BILL PERRY
Guitar Journeys
(Solid Air Records)

 

Back in 2009, mwe3 featured a great album of guitar instrumental music from guitarist Bill Perry, entitled Songs Of Walden. As a follow up to Songs Of Walden, Bill Perry’s 2015 album Guitar Journeys is an impressive 3 CD set featuring 40 tracks of guitar instrumentals, composed and performed by Bill. Speaking to mwe3 about the way Guitar Journeys was made, Bill Perry adds, “I really let the music dictate where it wants to go in the arranging process. In the end it all comes down to the melody. I might start off solo acoustic, overdub the melody line separately and then add harmonies. In my opinion, a good song needs not only to capture the imagination of the listener, but to tell a story as well. In order to do that you need a really good melody.” You might think, with 40 tracks that covers an enormous range of classic sounding solo acoustic guitar music, Guitar Journeys might become the “white album” of guitar instrumental music. That’s a lot of music yet, spread over 3 CDs, and tastefully packaged in an appealing, digi-pak artwork, Bill Perry’s 3 CD set never wears out its welcome. A mighty impressive set from acoustic guitar maestro Bill Perry, Guitar Journeys is right up there with the finest acoustic guitar albums of the 21st century. www.BillPerryMusic.com

 




mwe3.com presents an interview with
BILL PERRY


mwe3: Is Guitar Journeys the follow up to your 2009 album Songs Of Walden, which was a concept album based around the famous book “Walden” by Henry Thoreau? Is there a concept, musically or otherwise, behind Guitar Journeys? One question would be, why did it take so long to complete and have it ready for release as a 3 CD set? It’s a massive undertaking but every song is unique and great.

Bill Perry: Actually I started working on a follow up to the Walden CD immediately after it’s release with an album titled The Road Not Taken. Once finished I sent it to James Jensen at Solid Air Records and he liked it quite a bit, but was not quite ready to move forward at that time. I really could not see the point of self releasing and knew that label was a perfect fit for my music, so I just decided to keep writing and recording and eventually finished 3 more CDs. A CD titled Lost in Heaven, then Images and finally The Road Begins. So basically, I just wrote and recorded for 5 years. In the end James decided he liked the music enough, that it made sense to release all of it at once. It was a big undertaking as each CD was recorded and mixed at different times over a long period, so the challenge became to blend the 4 CDs into 3 as cohesively as possible.

mwe3: Why do you call your new 3 CD set Guitar Journeys? Picking up on the “journeys” theme, do you think of yourself as a kind of guitar journeyman of sorts? You live in New Hampshire and is that where you recorded the tracks? Tell us about the recording process involved of recording a 3 CD set with 40 tracks on it.

Bill Perry: James Jensen first suggested the idea for the Guitar Journeys concept and I thought it was a great idea. The 3 CD set really is not only a culmination of my work over the last decade, but I guess you could say over a lifetime of playing to this point. As far as the recording process is concerned, I am fortunate to have found Gerry Putnam who owns CedarHouse Sound and Mastering in Sutton New Hampshire, which is very close to where I live. He runs a nationally known recording studio and not only is he a great engineer, but understands how to record acoustic instruments and has an incredible ear to boot.

It is always a pleasure to be able to go into his studio and not have to worry about anything other than playing the music.

mwe3: Are all the tracks on Guitar Journeys all solo acoustic or were other tracks recorded with various guitars, including electric in places and even overdubbing? Who else involved in the recording, engineering, mastering and more on the Guitar Journeys album?

Bill Perry: There are quite a few solo acoustic tracks, but I also really like adding other guitars when the song calls for it. I really let the music dictate where it wants to go in the arranging process. In the end it all comes down to the melody. I might start off solo acoustic, overdub the melody line separately and then add harmonies. Depending on the song, a steel string or 12 string is sometimes used, but the only electric guitars used on Guitar Journeys were the slide guitar parts played by Gerry Putnam on “Ghost In The Garden” and “The Road Begins”. He also added some nice acoustic slide guitar on “Not Quite There” and some beautiful nylon string harmonies on that and a few other pieces.

The solo tracks are the easiest to record as you are only dealing with one track. It can get pretty involved as far as editing/mixing and mastering when you start adding multiple instruments, but if the song calls for it then it is well worth it in the end. The tracks were recorded and mixed at CedarHouse Sound in NH and mastered by Bill Wolf at Wolf Mastering in Virginia, who had the unenviable job of making all 40 tracks and the 3 discs flow smoothly from beginning to end and he did a great job. I do not want to forget Todd Ellison either, who is responsible for the CD artwork and design. A bunch of great professionals who all helped make this project a reality.

mwe3: Any other guitar news from you these days? I know Songs Of Walden was written and recorded with your Taylor nylon string guitar. What guitars do you use on Guitar Journeys? What other guitars as well as guitarists have grabbed your attention these days?

Bill Perry: I am still using my Taylor NS62-CE nylon string. It has a smaller neck width than a traditional classical guitar, lighter action and a cut away, which I like. It just fits my style perfectly and has a very good sound.

I did use a few other guitars including a few other Taylor and Guild acoustic and twelve string guitars for the sessions and also my son Brian plays on some tracks with his Taylor 316 CE acoustic.

I really like mixing steel with nylon string in multiple guitar settings as it is sonically more interesting than just nylon. I know there are a lot of great guitarists out there today doing some really cool things especially with model tunings and percussive techniques and I do enjoy listening. A lot of those artists are on the Solid Air Label.

mwe3: You are a master of the orchestral guitar sound… or maybe I should say “orchestrated guitar sounds”, even on acoustic guitars. Back in 2009, you spoke about using multiple guitars on your upcoming albums and you can hear this quite clearly on the final Guitar Journey track on disc 3, “The Road Begins”. Are you using this technique a lot on Guitar Journeys or do most of the tracks just require a single guitar? Does the song dictate a multiple guitar approach?

Bill Perry: Orchestral is a great term to use. Even on solo pieces I try to create a sound that evokes more than just the one guitar. In my opinion, a good song needs not only to capture the imagination of the listener, but to tell a story as well. In order to do that you need a really good melody. I do hear a lot of music today that is interesting technically and sonically, but in the end you are left with no real melody. In writing, I always let the song take me in the direction it wants to go and not the other way around, whether it is one guitar, multiple guitars or any combination of steel and nylon. In the future, I might possibly utilize other instruments. It just has to be whatever helps tell the story. Nothing more and nothing less…

mwe3: Do you get most of your inspiration from literary writers and authors? I saw in the credits for Guitar Journeys a number of authors including Shel Silverstein, Dylan Thomas and Tennessee Williams. Makes you wonder if most music isn’t just a reflection of a myriad of different arts, from movies and mother nature to literary works. Do you find that to be the case?

Bill Perry: A lot of my inspiration on this project does come from great writers and poets and also from nature, life and spiritual things as well. The same things I would guess that inspire all of us, so it is all connected isn’t it? A great poet can tell a story in just a few lines of verse. I enjoyed the challenge of creating instrumental music inspired by those words and I know I better do a pretty darn good job, given their credentials. In the end, hopefully I do them justice...

mwe3: You mentioned you were originally inspired by playing electric guitars. Do you still play or record with electric guitars and what are your favorite electric guitars that you own or have played in the past?

Bill Perry: I love the electric guitar and played it for many years even after studying classical. At this point I am not playing or recording with electric, as I really enjoy and am completely satisfied with all of the sounds I can get out of my acoustic. My favorite electric guitars were and are the Gibson Les Pauls. I love the sound of a Strat as well, but for me I always preferred the sound and feel of the Gibson.

I owned several over the years, including a 1957 Les Paul Jr. with a tobacco sunburst finish. The bad news is that when I decided to go to the acoustic I sold it for I think about $350.00. I kept another electric on hand as I was not playing it anymore anyway. Not a smart move. I am not sure exactly what that Les Paul Jr. is worth today, but if I was going to put a guitar in a case and not play it again, I sure picked the wrong one. Today that guitar is worth thousands and the other guitar… not so much.

mwe3: You have said you’re not a classical guitarist per se although you are influenced by classical guitars. Do you think of music as being a composer’s forum so to speak. How do you contrast being a guitarist with being a composer? Are you still a big Jeff Beck and Robin Trower fan? It would be interesting to hear Beck playing some of your compositions in his fusion band. The songs are the key to all good music right? I’m sure Beck would be inspired by the Guitar Journeys CD set.

Bill Perry: I studied classical for several years and it is the basis for my acoustic technique. I did learn a lot of the usual classical guitar repertoire, but you really have to have a passion and be dedicated to it for life if you want to consider yourself a classical musician. I love all types of music, classical, rock, jazz, folk etc. and I think that is reflected in both my style of playing and in my music.

If I had to choose, I do consider myself a composer first and a guitarist second though. Of course the level of playing has to be there, but in most cases if the music is good enough, it will not be overshadowed by the musician or the instrument it is played on. Great music can be played on any instrument and in any style. It sure would be great to hear Jeff Beck do an arrangement of one or more of my songs with his band or to know that he heard and liked my music. He is a musician that sure knows how to turn a musical phrase and approaches everything from a melodic basis. I think I lost his telephone number though!

mwe3: Is there a good story behind having Guitar Journeys released on Solid Air Records? It’s a fine company with some great guitar albums and I read the new CD liner notes by James Jensen. Seems like it’s a good combination. How are they planning to spread the word about Guitar Journeys? Are your earlier albums still available?

Bill Perry: I do not exaggerate when I say how happy I am to be associated with James Jensen and Solid Air Records. In addition to being a Grammy Award winning producer, he is also a great person and being an accomplished guitarist himself, he understands guitar music and how to market it. After sending him 4 CDs in 5 years and as executive producer, James conceived of the Guitar Journeys concept and away we went. He is also handling the publishing so hopefully we will find some success in licensing the music commercially at some point. I am just happy to have an opportunity for my music to be exposed to a wider audience through his label and we will see what happens from there. People can find my earlier albums A Christmas Carol and Songs Of Walden available on my website as well.

mwe3: Would you consider doing some concerts to further promote Guitar Journeys? It would be great if Solid Air could do nationwide showcases for some of their guitarists. Even though the US is such a big country, I guess we can live in hope that these kinds of events can still happen. What are your plans for Guitar Journeys as we move into the second half of 2015?

Bill Perry: Actually many of Solid Air’s artists have a very busy touring schedule and some of them do perform together. For myself, as far as performing is concerned, that is just not my medium. Some musicians are great performers, some great writers, some great teachers and some two or maybe all three. At this point in time I just enjoy writing, recording, arranging and producing my own music too much to consider performing and I think it would actually take away from those endeavors. It took awhile, but I finally figured out at some point that my musical strength is composing, so I am sticking with that...

 

Thanks to Bill Perry @ www.billperrymusic.com


 

 
   
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