Born to a French mother and Greek father, George Perris took the best from the two cultures – or, at least, the elements he liked most. Born in Athens, from morning till afternoon everything was Greek – Greek school, Greek friends. But as soon as he would come home, the mode switched to French – food, music, kids’ stories.
“Everything was divided in two. It might appear it was a little unstable – but in the opposite way it doesn’t make me someone with no roots, quite the contrary. It makes me someone who has had the chance to choose the elements of both cultures,” George tells Neos Kosmos.
The exciting, young international pop crooner is now in Australia, touring as a special guest alongside Tina Arena on her national Reset tour, and promoting his debut English language album ‘Picture This’, which was released in early August.
Recorded in Los Angeles, New York, London, Prague, Montreal and Athens, the album showcases some of the world’s best talents coming together for one of the year’s most anticipated releases.
Having previously released three albums in Greek and one in French, for the multilingual Perris an English album came as a natural progression.
And with his uniquely powerful yet pure voice as the perfect instrument to interpret the genuine emotion of his songs, it wasn’t hard to conquer world audiences.
Now dubbed ‘the European Michael Buble’, Perris has been sure of his career path for a very long time.
While still a toddler, only three years old, he was determined – or stubborn enough, as he puts it – to decide and announce to his mother that one day he would be a big singer and star. He didn’t fall out too far on this one.
“She laughed – ‘go tidy your room for now and we’ll see about that’. But she was very wise, because the next day she took me to the music school and said – if you want to be a singer you have to learn music. I was presented to all instruments, to choose from. At some point someone told me – ‘and this is the king of all instruments’. It was the piano.
“As soon as I heard the word ‘king’, that was it,” George says with a laugh.
It was George’s three idols who would play a big role in influencing his choices along his career path.
Oddly enough, he says, they were all women.
Greek singer Nana Mouskouri, Greek opera legend Maria Callas and Lara Fabian.
“I had a crazy passion for the opera. When I was 12 I decided I wanted to be an opera singer. I started to study all the classical opera roles. But then a little later on, when I was 16, when I started writing my own songs and lyrics, I realised there was a small part of freedom of expression that I wouldn’t be able to have, if I was a classical singer.
“I decided I wanted to go into pop music and then I discovered Lara Fabian. Little did I know that Lara would become one of my best friends – we sang together, toured together, and are now very close friends.”
As with Lara Fabian, George Perris seems to have a magical ability to have as mentors and work with people that he once looked up to.
People like Alkistis Protopsalti, and now Tina Arena.
Up until now, there have been many turning points in the career of the only 30-year-old George. At the age of just 17, he was discovered by legendary Greek composer Mimis Plessas, then 84, who also discovered Mouskouri in 1956.
“I auditioned for him and he told me ‘you are the final singer that I want to suggest to Greek audiences’.
“We went touring together and we did more than 45 concerts around Greece and Cyprus,” he tells.
It was Perris’ first contract with EMI in Greece and the release of his first album in 2006 that gave him the chance to become a part of the musical family in Greece, where people started discovering him little by little.
“The other big moment was three years later when I worked with my idol Lara Fabian. She opened the doors for me outside of Greece, alongside with another good friend Greek tenor Mario Frangoulis.
“In 2012 I got to do two amazing things – I released a French album, for the first time outside of Greece, in Canada. That same year I got the chance to play at the Odeon of Herodes Atticus in Athens, underneath the Acropolis, something that has always been my dream.
“It’s a magical theatre, with a particular energy, and just the fact that it has been there for 2,000 years, that so many people have set foot on that stage – from ancient to recent times – Maria Callas, Placido Domingo, Nana Mouskouri, Jose Carreras, Montserrat Caballe – it’s a huge responsibility and it makes you really, really nervous.
“The last moment is now, with this last record and the fact that I am touring with Tina Arena, who has been one of my favourite singers for more than a decade. I discovered her in France, and now I’m very happy and touched that I got to tour with her,” George says.
With his music often described as pop with influences of classical music, George stayed faithful to his style in his first English album, ‘Picture This’. And if you ask him to describe and categorise his latest album – something that he is not that passionate about doing – he will tell you it’s simple pop songs that speak to the hearts of people, with lyrics that have a meaning and hit straight to the sentiment of the listener.
“I wouldn’t say that it’s a new beginning, but it’s a continuation, the next step for me. My previous albums were a little more acoustic – this one has the lusciousness of the symphony orchestra, but it’s still a pop record. Even though I don’t like labels – music has no barriers, you should explore as many styles of music as you like – I would say that this album is a pop album with a magical touch of classical music.”
‘Picture This’, Perris’ first collaboration with a host of global producers, writers, arrangers and mixers including Mark Portmann, Marco Marinangeli, Simon Hale and others, in its fresh approach to adult pop features the participation of The Prague Symphony Orchestra. Out of 14 tracks, three are co-written by Perris himself.
“When you want to sing the way that I want to sing – outside the barriers of your country and travelling the world, the most natural thing to do is to sing in English; that opens doors for you. I grew up speaking English, I’m trilingual, so it was the most natural thing to do. I was given the chance to work with some amazing producers and songwriters, and the most thrilling part was having the Prague Symphony Orchestra.
“I had goosebumps and tears in my eyes while recording with them – I could not believe the warmth and the dexterity of the strings, giving flesh and blood to my songs.”
While dividing his life between New York and Athens, where he is based, George spends most of his time with a suitcase as his home.
“When you do this job the way I do it, you don’t spend more than three weeks in one place. But I’m not complaining because it’s all I ever wanted in my life.
“I get to travel the world with my songs and I’m very grateful for that. Music, for me, knows no nationalities, no barriers, no frontiers. Because music has its own language, the language of love, of freedom, but above all, hope.
“I was looking at the opera house in Sydney the other day, and couldn’t believe that I was in Australia – I am grateful to this wonderful big blue sky for what it has offered me,” George says modestly.
And while making his way to the stars, George doesn’t forget he is an ambassador of his homeland, whose white and blue colours he carries with pride.
“I carry my country everywhere. I always say I’m 51 per cent Greek and 49 per cent French, there is just that little bit of me that is more Greek than French.
“I’m very well aware of the fact that I’m also an ambassador for my country now, so I’m very careful what I say and do, especially now when it’s going through such a rough time. I’m very proud to be Greek, to carry its colours with me wherever I go. It’s a wonderful feeling to be able to offer that to your own country.”
George Perris’ album ‘Picture This’ is out now through Decca Records, Australia. He is now touring around Australia as a special guest on Tina Arena’s Reset Tour. For tickets and dates, visit http://georgeperris.com/tour/