Mark Perry doesn’t just live in northwestern B.C. – he sings about it too.
Perry, who runs a small horse farm outside Smithers with his wife Jane, will be sharing stories and songs inspired by this part of the province this Friday (Sept. 21) when he comes to Quesnel to celebrate the release of his 11th album.
Perry recorded his first album in 1990 with his West Coast hero Roy Forbes, went on to open shows for Connie Kaldor on her Western Canada tour and produced 11 successful albums, the most recent, Right Here, recorded in Whitehorse with Jordy Walker.
As a child growing up in the 1970s in Smithers, Perry got his start when he tuned into “the scratchy, hard-to-pick-up late-night radio waves coming from Vancouver and heard CCR, the Rolling Stones, Eric Burdon and Gordon Lightfoot,” according to his biography.
He learned to play guitar and began writing songs. In between raising a family and working for the Canadian railroad, Perry continued to perform and record songs written mostly about the people, landscapes and history of rural Canada. Perry’s songs cover everything from the triumphs of playing hockey on frozen lakes to the legacy of our Japanese internment camps and the tragedy of a sinking passenger ferry in the middle of the night.
Perry feels it’s important to share the stories – past and present – of the people and landscape around him.
“When you think about what’s gone on, I’m just trying to get some of the folklore out there, and it feels right,” he says.
Perry says the old saying “write about what you know” is part of why his songs are so inspired by rural life in northwestern B.C.
“I feel very authentic when I write about it,” he says. “There are amazing people everywhere, and the landscapes, and everyone has a story. It’s quite easy for me to write here because I’m inspired by the landscape and the people. There’s so much in the Northwest. It’s a beautiful landscape and fantastic, interesting people everywhere.”
Perry finds it interesting to see how people connect and relate to his music when he tours.
“We have way more in common than separate,” he says. “The stories might be altered because of landscape, but they’re people stories. If you live in West Vancouver, you might not be able to relate to songs I sing about ‘Gumboot Girls’, but I’ve played a lot in Vancouver and had good response. You know Stan Rogers and Ron Hynes, he’s one of my favourite songwriters. He’s from back east, and a lot of his songs are about back east, but they’re heartfelt. A lot of his songs are heartfelt, and they are real, and that’s kind of what we aim for, right?”
Perry released his 11th album, Right Here, this spring.
“A lot of it is the landscape and people of the Northwest,” he says.
Another thing that excites Perry about this new album is that it features several musicians from northwestern B.C., such as Tobin Frank and Rachelle van Zanten.
Musicians from Whitehorse, Yukon, are featured on the album as well.
“I’m very connected there because I played a lot of music there,” he says. “[The album] has a very Northwest-y vibe, and a lot of the players are from there too.”
When he performs in Quesnel, Perry will be joined by Ian Olmstead, who plays bass and accordion and sings, and Mark Thibeault, who plays steel guitar and guitar.
Perry performs Friday, Sept. 21 at The Occidental at 8 p.m.
To learn more about Perry, visit markperry.ca.