The career of musician and actor Shawn Michael Perry is undoubtedly on an upward trajectory at the moment — he's been nominated for three L.A. Music Awards, and he's signed on for three feature films. We figured it was high time to catch up with the Salish/Mayan entertainer who first gained notice in Last of the Mohicans (1992).
Can you tell us about your musical journey to where you are today?
Music has always been my heart's song — it's part of my soul! I remember seeing the Flip Wilson show and watching Michael Jackson perform, and two years later I saw Redbone perform. I knew from that point on what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to entertain people!
As I grew into my teen years, I went to high school, joined the choir, read about faraway places that I dreamed of traveling to one day, and honed my vocal skills. Then I met Paul Hanson, who was the guitar teacher at Musicians Institute. He told me, "If you're serious about music, you must come to Los Angeles and attend our school." It was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made. I graduated with honors from the "Vocal Institute of Technology" the first year the program was offered. We went on and won a "Battle of The Bands," and my band at the time performed for our graduation ceremony. I also met [former Ozzy Osbourne drummer] Randy Castillo, and he introduced me to all the top band players and music executives in Los Angeles at the time. He was a great man. God bless his soul!
Growing up, how aware of your Native heritage and culture were you? Does it figure in your music, either technically or thematically?
I am indigenous from North and South America. My father was Bitteroot/Salish. My mother was from Panama/Mayan. I feel their experiences as well as my own helped shape the music I create and to a certain degree by expressing myself by words or staging. I will always incorporate who I am and where I come from to enhance my music.
You've been nominated for three L.A. Music Awards — Male Singer-Songwriter of the Year, Hot AC Album of the Year, and Hot AC Song of the Year for "Family." Can you tell us what "Family" is about?
Family" was written about the notion that "We Are All One" — no matter what the circumstance or suffering, we all bleed red. We all know the word Love. It is a call to peace reminder to stand tall in the face of adversity…!
In the early and mid '90s, you did quite a bit of acting — now you're coming back with two projects after some time off. Are you refocusing on acting?
I’ve been a member of SAG- AFTRA for over 20 years. I took a break in 1999 to focus on my music and motivational speaking. Then from 2002 till 2004, I continued to work in film and television. That was also the start of our music products company All that Culture (ATC). We offer motivational speaking and work with K-12 children in rural and reservation communities to bring back to the gift of music with after-school programs, motivational speaking and summer programs. We are working on some exciting new projects involving turnaround schools in rural and reservation schools for more info please visit:
In 2009 I played the original part of Neawah in the play “So Far From Scioto”, an American Indian Initiative production at Williamsburg. It drew rave reviews. Michael Spears recently played that part. In 2010 I was chosen to play an American Indian father in the Ad Council commercial “Ruckus”. It ran for three years and was the best time and best work I’ve done so far in my career. Recently, I’ve been asked to play three different roles in three films, now in pre-production. The first is The Red Man's View, written, produced and directed by Thomas Bond II about a Shoshone tribe that must decide what to do as there land and way of life is encroached upon by white settlers. The second is called Candles, produced and directed by John R. Penn, a murder mystery and true story taking place in Oklahoma about three girl scouts who are brutally murdered. I play Harvey Pratt, an Oknahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent and kin to a family of medicine people. I can’t wait…! Last but not least, in the film Two Nations, I’ll be playing Strong Bear, leader of the Waterfall Lake people. That film was written by Ruby Lee Thigpen Whitehurst and directed by Victor Gage.
I believe I’ve always had the skills to be a good actor and when opportunity knocks, I am ready to hit my mark. I love acting and the process of the trade. I am very thankful to Casey Camp Horinek for discovering me (and believing in me) in Hollywood, and Steve Reevis for encouraging me to pursue acting.
You've recently launched Only The Brave Recordings and Entertainment with your wife Belinda — can you tell us about how this new venture came about? What do you hope to accomplish?
It's to assist Native Americans with their careers in distribution, film and television. We have many talented musicians that we work with and most of us have won awards. It’s been a long road but we are now accepted in the mainstream, which is huge considering where we were fifteen years ago. With all this talent we are hoping the casinos we’ll give a chance to showcase our goods. We hope to have all our groups perform and together we can deliver an incredible show! We have four new artists that we recently signed on to our OTB family, and they're all different genres of music: The Delbert Anderson Trio (jazz), Rushingwind & Mucklow (Native American flute), Sean Ward (Country), and Dave "Thundering Eagle" Fallis (folk). We have been working with a hip hop artist named TA$K1 going on a year, and of course I am part of the roster as well, representing rock and country music. We offer a full range of music to satisfy all music lovers.
Last but not least, All That Culture is expanding our expertise in another direction, as consultants offering full sound, staging, and lighting to casinos, conference halls, schools and beyond. As NAMM members we can offer our customers our discounts and pass them right on to you!
For more on Shawn Michael Perry, and to hear his music, visit his official site onlythebraveentertainment.com.