INTERVIEW: Glen Perkins

photo by Travis Ilapit
photo by Travis Ilapit

16 Clefs is happy to sit down with Glen Perkins: producer/writer of “Collecting” by Chris Richardson,  producer of 6 songs off of the new Jolley Brothers album, and executive producer at Grim Town Records.

I had the fortunate chance to meet Glen in 2012 when he was playing with Chris Richardson during a radio tour and have been following him along in his career since then.

Without further ado, Universe, please meet Glen Perkins.

For those that don’t know anything about you, who is Glen Perkins and what do you do? I am a musician, actor and record producer from Virginia Beach, VA (originally from Sewanee, TN). For over a decade now, I have been producing mainly R&B, Pop, Rap and Dance/Electronic music for local artists and record labels. I’ve also taken an interest in scoring film, an ambition for which I give credit to film composer Hans Zimmer. One of his compositions called “Time”, the main theme from the movie Inception, left me so inspired that I forced myself to, not just learn it, but to also re-create it, from the ground up, using my own sounds and instruments. I reproduced the whole thing and published on my Soundcloud all in a single afternoon whilst my (now) ex-wife & daughter had gone to the water park for the day.

How did you get into the music business? As a teenager I got an internship with legendary record producer Teddy Riley at the same studio where Pharrell & Chad Hugo (aka The Neptunes) got their start in the music business. Actually a pretty funny (and cool) story is that I was there that fateful night when Pharrell & Chad were “discovered” by Riley. It was at a Princess Anne High School talent show, the one which MY band “RubberBand” actually won!

When did you know you had something special with what you were creating? Just now, when you told me! THANKS! Haha… nah, that’s a good question though and I am having trouble finding a good answer! My earliest memory of having any sort of feeling that there may be something special about me was when I was 15 years old. I was at my favorite guitar store at the time, A&E Music, jamming out some arpeggio sweeps on my electric guitar in the middle of the store and one of the store employees, “Dave”, a guy who I looked up to as a kid and respected immensely, practically ran over to me from across the store as he was saying “wow, oh my Go- DO THAT AGAIN!”. He freaked even more after asking how old I was! That moment gave me very critical validation in that I learned that all those hours spent in my bedroom practicing guitar, sometimes even until my fingers were bleeding (literally) were not for naught and that there was actually an end-benefit to dedicating yourself to something.

Describe the essence of Glen Perkins in five (5) words? Creative, Patient, Persistent, Cool, Swaaagggggg

What do you enjoy the most about producing? Hands down… the “bounce”. That’s the part where I’ve finished everything that needs to be done. I’ve exhausted all my ideas. I have hit ‘Save’ for the final time and it’s time to sit back and listen to what I’ve created all the way through as the final bounce is recorded and rendered to disk. At this point I feel a strong sense of accomplishment and satisfaction knowing I have just created something of ‘value’ out of thin air.

What other producers, songwriters and/or artists do you see as your primary inspirations? My answer would be different depending on which period of my life we are talking about. As a kid it was my dad (Glen Perkins, Nashville-based singer/songwriter, under Warner Chappell Music in the early 80s) and his music that got me interested in songwriting and music production. When I worked for Teddy, his style and methods influenced me greatly, especially given the fact that I was able to sit in the studio with him and actually watch him work. Also I got to work with Chad & Pharrell back in the day when their trademark ‘thing’ was to always be wearing Hawaiian shirts and then, watching them blow up to end up becoming the most renowned producers in the world in the early/mid 2000s was definitely inspiring and kept me going because I got to see first-hand that it WAS possible to “make it” being just a kid from Virginia Beach. A few years later, the same thing happened with Benny Blanco (Ben Levin), who used to work with one of my best friends & production partners, Andredi (Partha Ray) and me out of Andredi’s studio in Herndon, VA. This was back when Benny was still in high school. After he graduated, he moved to New York and ended up getting an internship with Dr Luke, next thing we know, Benny was one of the top producers in the world with something like 20+ # 1 singles under his belt! Again, to witness a colleague rise out of nothing to achieve super-stardom like this, can be incredibly inspirational and motivate you like nothing else or it can do the exact opposite, depending on how much confidence you have in yourself. Another producer friend of mine, Jai Marlon, inspires me every time I hear something new that he’s done. He’s so good it’s almost not of this Earth! But, all in all, I’d have to say my biggest inspiration when I was first getting started in record production back in the day, was Philadelphia-based producer “St Paul” (Paul Dunnaville). He was the one who taught me how to produce a record from start to finish. I am grateful for him.

As an artist and songwriter, I’m mostly inspired by Prince, Phil Collins, George Michael, Donnell Jones, Michael Jackson and Mint Condition. In college I listened to a LOT of Mint Condition. Stokely, the lead singer for Mint Condition is, to-this-date, the most amazing singer I’ve ever heard, in my opinion. As a singer, he’s the guy I want to be just as good as one day!

What is distinctive about a Glen Perkins production? I like to sample my voice and either chop it up and tune it, in order to make an instrument out of it or find a neat place to loop it so it adds a different element to the track, one that would be difficult to re-create. Since I’m a rather adept guitarist as well as vocalist, I tend to also go through the same process with my guitar – either electric or acoustic – whatever fits the track that I’m working on.

What do you enjoy the most about writing? As I believe most writers would say, I enjoy being able to have an outlet to express my thoughts and emotions. That is to say, those thoughts & emotions that I would never make public in typical conversation. For example, recently, I went through a rather painful divorce – one that was not of my choosing, although in retrospect, it probably was my fault. But throughout that experience, I was able to cope with all the pain and emotional trauma that I was feeling through creative expression. For me, that was writing songs and making music based on the way I felt. It proved rather effective. The typical human tendency is to mask heartache or distract oneself from it. However, through my music and writing, I was able to actually embrace the pain. I allowed myself to soak it all in and took that opportunity to really examine and explore what I was feeling at that moment. Also, every artist must endure suffering before they can be great. It is with that faith that I knew, even in the darkest hours, there would be a light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The album I am working on will be a testament to my experience.

You are socially active, do you think that online presence is important for fans to find you or the artists you are working with and critics to find your music to write about? I have heard or seen an artist before and been intrigued enough for me to take time to seek them out on the internet (which is an extremely rare occurrence for me to seek out another artist) and found nothing. I moved on. With that said, I think having an online presence is absolutely paramount to achieving success as an artist today. If you want your passion to be your profession, you must give consideration to how those who don’t know you as a person are going to find you.

What do you think about online music sharing? Do you ever give your music away for free? Why? At this stage in my career, the primary directive is to build a fan-base. If and when I do give my music for free, it is with the intention of seducing the listener into being ‘okay’ with spending a few bucks for a ticket to see my show. It’s just the way the industry is nowadays and, in my opinion, that is neither good nor bad. It is what it is. With that said, if an artist doesn’t make any money, then they won’t be able to continue to produce at their optimum level. That is why, as an artist, it’s so important to build that relationship with your fans because they will only be there to support you just for as long as they rely on your art to support them (in whatever way it does). I publish my music to where listeners and potential fans can go and listen …for free. However, the songs that I make for sale will have something extra about them, but that will make it worth the small expense.

There are music fans that change what they like as often as they change underwear, in your opinion how does an artist in this day and age connect and make them a fan for life/stand out among the cookie cutter bands? Fans will stay true to an artist who stays true to him/herself. “Cookie Cutter” bands and acts are useful in that they generate revenue for the label, a career springboard for the producer and/or writer and fame (and maybe a little income) for the performer. But eventually, only the true talent will emerge from those acts and stay relevant. Hopefully, the others have a good head on their shoulders and are able to figure out what they really want to do with the rest of their lives before their money runs out. But as for the true musical artists who emerge from those cookie cutter groups or those artists who simply emerge from complete obscurity, all they have to do is listen to their intuition when it comes to creating music that THEY like and, as long as their music is of the same source and consistent, there will be a market for it. I believe that fans are fans of a particular artist because they share a common taste in music with that artist. Artists mainly lose fans when they switch their shit up! But if the artist keeps their trust in that original source from where their music was originally inspired, and let their sound evolve naturally, the fans (who still share that ‘something’ in common with the artist) will evolve right along with them and remain fans.

Any chance you’ll be releasing your own EP/LP in 2014? Pretty darn good chance I’d say (wink wink)

In 2013, you released/shared the track, “Solid Ground” what inspired you to write/compose the song? I give all the credit for that song to two of my closest friends with whom I collaborated on it, Justin Perry Reed (lyricist) and Jai Marlon (producer) . Justin had some great & deep lyrics on which the song was based. He was sitting behind me on the couch whilst I sat at my workstation with my microphone (we both had headphones on)…he would come up with a line and then feed it to me. I would work out the melody and how it would be sung. I’d lay it down and he’d give me the next line. We wrote several songs together like that. We sent Jai Marlon the acapella and he sent back such an amazing track that really captured the essence of that song. When you ask what was the inspiration for that song, I’d say hands down, it was great friendships built on trust and respect for each other and his talents.

You have worked with Chris Richardson, any other artist you’d like to work with? Because I have songs that would fit them perfectly à Miguel, Robin Thicke, J.T. and the Biebz (say what you want about him, but go back to his YouTube videos…he’s got raw talent)

Do you have a favorite musical project that you’ve worked on? My brother Stu Perkins’ EP … it’s going to be epic. I recently shared one of his songs we did called “We Are Soldiers”. It speaks for itself.

Do you have advice for young people who want to become producers? Don’t try to reinvent the wheel .. YET… find someone who’s work you admire and emulate them.

What do you like to do for fun outside of working on music? I have recently started acting. I enjoy it because it allows me to explore different parts of my personality I may not typically have easy access to in real life.

Need more Glen Perkins in your life: Facebook | Sound Cloud | Twitter

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