lot of the different steps of getting through that break-up. You know, "Gone" is obviously a song that was written right after. But then, you know, a song like "Match," which is kind of clichĂ©, but that was written shortly after about me being frustrated and trying to get back out there and do the online dating thing and try that.

You know, I think you could listen to the record, or look at the lyrics, and say "Oh gee, another sad Chad Perrone record." But I think kind of buried in a lot of the soons is a bit of a hint of optimism. Even in "Minor Letdowns," one of the big sentiments might be, "Okay, this is ending." But it was also kind of like, "Look, we both realize that this doesn’t work, but some of the things that you want me to change are probably going to be something that somebody else falls madly, crazy in love with." You know, at some point. When I find her...

Even "Love Me Better" has that idea. And "Recovery is a Long Road" is kind of another, kind of starting to feel like I'm coming out of that deep dark hole that I was in for awhile.

But as far as a theme, you know, our idea is that we wanted to stay with a non-organic approach. You know, I think "Minor Letdowns" is the only song on the record…and it’s only for that first chorus...where a piano and an acoustic guitar show up at all. The whole rest of the record, like nothing else…you know? And that was kind of intentional. Dennis was always more afraid or worried that, like, the record was going to be too far out there. But I think we all really just warmed up to the direction we decided to go in.

I think we’re all pretty ready for people to have differing opinions of the album, you know? I made my peace with the fact that there are going to be some people who have supported me for a long time who don’t care for the direction we’ve gone in, or they like older stuff better. And you know what? I’m okay with that. And as much as it sounds like kind of a dickhead thing to say, Steve and Dennis and I, I think we made this record kind of for us. We were stretching our legs and kind of going into uncharted territory and trying some different things. And that’s not to say I won’t make another record like Release or Wake. But this felt good to kind of push myself.

CM: And that’s good too, because you can never really…even if you try to recapture something you’ve done in the past, you’ll still get people who are like, "Oh, I like the old one better."

CP: Sure, and then you also run the risk of things starting to sound stale. Like I said, I knew for me that even from a songwriting standpoint that things started to feel a little stale. It was all stuff I had done before.

CM: Do you have a favorite song on here?

CP: I don’t. It’s a good question, I feel like I get asked that a lot. But I don’t. I can never pick a favorite song on any record. I probably would have a story for every single song that makes it different or original or something I’m proud of. Whether it’s the lyric or the melody or how the song came out from where it was in my head to where it ended up.

CM: You sent me a list of songs** that you decided to reprise in the closer, "A Fine Departure." How did you decide which songs to throw in there?

CP: It was less about any kind of lyrical content, I think, and more about what songs kind of fit. Which songs could we modify or adjust to melodically work in there? And for me…this is going to sound sadder than I want it to…but every time I make an album, I always have worries in the back of my head like, "Is this the last record I’m ever going to make?" And "A Fine Departure" kind of touches upon that. I think I’ve always had a little bit of an identity crisis, as far as "What would happen if tomorrow I just stopped playing music and that was never a part of my life again? Like, who would Chad Perrone be?"

Like, would the people I’ve become friendly with…would I still be friends with a lot of those people? Would people still give a shit about Chad Perrone if I didn’t have [music] anymore? So, just in conjunction with that, in the back of my head, I said that, for me, it would be fun to have almost a best of or a demo reel of the stuff that I’ve written that I’m most proud of, and have that be attached to this song.

CM: And you’ve done the reprise thing before. You did it at the end of Wake too.

CP: Correct, we did that, but that was all songs that were on that record. But yeah, it’s always been…I’ve even decided to do it in certain lyrics, you know, where I’ll bring up a song that I’ve already written. There’s a line in "Minor Letdowns" where I say, "I’ve come so far from those 'What I’ve Become' Nights." so, yeah. And Sting used to do it too! I think he's referenced older songs of his in his newer songs. I always thought it was just kind of cool.

CM: So there was some extra stuff for certain rungs of pledging. Like, there was an acoustic album?

CP: Yeah, I was actually...right before you texted, I was still making some tweaks in the mixes. But yeah, there’s an acoustic version of this record. I just did all of the songs stripped down.

CM: I imagine that that would be quite different, because a lot of these songs just don’t use much acoustic guitar at all.

CP: Yeah, for me that was kind of the fun part of it. It was a lot of work, but it was fun coming back in and reapproaching a lot of these tunes with just acoustic guitar. And you know, I play some piano on it and add some flashes of other stuff. But yeah, it was cool.

CM: Is that going to make its way out there at all, or is it just going to the people who pledged that rung?

CP: I think it will probably pop up online at some point. We’ll get it out to the pledgers first, because that’s just the fair thing to do, but then we’ll get it out there.

CM: Were there any tracks that didn’t make the record?

CP: There are two. One of them is called "Life in the Past" and that will make it onto the unreleased record that’s going to come out as part of the pledge campaign. And the other one was called "I’ll Leave You With This." And that one, to be honest with you…it was like a song in 6/8 and it was very acoustic, and the more we started getting into the record, the more I started to realize that it just didn’t fit. And we had some difficulties fleshing out…I hadn’t gotten quite comfortable with the arrangement, so the song still wasn’t really done. So we made the call to go ahead and leave that one on the floor for now. Maybe it will see the light of day at some point.

CM: Did anyone buy the $12,000 personal EP?

CP: (Laughs) No! I wish. But no. You know what’s funny, Craig, is that nobody…for the most part, people stuck with the smaller dollar things. Some people doubled and tripled up or whatever. Like, they’d buy the signed CD and the acoustic version of the record, and maybe they’d buy the unreleased stuff. But we really didn’t have to do any, like, big Skype sessions, and I didn’t have to make anyone dinner at my apartment or anything. And that was fine by me too: I mean, we got to the goal and everything. It’s been a long process. We were starting to talk about doing this record at the end of last year, probably about a year ago. And we started tracking and doing preproduction at the beginning of this year, so…it’s been a long road.

CM: Anything else you want to add.

CP: Thanks for continuing to listen!

CM: No problem.

CP: I appreciate it. And, you know...I think we’re all excited. But it’s almost one of those things where you work on something for so long that you’re almost like…Jesus Christ, I almost don’t want to hear any of these songs for awhile. But no, it was a blast and fun to be collaborate again, and to work with Dennis and Steve on a lot of stuff. I’m just grateful I’ve got those two guys. I mean, this record is as much theirs as it is mine. I might have been the songwriter, but from a sonic and arrangement standpoint, it’s just as much theirs.

*Dennis Carroll and Steve Belleville are Chad Perrone's bandmates. Both helped to arrange, play, record, and mix the songs on Kaleidoscope
**The songs referenced at the end of "A Fine Departure" are (in order) "What I've Become," "All I Go Looking For," "Ok," "Madison," "Here For Good," "Let You Sleep," "Awake In the Morning," and "Feel Everything." (There is also a little hint at the sax part to "The Bones Underneath.")
From Chad: "We mixed them all low, because we wanted them to be little "easter eggs" for people to find and pick up on."

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