Interview with Perish By: Dennis M. Kelly
DK: Good day Perish, how are you?
PERISH: I’m quite well today, thank you for asking!
DK: I appreciate you taking time out of your day to chat with me. How has the new year been treating you so far?
PERISH: Thanks for having me! I’ve always loved Chicago (I actually almost moved here), so it’s incredible to be featured. 2018 has been a rollercoaster already, but I’m quite looking forward to the remainder of it!
DK: I am very sorry to hear that you did not end up moving here, you would have been most welcome in our music scene here and in great company. Please tell me a bit about yourself… what brought you from Detroit, to Nashville and then L.A.?
PERISH: Well, I was born and raised in Metro Detroit. I went to college in Nashville (Belmont University), so I moved there from Detroit the week I turned 18. I fell in love with the fact that it truly is Music City USA… and not just country music. But what I loved almost even more is that it still managed to push out all of the entertainment industry BS that you would find in LA or NYC. So I stuck around for a few years after college. Then, as I was approaching my 25th birthday, call it a quarter life crisis, I knew I needed to be challenged and pushed to grow not only as a human being, but also as an artist. The move happened quite quickly after that. Nashville will always be home to me, but no great stories or songs were ever created out of comfort.
DK: Me? I am a homebody and I am so impressed when I see artists like yourself (or Kimbra whom I also recently interviewed) pick up and move to a whole new area to start a new chapter in your life like that. Good for you! When did you start your music career and if it was while you were in Detroit and Nashville, what were those scenes like and how is the L.A. music scene working for you since you’ve been there?
PERISH: I fell in love with performing at the age of 4 or 5. I watched entirely too many music videos and taught myself the choreography and such, then started entering karaoke competitions. It’s quite embarrassing, but I used to wear a genie costume and performed… you guessed it… “Genie In A Bottle” with the original choreography. You could say I’ve always been a bit theatrical, hahaha.
So it’s no surprise that in school, I gravitated towards theatre. I think dance always came more innate to me than that of singing. So I loved that I could perform in a 360 way- singing, dancing, acting. Truth be told, I thought I was going to pursue Broadway after school, but by the time I graduated, I had fallen too in love with writing original songs that I couldn’t imagine spending years performing the same exact show every night, especially one that I hadn’t written.
DK: Yeah, that would be tough and I for one am thankful you chose the career path that you did. When did you write your first song?
PERISH: I called myself a “poet,” probably since the age of 7 or so. But I never put my writing into a singable format probably until around 15-16 when I started teaching myself guitar and piano.
DK: Perhaps you could look back one day on those poems and do a spoken word EP put to music and branch out to see where it would lead you. It would be most interesting to say the least. What is the songwriting process like for you? Do you write bits here and there when the inspiration hits? Or do you sit down to write at a specific allotment of time?
PERISH: It sounds cliche, but it truly all depends. I keep notes and voice notes on my phone when inspiration hits, and my best songs come from when I can build off of those. But sometimes, especially when you’re writing for another artist, it’s best to sit down (whether by myself or in a session) and knock everything out as one cohesive whole, but that often feels forced and not as organic. It really all depends what’s more important for the project. When I write for other artists, melody is typically where the attention lies, but with my own personal material, lyrics tend to mean more to me.
The past year, I’ve really dove into doing my own production, so that’s a whole other process in itself. A good writing day is sitting down with an empty project, then building the track and writing to it simutaneously. It’s rare, but when that happens, it feels like magic.
DK: Tell me a bit about your day-to-day and how you’re managing your career? Are you pretty regular in the time you invest with it or is it more safe to say that it is a 24 hour deal for you?
PERISH: By staying indie, I’m still living that LA artist lifestyle… AKA 3 jobs and still doing music full time. I’ve always been one to want to retain control on my career, so I don’t even have a manager at the moment. And while it’s great knowing that no one is more or less telling me what to do or say, it’s quite exhausting trying to be your own team, while still trying to work enough to fund your own career… and eat burritos.
DK: (laughs) What, no ramen? Well, rest assured, you’re not the only one going through that, I can tell you. Tell me about the PERISH ‘brand’ from your sound, image and merchandise, how does this all connect and extend from who you are as a person and artist?
PERISH: Well, my last name is actually Parish, but I’ve always been a dark writer, so changing it to the “e” version, meaning death, seemed like a no brainer. Everything I am as a person and as an artist is a sort of juxtaposition. So you’ll find a lot of opposites coincide: dark against light, pink against black. My favorite image is a dead rose, the balance of something beautiful, yet dead and cherished as such all the same. You’ll be seeing a lot of dead roses on upcoming merch.
DK: So, somewhere between the dark and the light, you’ll find PERISH, right? You’ve got two videos out now, the latest one for ‘No Way Out’, how involved are you in the video’s direction? How has the fan responses been to it as well?
PERISH: The video for “No Way Out” was my baby. I wrote it, co-produced it, and obviously starred in it. It was my first opportunity to begin discussing a theme you’ll find extremely prevalent in my upcoming releases… referring to mental illness, and my struggles with it. So it made sense to have my little hands around the whole thing, as it was my story to tell.
The fan response has been great and every single message I received thanking me for making them not feel like they were alone in their struggles… is exactly what my goal was. Mental illness has such a negative stigma still, that no one talks about it. We’re all so concerned with seeming perfect. Hell, as an artist, I feel that ten fold. But there’s great strength in vulnerability. Even if I had received just one message of someone explaining their struggles with depression or anxiety or suicidal thoughts, it would’ve been worth every second and blood of creating it.
DK: I think if we, as a society, spent more time helping people with issues like this, we’d all definitely be better off; a healthier society that can grow and achieve more as a whole. Thank you also PERISH for tackling this important topic and I sincerely hope that it helps many others who see it. How was it working with Brandon Smithson on it compared with J. Lockhart?
PERISH: Working with Josh (Lockhart) was absolutely wonderful, as was with Brandon. Every creative brings strengths to the table, whether in film or music or fine art, etc. But what was so significant was the difference in level of production. I filmed with Josh in Nashville, on a super small budget, so it was just him and I in an airport hanger making everything come to life the best we could with what we had. With Brandon, we filmed in LA, the land of film, so I had the awesome opportunity to have a bigger budget and crew. Both are fabulous and everyone should go hire them, like now!
DK: Would you say that you are a perfectionist when it comes to your career?
PERISH: Absolutely! But that’s something I’ve had to let go. I grew up idolizing pop stars… which are somewhat defined by the perception of perfection. It wasn’t until I started the PERISH project a little over a year ago, that I started to shed that idea of being perfect… and the need to rise to those expectations… and rather started focusing on being raw and honest and real…
DK: It is so dangerous to be a perfectionist sometimes, you can get to a point where you don’t create anything because nothing ever feels ‘good enough’ and yes, letting go of that perception is so important and actually, in some weird way helps get you to that very goal by just being perfected by simply ‘being yourself’. On your instagram, you’ve stated ‘Fuck being a star, I’d rather be an artist’, does that include a starving artist?
PERISH: Absofuckinglutely! Hahahaha. Continuing what I just said, it’s easy to be famous. It really is. If fame is your goal, it’s not difficult, especially in LA. I don’t want to go down this rabbit hole too deep, but just turn on your TV. There are very few “famous” people I see on it that I would consider an artist… let alone a great artist. Entertainment in manufactured. That’s why we hear the term selling out so often. But I try to make a conscious effort every day not to go down the easier road. And that often is paved with a lot of frozen $.40 burritos and Ramen.
DK: Ah! There’s the Ramen! (laughs)
PERISH: I’m not kidding, I live off of frozen burritos. I may or may not be eating one right now. (laughs)
DK: (laughs) I wouldn’t be surprised at all if you were eating one right now (laughs) and I might be eating a Hot Pocket now too… (laughs)
DK: (to you) does being a star mean you feel you’d not be able to be as artistic as you’d like?
PERISH: There are always exceptions, they’re not mutually exclusive concepts. But I do feel that if your focus is on being a star… it means your focus is on remaining desirable. That means that right out of the gate, you’re already talking yourself out of making yourself vulnerable… and its in vulnerability that all great art is made.
DK: Where your treasure is, there is your heart, or in this case, there is your ‘art’. What have been some of the more challenging aspects of your career?
PERISH: Money, money, money. Having a conscious often hinders me, especially in LA. I’ve created a set of ethics for myself, and it sometimes holds me back. Also, struggling with crippling manic depression and anxiety in an industry and city where the pressure never eases… every day feels like a battle. I won’t lie, there are mornings I wake up in a panic attack, and I tell myself, this is it. I’m out of here. Going home. Then I remember that music has always been my home. I would never be me without this. Then I think about all the sacrifices that both myself and my family have made to help me get to where I am, I will never let those be for naught.
DK: You should find a nice quiet suburb of LA where at least you can center yourself, but still be close enough to LA that you can keep your career going strong. What have been some hurdles that you’ve overcome that you didn’t think that you would have been able to?
PERISH: Honestly, everyday is a different hurdle with a different height. And sometimes I stop running and stare at it. And when I realize I’m letting it win, I jump anyways. And often times, I trip and fall flat on my ass… but then me and my bloody knees crawl around it to the next one. Hahaha.
DK: I think these days too, the way everything has been changing in our country, that definitely doesn’t help anyone but getting back up is certainly the key to achieving your goal; you will do it too, I know it. Might you happen to have any tips that could be helpful to other artists?
PERISH: If you could see yourself doing anything else with your life, go do that. Seriously. This shit isn’t easy. And if you can see yourself doing anything else, it means you’re not ready to bleed for it.
But if this is it for you, please, please, please… listen to your heart. Write your truth. Fuck everyone else. Don’t ever try to be what you think people want. Most people won’t get you, and that’s okay. Because the one’s that do… will fuckingggg get you. Never create with the idea of wanting to be “the next so and so” or the “female/male so and so.” You’re already failed yourself before you even grab your pen.
DK: The music industry is definitely not for the faint of heart. I’ve even deliberately not pushed my children towards going into music only because I (from experience) have known what it is like and would rather they know the reality of it first before contemplating a career in music. If they so desired to go with it still, I, of course would support them whole-heartedly, but I think understanding the scope of it is very important and definitely be original or don’t do it at all, I agree with you PERISH. Shifting on to your EP, “La Petite Mort”, how would you each song embodies the work as a whole?
PERISH: “La petite mort” means ‘the little death’ in French… also known as orgasm or a moment of transcendence. I actually didn’t name the project until I was sending it off for distribution. But each song, more or less, connects to tell the story of falling in deep love for the first time- the alternating sense of power and lack thereof, the bliss, the comedown. It all sounded like… la petite mort, to me. Haha.
DK: Very aptly named and sure to grab people’s attention! How long did it take you to write and record it?
PERISH: As I mentioned, I truly prefer to write when inspiration hits rather than when it’s forced, so I’d had a list of songs I had written before I’d even gotten into the studio [with Jon Santana.] There were some in-studio tweaks, but mostly the hard part was choosing which songs to record. In fact, The High Road was never supposed to even be on the record. It was just a little singer-songwriter acoustic type track that I had written. But one morning session, it was raining in Nashville, and I told Jon I needed to make something sad that day… and I began going through recent acoustic songs and THR was the first one I played him. We tracked the whole thing that day. In fact, the final vocals on it were the demo vocals from that day.
We recorded the EP quite quickly, in a handful of sessions. It was right before I moved to LA, so we were on a bit of a time crunch.
DK: Now that the EP has been out there for a little while now, how do you feel about each song in relation to when you wrote them, the same? Or do they feel different to you now?
PERISH: I feel like I have to preface that I love and am proud of the EP… however, that feels like a different life and a different PERISH ago. I think I was still trying to live up to this idea in my head of what a “cool pop” artist should sound like. Plus I’d written some of those songs over 2 years ago… that’s a long time in writer years haha.
The upcoming music you’ll be hearing this year, especially now that I’m producing myself, is quite different. It’s not as polished, it’s not as filtered… but I think I’m proud of it more for that. It’s all me. And all of me sometimes isn’t that pretty.
DK: Well, it captured a chapter of your life, very important and very much who you are and it will be great to see how that chapter influences this new chapter of music you’re producing now. You’ve gone through a lot of change and growth and seeing that infused into your music will be magic! How often do you perform and how would you describe your live performances?
PERISH: I MISS BEING ON STAGE. When doing digitally produced material, it always requires getting in the studio and finishing the said production first. Right as I’d finished the EP, I’d moved to LA. So… there have been some delays. But 2018 will be PERISH live, I promise you that.
With this being said, I miss Nashville and playing acoustic songwriters’ rounds. They often filled in my void between live shows.
DK: Well, I expect to see a show in Chicago early this year, OK? What else do you have going on for 2018?
PERISH: Right now, I’m gearing up to release a couple remixes off of “La Petite Mort” before I close that chapter.
DK: Nice, I will be looking forward to that as well!
PERISH: Then next month, I’ll start releasing my first set of self-produced singles. There will be at least two longer EPs, if not 3, of the songs I’ve been inspired to write in my first year of LA life. I’m also doing a collaboration project with a hip-hop friend of mine, Ben Oakes, that I’m also producing on. I’ve got a handful of collaborations with producers I admire. And I’m writing for some other artists as well. You can be expecting new PERISH every month.
But most importantly… 2018 = live. Ah! I can’t wait.
DK: Thank you very much for having taken the time with me again Perish, I sincerely appreciate it!
PERISH: Thank you so, so much for having me and letting me ramble for a good while. Cheers!
Biography: Indie singer-songwriter-producer PERISH is the sensitive femme fatale, right down to her name. After being raised in Detroit and living in Nashville for 7 years, her eclectic set of influences helped create a fluid sound: dark-sensual pop, weighted by clever lyricism. Now living in LA, her self-written independent debut La Petite Mort with Nashville producer Jon Santana was released October 13th, 2017, with a self-produced sophomore already in the works for Spring 2018.