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Rose Cora Perry: HER Life, HER Sound, HER Music

Rose Cora Perry by Mystery Man Photography

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Rose Cora Perry: HER Life, HER Sound, HER Music

ph. MYSTERY MAN PHOTOGRAPHY

Rose Cora Perry: HER Life, HER Sound, HER Music

As human beings, we tend to accomplish a few things before we turn fifteen. Most of us will have discovered cigarettes, music, alcohol and the gender/s we’re attracted to. We know which subjects we enjoy at school and we know that we hate school — or love school — with a passion as strong as the fires of a thousand suns. What a lot of us don’t know is what we want to do with our lives. At fifteen, Rose Cora Perry founded her own label to release her then-band’s first album, penned that album, and took on all of the menial publicity tasks you have to have a shitton of patience for.

Rose Cora Perry is a rocker, an entrepreneur, a writer, a badass, and one crazy smart and talented woman. Hailing from The Other London — part of our commonwealth sistership and apparently where all of the people who say “Sorry” went — Rose has been on the scene for a long time now and she’s seen a lot in the realms of gender inequality and sexism, covered in article The Oxymoron of Being Both a Female Musician & a Feminist. Well worth the read.

As well as all of those things, she’s an endorsed artist for Daisy Rock Guitars; a guitar company founded by Los Angeles-based bassist badass, Tish Ciravolo, whose guitars are designed with women in mind. Lighter bodies, smaller necks, everything that makes dudes think the instrument resembles anything other than the female form. Through that, Rose has acquired a sponsorship deal with Blackstar Amps, and she still uses her number one Daisy Rock to this day.p

I spoke to Rose about everything from how she got into music, how she thrust herself into the spotlight of manager, press person, and bandleader all in one breath, at the age where a lot of us were drinking cheap cider behind a funeral home. Yes, I’m talking about myself, and non, je ne regrette rien. Settle in for a hilarious, warm, and invigorating chat with one of The Other London’s finest.

You formed your own record label at the fledgling age of fifteen, how did that all come to be?

My first band, HER – an all-girl rock project formed with high school friends – was on the brink of releasing our debut album. As the daughter of two successful tremendously hard-working entrepreneurs, I saw my parents build their businesses from the ground up.

One of the first lessons I ever learned was that if you want to be taken seriously in any industry, you need to approach everything with professionalism. I thought it only made sense to found my own label through which we could release our debut so that industry professionals and our peers alike wouldn’t just see us as a bunch of “kids” in another “high school band”.

One day my hope is to be able to offer management and publicity services/advice to aspiring young female musicians – hence the namesake, HER Records (ie: it was always intended to have a pro-sisterhood orientation).

 

“Life is genuinely better with distortion.”

 

Did you teach yourself how to play guitar before you decided on starting your label up?

It kinda all happened around the same time period: in my mid-teens. Without getting into the gory details, the impetus behind me learning to play guitar was actually due to one of my contemporaries making hurtful comments toward me, telling me I’d never be “good” enough to play anything.

I was still studying vocals at the time – something I started when I was four – but despite my best efforts at experimenting with other instruments, nothing stuck until I was hurt, pissed off and properly motivated to give the axe a try. I haven’t looked back since and I continue to work on my craft. The sound of distortion truly is music to my ears.

Running the label also meant you had to teach yourself the ins, outs, and everything else of stuff that a lot of bands — even ten years ago — had other people do for them. You managed the band(s) and taught yourself what good promotion and publicity were.  Have those things you learned when you were practically still a kid at all come in handy to you in your career as a musician?

Absolutely! I cannot emphasize enough that every musician should learn these skills for him/herself. Again, if my upbringing taught me anything, it’s that if you truly want something done right, you’ll do the best job yourself as you won’t find another person as invested in your success as you are.

Don’t get me wrong: being DIY is a ton of work. In fact, the work never stops as you need to constantly be on the lookout for possibilities to further your career. However, if you’re well-versed in how your industry works, you will avoid a lot of scams and pitfalls that far too many artists fall victim to. As most musicians don’t have unlimited resources, this is very, very important.

Study your craft but, equally, study the business.

 

“Study your craft but, equally, study the business.”

 

★ What kind of music were you surrounded by when you were a kid? Would you say that inspired you to want to follow a career in the music industry?

In truth, I was surrounded by a rather bizarre combination of tuneage which is probably why my music draws from such diverse influences.

My dad is a classic rocker so there was lots of Deep Purple, Jovi, Sabbath and Hendrix. As my mom was a fitness trainer, a huge part of her musical library was devoted to dance/pop acts like 2 Unlimited, Madonna and MJ. My brother — who is a couple of years older than me — is the one responsible for introducing me to grunge; and my vocal coaches, well, they wanted me to listen to Broadway tunes, torch style singing, and jazz standards so I heard a lot of fabulous singers like Sarah Brightman, Ella Fitzgerald, and Frank Sinatra.

Of course, trading CDs and cassettes with pals or making highly sought after mixtapes was a common practice in my formative years which also introduced me to a wide variety of bands. When I studied the “History of Rock’n’Roll” and the progression of “Jazz to Blues to Rock” in college, my musical library broadened even further.

I admittedly had a childhood Spice Girls phase (Posh Forever! Don’t judge. They are by far one of the most cleverly marketed groups in the history of pop music! Musicians – you can learn something from studying that example) which was later overtaken by an obsession with female fronted bands and women rockers like Scratching Post, Veruca Salt, Alanis Morissette (heck yes!), No Doubt, Garbage, The Cardigans (I could go on…the 90s was such a rich decade of music!)

In terms of my own career, I’ve been inspired by each of these incredible artists in one way, shape, or form and I consider myself lucky to have been raised on such a diversified catalogue as I feel the best songwriters don’t limit themselves sonically.

With that said, as a kid, I never really saw myself becoming a “rock” musician. It just sort of happened…randomly at a talent show at which I was performing Think of Me from Phantom of the Opera to a karaoke track. True story.

You’ve drawn comparisons to artists like Alanis Morissette and Joan Jett, were they influences to you then? Whether they were or not, who did influence you?

As a Canadian growing up in the 90s, Alanis is and continues to be a major influence of mine. I adore the unique tone and power of her voice — in fact, I credit her with defining how certain words have come to be pronounced by rock vocalists, in general — not to mention her smart lyricism. She is a brilliant soul.

As for Ms. Jett, she’s definitely another one of my influences. She owns the stage and I admire her down-to-earth attitude. She may be a rock goddess, but she certainly has never let it go to her head. Like any true punk rocker, for her, it’s just about the music – the way it should be.

In terms of my favourite band (and biggest influence) of all time? Hands down, the credit goes to Nina Gordon and Louise Post of Veruca Salt.

Seeing them propel through the air – axes in hand – in the Volcano Girls music video was a life-changing moment. I wanted to learn how to be that bad ass…it wasn’t long after I started inciting mosh pits of my own.

 

“I adore the unique tone and power of her voice — in fact, I credit her with defining how certain words have come to be pronounced by rock vocalists, in general — not to mention her smart lyricism.”

[on Alanis Morissette]

 

In regards to Alanis, how many copies of Jagged Little Pill did you go through because you played it that much? (Was that just me?)

Oh man, I actually have to replace my most recent copy as it won’t play anymore!!! So, at this point, probably at least 10.

★ Being from Canada, which is kind of the mecca for indie artists — or was at a specific point in time with Feist, Metric, BSS — were you inspired by any of your contemporaries?

I admire any Canadian band who has risen to success. Trying to make it here is a heck of a lot harder: there are fewer performance opportunities and fewer industry connections. Because our country is so expansive, it’s also REALLY expensive to try and tour coast-to-coast.

I think this is a key reason as to why a lot of Canadian bands who “break” focus on winning over the US or UK markets first. Us Canucks too tend to be a bit conservative so until something is “proven” elsewhere, we’re less inclined to jump on the proverbial bandwagon.

Were you influenced by different artists as far as songwriting or vocals vs guitar style go?

Yes and no. I have general influences that affected/continue to affect each aspect of creating an artistic work as well as those that really helped me hone a specific skill in relation to my development as a “rock” musician (this list is by no means exhaustive):

Songwriting: Chris Cornell, Veruca Salt, Courtney Love, Scratching Post

Vocals: Alanis, Pat Benatar, Natalie Imbruglia, Chantal Kreviazuk, Steven Tyler, Freddie Mercury, Bon Jovi, Dance Hall Crashers, Norah Jones, Sarah Brightman, Loreena McKennitt

Guitar: Veruca Salt (yes again!), Joan Jett, Silverchair, The Offspring, Blink 182

 

“When I first came across her image, I was immediately taken by her stunning features: the glistening gold body and the detailed vine inlay tattooed down the length of her slender neck. I went with my gut. I guess you could call it “love at first strum”.

[on her first guitar]

 

★ On the topic of guitars, you have a pretty long-standing endorsement relationship with Tish Ciravolo’s Daisy Rock Guitars which were the first guitars that were designed more for women than for men (slimmer neck, lighter weight, etc) a little like the new St. Vincent signature Ernie Ball. As a guitarist with boobs and a dodgy shoulder from lugging a guitar about myself, all I can say with stuff like that is, “YES. God, yes.” How did you get involved with Daisy Rock?

Honestly, it was as simple as approaching them directly with a pitch about who I was and why I wanted to be affiliated with their fantastic product line. Mind you, that was back in the pre-social media days but I was a young aspiring rocker and they were still in their infancy as a company.

We both saw a potential relationship as mutually beneficial: I got wicked guitars to perform with and they got their first Canadian artist to represent their brand. It’s been about 15 years since that relationship began and I feel very grateful for their support of my career over the years.

★ Is your go-to/signature guitar a Daisy Rock? 

Yes, most definitely!

Prior to discovering Daisy Rock, I attempted to play both a Gibson SG and a Fender Strat. While both are considered “industry standard” guitars and are great guitars, they’re simply too heavy for a petite female like myself. After a 45 minute set, my shoulder and back would be killing me. That, in turn, restricted my mobility and was affecting my overall performance.

I was genuinely excited when I first learned about Daisy Rock – that there was a company that specializes in making a product line that is lightweight and easier to maneuver for female players.

I still play the very same model of Daisy Rock I originally fell in love with: The Stardust Elite Venus.

I like to approach this question as I would a friend in a committed relationship, because it’s not entirely different, despite involving less fighting: What’s the love story between you and your main guitar? How did you meet? How did you know it was The One?

Well, then I shall have to answer as though I were referring to a romantic partner!

We first became aware of each other through a print advertisement. We were each in the market for a genuine connection – a relationship wherein we complemented each other’s strengths. I had “entertained” similar models at a local music store so I was already well-acquainted with the lightweight body and playability the lineage has become known for. It seemed like a good fit.

When I first came across her image, I was immediately taken by her stunning features: the glistening gold body and the detailed vine inlay tattooed down the length of her slender neck. I went with my gut. I guess you could call it “love at first strum”.

When my mail-order “bride” arrived, hearing her sweet voice for the first time confirmed I had made the right choice. I promptly bestowed the name “Glamour” upon her.  We’ve been partners-in-crime ever since.

★ Do you play any other instruments?

I consider myself a vocalist/songwriter first and foremost and a guitarist secondary to that, but I also dabble with a bit of bass guitar and once upon a time, I attempted — though failed miserably — at trying to master the violin.

I regret not listening to my vocal coach’s prompting to learn piano as a kid, but one never knows what the future may hold!

Rose Cora Perry by Mystery Man Photography★ Your affiliation with Daisy Rock Guitars eventually led to a deal with Blackstar amps. Can you tell us how that came about?

This past spring, I received an invitation to apply for a showcase at Summer NAMM (Nashville) on behalf of Daisy Rock Guitars. I was thrilled to proudly represent the brand and even more excited when I discovered that my band — The Truth Untold — was the only Canadian act invited to perform.

When I first formed The Truth Untold in early 2016, I wasn’t exactly sure what direction we’d go in musically. I knew I didn’t want to do the singer-songwriter-acoustic thing again as it didn’t suit me well, but I wasn’t sure about what kind of live sound I wanted to convey. After a couple of rehearsals, it didn’t take long for me to acknowledge that life is genuinely better with distortion and so next came a hunt for the “perfect” amp sound.

I had always been partial to Peaveys but wanted a fresher sound which reflected how I’ve grown as a songwriter and solo artist since my days fronting my former band, Anti-Hero. My drummer and I visited all of the music shops in town, testing out every amp we could get our hands on. It was a quick “no” to all of them until I discovered the Blackstar HT Soloist 60. Just like with my guitar, “Glamour”, I fell in love.

Once we received confirmation we were headed to NAMM — which is the biggest music industry products conference in the US for those unfamiliar with the acronym — it became my mission to see if an artist relationship was a possibility with Blackstar. I was beyond excited and honoured to discover that when we got there, our performance was penciled into their schedule!

 

“A few months ago, I was at a music store and the owner made sure to give me the specific instruction that if I wanted an amplifier to work, I needed to plug in a patch cord. You don’t say? All these years I thought they functioned because of my telepathic powers.”

 

★ And they helped fix you up when you weren’t able to play your rig at NAMM, what happened there? Why weren’t you able to use it and how did the Blackstar offer come about?

NAMM, like most major music industry conferences, has a very strict backline policy. They’d had previous noise complaints which resulted in them limiting all wattage on amps to 40 or less. My HT Soloist 60 is — you guessed it — 60 watts and so I was not permitted to play it and instead had to select one of the amps from the provided backline: a Marshall or a Peavey.

As I’ve already indicated, I’m partial to Peaveys so I searched locally for a comparable model to the provided backline in order to prepare my settings in advance so I wouldn’t be doing the showcase “blind”, especially given its importance. When we arrived in Nashville, the plan was to use the provided backline.

Well… our performance was on Friday and on Thursday, we had allocated time in our schedule to “schmooze” with vendors and issue invitations to our showcase. One of our first stops, of course, was the Blackstar booth.

When I explained how much I adore their amps and that I was sad I wasn’t going to be able to truly represent our sound at our showcase, they graciously offered to provide me with an amp for the gig. My little rock’n’roll heart skipped a beat!

So, gig day comes along and as we’re preparing to take the stage, I have the whole Blackstar crew (whom I’d just met!) escorting the lender stage amp out for me, and staying to witness our performance.

I feel so incredibly grateful and fortunate for this entire experience. They’re wonderful people who make amazing products and I’m excited about future possibilities of working together.

What’s your vision with The Truth Untold, and how did you come up with the name?

I had a decent amount of success with my previous bands, HER and Anti-Hero, and I’d like to be able to take things to the next level. I feel very fortunate to be joined by such incredible talents: my drummer Tyler Randall and our sound woman/touring bassist Amber Gorham. We make a great team and are all equally ambitious and hardworking. I have high hopes and can’t wait to see what the future holds.

The name of our band is a reference to the lyrics in the chorus of my song, “Curtains Close” from my new album, “Onto the Floor”. The lyrics state, “I wish that there was a cure for growing up and growing old and learning truths I wish I was never told.” In a nutshell, the song is about losing one’s sense of childhood naïveté and idealism as well as struggling with the disenchantment we experience when we learn that opportunities and accolades are often not based on merit but instead things like nepotism or wealth.

And you got to open for SmashMouth!

We surely did and yes, they still bring it! Beyond the amazing experience that NAMM was, obviously it goes without saying the other major highlight of our summer tour was performing at Pittsburgh’s Three Rivers Regatta (again as the only Canadians!) as one of the opening acts for SmashMouth. There may or may not be video footage of me dancing on stage with them too. It was a blast and again we are truly grateful for the opportunity.

 

“Never be apologetic for being a woman or a musician. If you face any flack, in the words of one of my childhood heroes, Nicole Hughes (Scratching Post), “Just rock past it”.”

 

★ You received a bunch of accolades for a trilogy of videos you shot for “Onto the Floor”. Tell us about those? What’s the story behind them? How does it differ from the songs?

The music video trilogy series, like my songs, is based on true events from my own life. Featuring the first three singles from my album, “Away I Go”, “Six Feet Under” and “Empty”, I wanted to be able to connect with my audience in a deeper and more meaningful way by sharing a little piece of my artistic journey with them.

The plotline recalls the story of a younger version of me being betrayed by a former love in an effort to bolster his own career, and how that betrayal, in turn, affected me on a personal and artistic level. Symbolically, my character in the series, HER – named in homage to my first band – dies and is later reborn as a consequence of these events.

HER’s death is meant to represent the death of that relationship/closing of that chapter in my life, while HER’s “resurrection” illustrates the journey I underwent in order to become the solo artist I am today.

The struggle that HER’s “heart” undergoes in “purgatory”  between darkness and light is meant to depict the inner battle one experiences following a traumatic episode (ie: do I allow myself to be consumed by hatred, guilt, and bitterness? In other words, do I allow the darkness to overtake me? OR can I move forward with strength and wisdom gained from having gone through this experience and a renewed energy/“light” to rediscover who I want to be/should become?)

Rose Cora Perry by Mystery Man Photography★ I ask this a lot because it seems to come up whenever I have conversations with other guitar players or well, just any other female musician really. Have you ever had a moment where a man has talked down to or at you when it comes to guitar or gear stuff?

Sadly this happens all the time. As a female entering a venue alongside your bandmates, you’ll often hear mumblings from male musicians that you must be the groupie girlfriend, merch girl, or are only in the band for your “sex appeal”.

A few months ago, I was at a music store and the owner made sure to give me the specific instruction that if I wanted an amplifier to work, I needed to plug in a patch cord. You don’t say? All these years I thought they functioned because of my telepathic powers.

As a rhythm guitarist, I personally have been made to feel like I was “less than” my male guitarist counterparts because I wasn’t constantly wailing leads. But wait a minute…I never actually wanted to learn lead so why the hell are you trying to make me feel bad about being a solid rhythm player?

Likewise, I’ve experienced similar things with soundmen trying to tell me how to properly use my microphone, amp, and pedals. I had one guy go so far as to say that before every gig during soundcheck, I need to move my amp around to different areas in the venue to determine what my tone settings should be.

Yes, stage volume should absolutely be adjusted depending upon the size of the venue at which you’re playing, but I’m pretty sure if you told Angus Young that his overdrive was too high for a given venue, he’d flip you the bird and tell you as the sound guy to do your job. A band’s sound is a band’s sound. A sound person’s job is to make it work for the venue.

What advice have you been given along the way that you’d pass down to other girls (or boys, both, or neither) to help them avoid giving up or to keep going?

First and foremost, I think all musicians should be supportive of each other. It makes me extremely sad when I see cattiness and competition between aspiring bands. We are all fighting for the same thing and we absolutely should celebrate each other’s successes, learn from each other’s mistakes and collectively contribute to making things more equitable for working artists. Undercutting each other or starting flame wars don’t do anything to enhance your local scene nor does it reflect well on you. Be a professional and treat others as professionals.

In terms of supporting and encouraging aspiring women and embracing sisterhood among my fellow rock women? Yes, yes and heck yes. If it weren’t for the incredible women who came before me and challenged the boundaries of what female performers can and “should” do, I wouldn’t have had the crazy notion that maybe one day I could wail on a guitar and sing in a rock band.

The reality is that young girls are still very much socialized to feel inferior to boys – as though they should be “submissive” and only valued for their “beauty” over their brains or talent. In a male-dominated industry like the music biz, these unfortunate “traditional” gender roles are extremely pronounced and reinforced.

The best lesson I ever learned from my female predecessors and one I’d like to pass onto aspiring young women rockers is to quite simply never be apologetic for being a woman or a musician. If you face any flack, in the words of one of my childhood heroes, Nicole Hughes (Scratching Post), “Just rock past it”.

★ Lastly, what are your Desert Island Discs?

  • Alanis Morissette: Jagged Little Pill
  • Aerosmith: Get a Grip
  • Veruca Salt: American Thighs

What’s next for Rose Cora Perry and the Truth Untold?
You’ll just have to wait and see!!!

FIND ROSE CORA PERRY ONLINE

FACEBOOK | TWITTER | INSTAGRAM | WEBSITE

Rose Cora Perry has three visions she hopes to achieve as an artist: to inspire, to provoke thought, and to relate.

She has and is.

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A proudly queer, freelance music journalist, Em splits her time between Durham and London. When she's not at a gig, mouth-agape, she'll be camped outside of a Parisian bistro taking photographs of strangers. The little pleasures in life are the most meaningful to her: Her dog, family-and-extended, and Milkybar buttons. Her motto -- a snippet from Alexander Pope's Essay on Man -- is, "hope springs eternal."

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