Rising Stars [Issue
Poor Man's Son
as Bruce Springsteen emblazoned the struggles of the blue-collar east coast
and John Mellencamp galvanized the voice of the small-town Heartland, Franky
Perez is an authentic working man's champion whose regional identity illuminates
and amplifies the deeper, universally human themes of his music.
Poor Man's Son,
the debut album from this first-generation Las Vegas-born Cuban-American, consists
of seventeen tracks of old-fashioned rock-and-roll crafted with Latin accents,
reflecting the ever-changing face of the nation's working class.
Perez intuitively maximizes popular music's ability to reach an audience; his
lyrics, which invoke the trials and adventures of the common man, are layered
over his melodies and rhythms in such a way that the collective emotional impact
that transcends distinctions of race and social class. His first single, "Something
Crazy," tells of an abusive relationship, unrequited love and lost innocence:
"She makes me wear my heart on my sleeve, she cries a bit, I act the fool,
we reminisce about high school. I ask her why she didn't choose me. And she
said, Help me get out of here, the walls are closing in. I want to be gone before
he comes back again. Help me get out of here. I need to get out of here. Before
I do something crazy." The video is in heavy rotation on VH-1 and CMT.
A few years ago, a soul-searching cross-country drive became a quest of Homeric
proportions for Perez after a visit to a New Orleans fortune-teller-he found
himself on a detour to Miami, exploring his heritage both musically and mystically
with Cuban conga master Lazaro Valdez, who mentored him in Latin rhythms and
Santeria (a Caribbean cousin of voodoo). The confidence Perez gained in these
sessions motivated him to continue to pursue his musical dreams.
Perez's versatility is evident in the album's palette of rock ("Cecilia"
and "Class Act") blues ("Cold Hard Rain") and psychedelic
("Love, Soul, Rock N' Roll" ) influences. There is also an untitled
hidden track, a heartfelt, simple song to which anyone who has journeyed far
away from home can relate.
I caught up with Franky recently while he was back home in Las Vegas with his
wife and kids, resting before his next tour.
OW: I understand that you wrote a great number of songs for this album?
FP: We recorded 43 songs and I believe the best songs made the record.
This was all over a three-year period.
OW: How important is it for you to express your Hispanic roots?
FP: I just write from experience and being that I came from a working-class
background, it comes across in my music. I write for the underdogs, I guess.
OW: How do you feel about the current state of music?
FP: Right now I think it's starting to turn around a little bit. I think
the music business was in a gray area for a long time. It's kind of nice to
see the singer-songwriter come back. Twenty years ago everyone was a singer-songwriter.
I'm hoping that a melody and a story come back in vogue.
PV: Have you changed your style of writing in respect to that?
FP: No, I was actually signed to Lava Records three years ago at a time
when all labels were signing heavy acts like Limp Bizkit and Korn. [Lava President]
Jason Flom believed in what I did enough that he signed me and held on. He'll
tell you that back in the day he didn't know where I was going to fit in. He
just believed in what I did.
PV: Tell me about the Santeria. Are there chickens on stage?
FP: (laughing) I don't practice it. It's just something I respect. No,
I don't sacrifice any chickens.
PV: Tell me about the hidden track.
FP: I started writing it the day my son [Presley] was born. I had been
up for 48 hours and my wife sent me home to get some rest. I couldn't sleep
and I recorded that song in my living room.
How do you want people to remember you 50 years from now?
Hopefully, as a man of integrity. Much beyond my musical career, whoever I had
contact with [will hopefully] remember me for my integrity and honesty.
Poor Man's Son