Not all heroes wear capes. When you first hear the power in Charles Perry‘s voice, you get the idea that he may have just jumped out of your favorite comic book, or immigrated from a galaxy far, far away. However, the Brooklyn native began his career singing in churches throughout the County of Kings at five years old. Even then, people knew his passion for singing and performing wasn’t just a hobby, but a calling. Perry has answered that call and after countless years building his fanbase, is finally beginning to get the recognition he deserves.
Charles was raised on a healthy mix of soul, jazz, funk, rock, folk, and gospel music. That has a lot to do with the fact he spent a great deal of time with his grandfather, who was a member of the legendary doo-wop group the Jive Five. They were the voices behind the early 90s Nickelodeon theme song.
Although having that pedigree is great, Charles Perry didn’t rest on his laurels because he was in close proximity to the music business. He worked hard and learned from three of the biggest icons of our time, Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Luther Vandross. Perry sang background vocals for them and even got his nickname, the Soul Superhero, from Vandross.
Now that all three legends have passed on and R&B music is against the ropes, Charles Perry is here to resuscitate the genre with his brand of twisted hip-hop and R&B, which can be heard on his EP Charles Perry, The Soul Superhero. After one listen to songs like the single, “Stranger to Love,” you know the father to a young son, Josiah, is poised to bring back music with substance that made you feel something so deep you aren’t even sure how to feel about your feelings. That point will be driven home once he drops his anticipated album produced by David Foster (Whitney Houston’s “I Will Always Love You) on Verve Records/Universal Music Group.
Allow Charles Perry to introduce himself.
WL: How did your upbringing influence the music you create now?
CP: My grandfather would play [classic] records and I’d ask, “Who’s that, Pops?” One time, he was like, “This is the Ike and Tina Turner Review.” At that time, I didn’t know who Tina Turner was. I was very fascinated with her. She was free spirited on stage. People always tell me when I sing I remind them of artists of that time. That’s because that’s the music I was exposed to as a child. I thought those artists were the only way to life. To me, they were sanctuary. It was like church because that’s what was playing in my house 24/7.
WL: You mentioned blues and rock as influences, along with soul and gospel. What other music influences your sound?
CP: I’m influenced by anything that is impactful like my label mate Ella Fitzgerald. God rest her soul. She is one of my favorite singers of all time. I also look up to Freddy Mercury of Queen, Little Richard, James Brown, Marvin Gaye, Jimi Hendrix, Singers Unlimited. I would have to say people like Aretha Franklin, Sam Cooke, The Isley Brothers, Marian Anderson; those are people who had a major impact on my musical mind. They gave me the ideas to know I could leap over walls, fly into space, and come up with this sound I call rock and soul funk. They were the architects of what we’re doing today.
WL: When I hear you sing, I immediately think you’re a mix of Patti LaBelle, James Brown, and Prince.
CP: It’s funny you said that because those are the exact artists everyone says I remind them of. That was the music that was tattooed on my brain. When people ask me about these new artists, no offense, I don’t know because I don’t listen to it. I’m still playing vinyl records. I’m young, but I have an old soul because my grandfather was a doo-wop legend, as a member of the Jive Five, and used to say, “I can’t allow bullshit in the house. So if you’re going to listen to music, dammit, you’re gonna listen to real music.”
WL: Could you tell me a little bit about your EP, Charles Perry the soul Superhero ? How do you want people to feel after hearing it?
CP:I want people to feel what they felt when they first made love. Or the feeling they felt when they got their first car. It is a first experience that you never forget. That what this album is. It’s bringing people to a different part of space. We’re leaving earth and I’m bringing you to my world, Planet Soultron. You get a chance to experience sound the way I feel it.
WL: You are also on the We Love Disney soundtrack singing “Everybody Wants to be a Cat” from Aristocats.
CP: Yes. It just came out October 30th and I want everybody to go get it and my EP. I’m just so excited about it. It shows the more theatrical side of my voice. People get a chance to experience me where I merge soul and jazz and big band music. I’m a big Cab Calloway fan. There’s a jazz side to my voice and you get to hear it on this song.
WL: How did you wind up on that project?
CP: David Foster heard the song and said, “This song is so theatrical and has so many dimensions. I thought of Charles Perry because of how colorful you are vocally.” It just made sense when I heard it. First of all, it was a dream because I grew up watching the Aristocats movie. That was my favorite song in the film. So I can’t believe I got a chance to cover the song from the film. I used to have dreams of being on a Walt Disney soundtrack. But now I can scratch it off because it’s been done.
WL: I read you worked with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Luther Vandross singing backgrounds for them.
CP: I did the Michael Jackson anniversary concert special that aired from Madison Square Garden in 2001. That night we did background for Whitney, Michael Jackson, Liza Minelli, and Luther Vandross. It was a night that changed my life.
WL: What lessons did you take away from working with so many legends that one night that you incorporate into your musical style and career?
CP: We, as Black people, have the ability to do anything. When you hear “I can do all things through Christ which strengthens me,” that scripture developed legs, arms, eyes, ears, and became the human form in the life of Charles Perry the soul superhero. I was reborn that night. Something in me happened and I really started living. That’s when I knew the possibilities were real.
WL: You’re still considered a “new artist” building your buzz. However, people have known your music for a while. Do you feel like you’re already an established artist and people are just now discovering what you’ve been doing for years?
CP: I’m not a new artist. You’re looking at a person who isn’t a novice. The business chooses to say I’m a novice because they just woke up. They’re discovering what soul is. They’re discovering what real is. So I get a chance to shake them up a little bit and introduce them to a new way of hearing and experiencing music. But I’ve been doing this all my life from street corners to overseas. Verve Records, Universal Music Group, and David Foster have given me a platform.
WL: You’re an artist who reminds people of legends. But you’re in a musical landscape with an audience with a short attention span. How has that affected your artist development?
CP: It hasn’t affected me at all. I think if you stay ready you never have to get ready. I stay creating music. Music dwells within me 24/7 and when you’re anointed to do it you never run out. I’m singing on the way to sleep. Even then, I’m thinking about notes and bass lines.
WL: You’ve done things early on in your career that people work their whole lives to do like working with Michael Jackson, Whitney Houston, and Luther Vandross. What are your new dreams and how do you dream bigger than the ones you’ve already accomplished?
CP: My new dream is to do what I’m doing and stay in my lane. I’ve been taught when you drive outside of your lane, you cause collisions. That’s my only job; to stay in my lane and to keep driving this car where it needs to go-straight to freedom. I want to take my listeners, the Soul Troopers, to freedom because I believe there’s more ahead. We’ve got to keep driving this car straight to freedom until we see sweet Justice. Until we see police brutality stop. Until we see racism cease.