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The softer side of rock and roll guitarist Hunter Perrin.
The softer side of rock and roll guitarist Hunter Perrin.
Photo by Piper Ferguson

Hunter Perrin, a Real Wild Card, Brings His Versatile Sound Back to Houston

A wild card in poker can help a player get an unexpected win, but of course it all depends on luck and strategy. Houston native Hunter Perrin has had a fair hand with both luck and strategy. Perrin’s musical career has wound from Texas to New York and most recently to LA, where he had a five-year stint backing the legendary John Fogerty. Perrin will be hitting the road back to Houston this month for three shows.

Luck saw Perrin born into a musical family who exposed him to all of the who’s who of quality Texas music and saw that he and his young cousins learned how to play in time. Perrin remembers his childhood family jamborees fondly, “It was just cool. I still think about that all the time.”

Family friendships got him and his cousin spots as students with Houston guitarist, and one of Archie Bell’s own Drells, Reid Farrell.. From Farrell, Perrin learned the importance of holding it down musically and being a musical chameleon. “If you listen to Reid he always sounds amazing and his timing is just perfect. He can play classic but his stuff is really cool and just always sounds right for the song he is playing.”

Perrin later received a formal education in music at the University of Texas and Yale University, a decision which has had its benefits when working on the wide variety of projects Perrin has at one time. He currently has a weekly residency in LA with his band The Wild Cards, an instrumental band called Le Flashcube, he teaches guitar, plays in Thunderado when in Houston, works on soundtracks to movies and television shows and has a side project with his wife called Bandito Royale which he describes as “theatrical, Quentin Tarantino soundtrack kind of stuff”.

Despite his formal training, Perrin never seems cold and calculated in his writing or playing; instead he comes across as incredibly versatile and sincere. “I love the experience of going to school and I learned a lot in school. It helped me a lot and still helps me a lot.” Describing his approach to each project: “Sometimes you just have to shift gears a little bit and move things around for it to sound appropriate for whatever style you are doing.”

Perrin’s weekly residency has proved to be a great training ground for the guitarist as well as the inspiration for the name of his backing band and recent solo album, Wild Card. They play every Wednesday at a Hollywood bar called The Three Clubs, which is located underneath a boxing gym called Wild Card Boxing, where boxing great Manni Pacquiao trained.

Perrin describes the different layers to the inspiration behind the name, “It’s called the Wild Cards because every week we have different people. It’s really fun because you never know really what the lineup is going to be and that just keeps it really interesting.” Perrin continues, “Then I was like, well let me name the record Wild Card because it has been a really formative experience. I’ve been there for about almost two years every week and it’s just super fun.”

Wild Card is a short and sweet, ten-track album which brings out Perrin’s softer side compared to the heavy rock heard in Thunderado. “All the songs are pretty short. I like when they don’t overstay their welcome.” describes Perrin. “We kept it so sparse, drums, bass, acoustic guitar and a little bit of electric guitar. I just didn’t want the songs to go that long, lets just do our thing and then the song is over.”

The record clocks in at about 20 or so minutes, an easy listen for any commuter stuck in Houston traffic. Though the songs are short they are never incomplete; each one is its own full little story. It’s easy to just let the album repeat over and over again or as Perrin says, “Your little friend for the drive. It doesn’t give you listener fatigue. It’s also a time thing I mean who has time to listen to a 90-minute record right now? Just pop it in and then go do your thing.”

Perrin not only turned down his guitar but he also brought down his vocals to match the feel of the album, “In Thunderado we try to get the big rock sound and so to sing on top of that you have to adjust your vocals to fit in that environment. With this record we have softer drums, upright bass and an acoustic guitar and so I wanted the vocals to sit with those instruments in a different way then the big rock band.”

Houston’s own talented musicians, Allen Hill and Eric C. Hughes, will join Perrin on his Houston, Austin and San Antonio run. The trio will play an opening slot at Armadillo Palace, a brunch at Natachees and a double bill with the Staehely Brothers at Mucky Duck.

When they aren’t playing shows the group will be working with Houston youth doing music workshops. “I teach a lot and have always taught and really enjoy it. It’s really enriching and rewarding. It’s pretty great because you meet all these nice families and see what different people are working on around the country.”

Perrin’s diverse style will be on full display at each show with the artist approaching each gig a little differently. “For the shorter sets I think we are gonna do the record and then a few other songs that we play. When we are doing longer sets that’s when we will probably get our friends up and do more rodeo songs.”

The singer expects the Natachees brunch to be a musical reunion among friends, “All my friends have babies now and so they can’t come to shows so I was like 'let's do an early show when people can bring their families and we will make that like a rodeo party'.” The singer adds, “I love Natachees! Such good people and good times.”

This might be the last time Houstonians can catch Perrin until fall, as the singer and his wife are expecting their second child this summer but bank on him to be back once things settle. “I come home to Houston every other month or every third month, play some shows, see family and friends and it’s always great. I love going to Houston.”

Perrin's performances are scheduled for Saturday March 23 at Armadillo Palace, 5015 Kirby, doors at 9 p.m., tickets $10-12, 21 and up.
Sunday March 24 at Natachees Supper and Punch, 3622 Main, 11-1 p.m., free, all ages
Tuesday March 26 at Mucky Duck, 2425 Norfolk, doors at 7:30 p.m., tickets $20-22

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