New York, July, 2007: After a five-year hiatus from recording, Phil Perry has returned in a big way: Following last year’s successful release of Classic Love Songs, he is now back with A Mighty Love, another amazing collection of timeless classics. Featuring nine R&B hits, such as Toni Braxton’s “Unbreak My Heart” and Dionne Warwick’s “Deja Vu”, Phil displays his unmatched ability to express emotion and integrity through song. Having received much positive acclaim, A Mighty Love, is certain to be a hit among genuine R&B fans and romantics—and surely an excellent addition to anyone’s music collection.
Gina Marie Rayson: First and foremost, I would like to congratulate you on your new album, A Mighty Love! You feature nine R&B classics, such as “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” and “Unbreak My Heart”, and one original song, “Honor”. Tell me a bit about how you chose these nine songs and how the one original song worked its way into the mix..
Phil Perry: Well, (producer) Chris Davis and I have worked for ten years now, and, so, I know him pretty well. In these songs, I knew that I wanted to extend the love song vibe but explore some different avenues. For example, “Ride Like the Wind” isn’t a love song but it’s such a groove; if you get into the story content, you learn that it is a story about a guy who is running from his life. The story is so poignant and with it, I just figured ‘let’s take a shot.’ I always loved that song. When that song was sent to me I thought “Oh my goodness. That is such an urgent story”. And for some of the other songs, they just speak to me. I mean, how can you have a heart and soul in your body and not like “Déjà Vu”? Love songs aren’t like the rest of the songs out there, love songs sustain the test of time. Whenever you do it right, you can go back and they still have merit because there is content there. It’s not a trite story.
GMR: Your last album, Classic Love Songs, also featured many R&B and soul hits. What has inspired you to focus on classic material, rather than original material?
PP: Well Shanachie is basically the kind of label that deals in catalog, so in this case, to make them happy and to make the process easy, you just pick songs that you love. With the songs that I sing, I have to love it enough to move me and stir emotion in me. I have to think of a different time, or era, or a different person or review myself at a different time as a different person to be able to do it. I have to be taken somewhere else.
GMR: What are some obstacles that you encounter when you record such a well-known classic as “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” or “Unbreak My Heart”?
PP: Airplay: that is the biggest drawback because what is now being promoted as R&B stations aren’t really R&B stations—they are hip hop under the guise of R&B. There is more original classic R&B being released from England than in the US. There is a new challenge of how to do old material with being respectful to the old composition but still be compelling and be able to lure in young people. And these young people have grown up in a world of perfection of digital music and exactness. And it is tried and tested and true. Compositionally, there are some young, exciting artists out there—like John Mayer and Robin Thicke—and with them, you can listen and hear the music of yesteryear. You can really tell they did their homework. You don’t hear a lot of music like that anymore that reflects true musicianship. To the youngest demographic, the people do not yet know the difference between true music and the music that is presented to them. But as you get older and you learn by experience, you become more interested in a more musical, rather than popular, sense, and your interests become more mature and intelligent.
GMR: Chris “Big Dog” Davis serves as your producer, your friend, and, on A Mighty Love, the contributor of your original song, “Honor”. I know that he also had produced Classic Love Songs—what sort of interaction takes place during your recording processes that makes you such a successful pair?
PP: We are honest with each other and we both have musical integrity. Even if he doesn’t like what I’m doing, he’ll be honest with me. You don’t get that opportunity with people you don’t work with very long—it can take a couple albums to learn how someone works. And, as music is a testament, he is a very talented guy. No matter what I think about being in the business for 37 years, I love what he does. With him, I don’t have to try to fit in someone else’s ideology about how I should sound. At this stage in time, I just don’t have time or the desire to make the time for that--other people can give you a different spin or approach, and he and I just work together. He has a lot of experience: with me, he is not a 20-year old producer who tries to tell me the way I should do my music—he grew up with the music that I grew up with and shares some common influences with me.
GMR: I know that as a child growing up in East St. Louis you had always wanted to be a singer, acknowledging early on the effect of music on a person’s spirit. How has your success as a powerful and emotional singer fulfilled this childhood dream of yours?
PP: I don’t know if I am successful at it…yet. I know that for me it is important to always maintain that music is escapism for anyone who listens to it; that is the case for any style of music. What creates the success is how you do it and how honest you are in your endeavor—you cannot create a feeling unless you believe in it yourself. I am always in a study mode and I always respect the singers from the first romantic era of the 20th century. Like how Nat King Cole sang “That Summer” or “Mona Lisa”: they create a feeling and a reaction in you—and it isn’t just listening to music anymore. It is a connection and it is made only by being honest and immersing yourself so that you become it.
GMR: What is a message that you like to convey—as a musician, a philanthropist, a father and husband—to your fans and to everyone else?
PP: Well I would like to be able to convince men to get back into their homes—or to their blocks, the same town, anywhere nearby. Children need guidance in this world and a lot of them simply are not getting it. I don’t understand how we will be able to continue the success of our country unless we can convince men to return home. I know that my life as a man has been enriched by my children: to know what it is like to have a child ask a question and to give an honest, truthful answer and see the lights go on in their mind before they walk away is what it is all about. That, and that romance in this country is a little dead and it needs to be revived. The successful and continued interaction between a man and a woman cannot survive without romance.
GMR: You and your wife have an organization named the PhiLill Foundation whose goal is to benefit public schools and teach through the use of the arts. Tell me a bit about what inspired you and your wife to start this foundation and how it has benefited such schools as the Fontana Middle School.
PP: My wife has been an educator for a long time and has also been in the music business for a long time. She knows how to influence a child to go the extra mile. We live out in California and there are a lot of kids who only speak English when they are in school—if they are not immersed in the language, they cannot be successful. And right now, English is the language of commerce and so through immersion in the arts with use of the English language, we are helping these children develop some skills that will be essential for their future.
GMR: I know that you are also sponsoring your third annual Phil Perry Fan Cruise in February of 2008. What can fans expect from the cruise and how does the cruise benefit your foundation?
PP: The idea is in today’s conglomerate world is that on these musical cruises, you see fifteen different bands. But when you come with me, you see only me. And when you leave, you leave with a better understanding of me and what I believe in and will help better the foundation.
GMR: After a five-year hiatus from the recording business, you have released two phenomenal albums in two years. What are your plans for the upcoming future?
PP: Well, every musician lives day by day, no matter what plans they make. The plans we make really have no say in or effect upon the plans God makes for us. What I would like to do, however, is Id beef up the foundation and record some all-original albums. I would also like to record all ‘40s hits and go to England or Germany with some strings instruments. Orchestrated music really moves my spirit. I can’t believe there are people whose spirits aren’t moved by that…