Over the last year, many of us have felt isolated and alone. Gillian Rae Perry has taken these feelings, which she experienced herself, and turned them into the album Gilly. Through the tracks of the album, she not only addresses these feelings but the traumatic events of the past that tug at us when we are feeling vulnerable. We had a chat with Gillian Rae Perry about the album, creativity in different mediums, emotional responses and much more!
OSR: Writing music started out as a soothing balm for you. With this personal start, what made you decide to start releasing your own music?
Perry: Though I’ve been comfortable sharing my concert music for a long time, I had never shared my songwriting work before. For a long time, I thought of my songwriting as more of a hobby; however, while working on my Master’s Degree at CalArts, I took a songwriting class that boosted my confidence and I began to look at songwriting as not just a hobby, but a part of my musical life. During quarantine, I had extra time to work on my songwriting in addition to my concert music and I began to realize that I wanted to share my songs with the rest of the world and not just keep them to myself anymore.
OSR: Other than your own music, you have written for dance, orchestras and film. How different is writing for these different mediums?
Perry: In some ways writing for other mediums, such as orchestra, is really different from songwriting and in other ways it feels the same. With all of my music, I strive to tell a genuine story. So, in that way, it feels very personal to me regardless of genre. However, when writing songs, I find myself thinking about the words and the phrasing for a significant part of the writing process.
When writing orchestral work, I don’t have to think about lyrics. My experience writing for different mediums such as orchestra influences my songwriting and vice versa. For example, when I write orchestral music I think about the colour created by different instruments and how that will fill up the space of the overall piece. Similarly, when I write songs, I still think about the colours being created by different elements of the piece and how that will affect the meaning of the text.
OSR: You have recently released your album Gilly, can you tell us more about it?
Perry: Yes! I started writing Gilly during quarantine. At first these songs were just a way for me to escape and express myself during a challenging time. However, as I was writing I started to realize that I had quite a few songs that I wanted to share with others. So I decided to make them into an album. The album references childhood and getting in touch with an inner child a few times; the album is titled Gilly as that is childhood nickname.
OSR: As the album was written, recorded and released during quarantine, how do you feel this has affected the themes and arrangement?
Perry: A few years ago my mental health was not in a good place. I was in a deep depressive episode and I wasn’t coping very well. The year before the pandemic, I began to come out of this episode and was feeling quite a bit better; however, once the pandemic started I began to slide back mentally. As a result of this, I was re-experiencing many of the same thoughts and feelings from my depressive episode, but this time with the perspective of knowing it does get better. This gave me space to process my feelings and put them into music. Therefore, the themes of the album have a lot to do with isolation and depression. Due to the pandemic, the album was all recorded from my bedroom with my instruments and my performances only.
OSR: The album does invoke a lot of sadness when listening, is this what you were hoping to achieve when creating it?
Perry: Though the album is quite sad, my hope is that people who relate to the album will know that they are not alone. No matter how isolated you feel, others have felt and are feeling that way too.
OSR: The tracks on the album explore feelings of trauma, isolation and events in childhood but what would you like people to take away from listening to the album?
Perry: I’d like for my listeners to take away a feeling of connectedness.
OSR: Some of the tracks have a very personal feeling to them, how easy is it for you to translate your own emotions into music?
Perry: I find a lot of peace in expressing myself through music. When I was a little kid, I used to sing to myself to calm myself down. As an adult, writing music still has the same affect. So, it’s usually fairly easy for me to translate my emotions into music. Sometimes, I feel like it’s easier for me to translate my feelings into music than it is for me to articulate them in words.
OSR: While you have experience with different medium and genres, what drew you to more folk tones for the album?
Perry: As I mentioned before, I tend to focus on lyrics quite a bit in my songwriting. I feel that more folk sounding music leaves space for the lyrics in a way that they can be processed more fully.
OSR: If people could listen to only one track from the album, which would you suggest and why?
Perry: Hmm. That’s a hard one. I think I’d suggest the track ‘friends’. I’ve received a lot of positive feedback about that track and I think a lot of people can relate to it, especially during the pandemic.
OSR: What else can we expect from you in the next 12 months?
Perry: I have a saxophone concerto called ‘Broken Open’ that I am very excited about that will be premiered once live music resumes. I also just finished an orchestra piece that I can’t wait for people to hear. Currently, I’m working on a few concert works and, of course, some more songs!