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,
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
cliché, 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
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
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
From Chad: "We mixed them all low, because we wanted them to be little "easter eggs" for people to find and pick up on."