Zak Perry started playing music when he was in high school, but this wasn’t exactly a new concept for him. Zak’s mother was an accomplished pianist, and “I think my Dad wanted to be Frank Sinatra,” Zak jokes of his father, who was a nightclub performer for many years. “They soon became my biggest fans,” and his subsequent career has taken him all over the world. His genuine performances and authentic songwriting has found an eager audience of fans.
We recently had the opportunity to talk with local favorite Zak Perry, about his music, the band, life, and what’s coming up.
Island Guide: Where are you from? How long have you been playing music on the island?
Zak: I’m from St. Charles, Missouri, which is a small riverfront town just outside of St. Louis. I’ve lived on the island for nine years. I’ve been playing here for close to 15 years.
Island Guide: Who is in the Zak Perry & the Beautiful Things band and what do each play or contribute?
Zak: The band is made up of Vern Vernnard on slide guitar, Hammond B3, and background vocals. Jason Charron is on drums. Scott “Sting” Ray holds down the low end.
Island Guide: Describe your style of music, your sound, for someone who has never heard you.
Zak: It covers a wide spectrum, but I would say it’s a mixture of country, rock, blues, and gospel.
Island Guide: Your music is self-described as “Heavy Electric Southern Soul, Rock, Blues-Rock.” What does that mean to you personally?
Zak: That moniker was officially born in the late 90’s in New York City. We were described that way by a reporter in the “Village Voice Magazine,” and since then, it has kinda stuck. It could be a little misleading because many of my songs are not heavy, electric Southern Soul, but I like the overall concept of the statement, so I’ve stuck with it.
Island Guide: Describe a live show for someone who hasn’t had the honor of seeing you guys.
Zak: At a live show, anything can happen, and we’ve noticed that a lot of the songs take different shapes, often straying from the recorded version. I am lucky enough that my band has been with me for 20 years, and when I want to go in a different direction, they are like a built-in safety net. We all seem to read each other’s minds on stage.
Island Guide: How old were you when you fell in love with music?
Zak: I think it was inherent because in my mom’s baby books, as early as 6 months old, she mentioned that I would “rock uncontrollably” to rock n’ roll, specifically Elvis Presley. That being said, music was always being played in my house. My mother was an accomplished pianist and my father was quite the crooner. I’m pretty sure he thought he was Frank Sinatra.
Island Guide: How did you get started in music? And who were your influences, when, where, etc… What got you started.
Zak: The reason I first started was an 8th-grade guitar class, but I remember being on a swing set in Kindergarten and making up a song in my head. I remember that explicitly.
As far as influences, I’d say that Neil Young, Allman Brothers, Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, YES, Ray Charles, Willie Nelson were right up there but the list goes on and on. Ray Charles played throughout our household continuously, and Willie Nelson, but that was me – my dad didn’t like Willie Nelson. He said he was nothing but a pothead. It’s a long-standing joke in our family.
Island Guide: How has that influenced you now as an adult, not the Willie story, but the musical influences?
Zak: I’m technically unemployed – ok, professionally unemployed. I play music for a living. It’s awesome.
Island Guide: Was there a point in your life when you decided that playing music was going to be your career? Tell us the story of how that decision came about.
Zak: My father, since I was very young, groomed me to be a professional golfer. When I turned 18 and graduated, I was getting hounded by him and numerous colleges about continuing into a life of golf. I knew in my heart that golf wasn’t where I wanted to go. That’s when I decided I was going to start a band. It was pretty much a rebellion thing.
Island Guide: What has been the biggest challenge to overcome being a musician?
Zak: (laughing) Lack of money.
Island Guide: Do you play covers and originals?
Zak: I am getting ready to release my 10th CD of original music, so that is our main focus obviously, but we do a lot of covers, and we always do them “our way.” Once you hear us play “that” cover, you’ll like our version better.
Island Guide: Do you write music? Tell us how the songwriting process happens.
Zak: Yes I do. It is quite a mystery and something that I don’t even want to question for fear that it might quit happening. Sometimes I am not even sure how it happens, and I am ok with that. It just does. Sometimes its very magical.
Island Guide: What influences you as a songwriter?
Zak: As cliche as it sounds – life and love. Even though that is worn out, it is very true for me as a songwriter to put those emotions into a song; those experiences are real to me. They mean something. Life and love both, are easy influences for my songwriting.
Island Guide: What is your favorite song to perform and why?
Zak: My favorite song to play is the last one I wrote, whatever that may be. I love the fresh feeling of a newly created song. It’s exciting.
Island Guide: What advice would you offer people who are just starting out, either individually or as a band. Everyone has a “first day.”
Zak: Be ready (and willing) to give up any sense of normalcy in your life. Stay humble, leave your ego at home. It’s all about the song. It’s all about the music.
Island Guide: Our 5 questions that we ask everyone: If you could pick one band to see live, living or dead, who would it be?
Zak: No question, Ray Charles.
Island Guide: What was the first album you remember purchasing?
Zak: Willie Nelson’s “Red Headed Stranger” when I was 14 years old.
Island Guide: What piece of music equipment can you simply not live without?
Zak: My voice.
Island Guide: 10 years from now, what would you like to be doing?
Zak: Growing green things.
Island Guide: If you could open up for any band right now, who would it be?
Zak: Led Zeppelin.
Island Guide: Any big announcements for 2018, big gigs, new music, new CD’s, etc?
Zak: Oh yeah, where do we start!
Zak Perry & the Beautiful Things will be having a CD Release Party Weekend for our new album “Marrow,” February 9th at the Poop Deck, and February 10th at Woody’s.
We will continue on with that the next weekend in Austin, where we will be live on KLBJ Radio promoting the new CD and our show that Saturday night at Hanover’s Draught House.
And of course, I have my long-standing residency every Friday night at the legendary Poop Deck, as well as hosting an open jam every Tuesday night at Sharky’s.
In mid-April, I will leave for an extended tour throughout Europe, where I will be accompanied by a European lineup of great friends and outstanding musicians, under the direction and design of FabCat MGMT and JoJo Concerts.
I will be back on American soil June 29th and 30th for the BearCat Getaway Music Festival on the beautiful Black River in Lesterville Missouri, located in the Mark Twain National Forest.
Island Guide: Anyone you want to thank?
Zak: The list could go on and on but a couple of ‘musts’ are: Glenda Taylor from Across the Stage, Martine and Fabrice Cat of FabCat MGMT, Catherine Stroud, Raul and Theresa at the Poop Deck for help putting my kid through high school, RockBottom George, and Boudreaux Barrow.
For more info on the band’s current gigs and where to access their music, be sure to visit:
- facebook.com/TheZakPerryBandFrenchFanClubOfficiel (French)