For RAC student DonPerry, creating is a transformative process. Every project offers a new opportunity to evolve sonically and emotionally, moving him closer towards catharsis. His latest single “WIND BLOWS” conveys lyrical agony over minimalist R&B sounds, revealing his heart firmly on his sleeve.
Describe the sounds of DonPerry?
Could be anything… from R&B to hip-hop to dancehall to reggaeton!
Most important trait in a collaborator?
If I vibe with you.
Biggest source of inspiration?
Music, raw feelings and emotions.
Favourite restaurant in Montreal?
I cook, so I don’t really go to restaurants!
If I weren’t a musician, I would be… a fashion designer or architect.
DonPerry may be wrapping up his studies, but he’ll never stop trying to make the grade. Ever since the beginning of his artistic career, the Filipino-Canadian creative has focused on building consistency and community while rising in Montreal’s music scene. The artist paints with a wide brush and tackles every element of his sound, from songwriting to post-production, with a razor-sharp focus that prioritizes embracing new opportunities and staying true to his story.
Against the turbulence and uncertainties that mark a coming of age, DonPerry proves how these twists can translate into meaningful creations. His music reflects the ubiquity of change, nodding to the tastemakers of Canadian R&B while unpacking his own narrative. His latest release “WIND BLOWS” continues this pattern, exposing a past heartbreak with moving sincerity.
The hardworking up-and-comer sat down with RAC to chat more about his musical evolution and share his perspective on the steps to success.
RAC: Thanks for sitting down with us! Let’s start with the basics: who is DonPerry? Tell us more about who you are, where you’ve come from, and how DonPerry came to be.
DonPerry: I grew up around music, in a singing family – Filipino households are like that. I began writing music and lyrics, and listening to trendy songs, which really stimulated me. In those songs, I got really attached to the feeling that artists would convey when they expressed themselves, and I began to think “I could do something like that.”
When I first came to Canada, I was 14, and that’s when I started to listen to artists like Drake and PartyNextDoor. That kind of music caught my attention. Years later, my friend invited me to his house and I wrote some raps. He recorded my vocals and the results sounded very cool. Although my friend didn’t want to do any more recording after that session, I asked him to let me know which program he used. At that time, I was using my mom’s ASUS laptop and downloaded Audacity.
I then tried to buy an interface and some mics, but I had no idea what I was doing. I kept searching tutorials on YouTube to try and learn. When I bought my MacBook, that’s when I started taking things seriously. That was the first time I felt like I could make something professional. I then began to use GarageBand and Logic Pro X, which is what I use now.
A lot of my music is inspired by modern R&B, modern hip-hop and soul, and even a bit of rock as well. I grew up on all those styles of music. I don’t care what genre of music I’m listening to: if it sounds good, and if it captures my interest, then I’m a fan. I fuse different genres together in my music, especially right now – I’m currently working on a song that fuses R&B, dancehall and reggaeton. It’s been really exciting to blend all these sounds together.
RAC: You grew up surrounded by music, and began singing from a young age. Describe the moment where you first realized that music production was something you wanted to pursue.
DonPerry: When I first got interested in recording and making music, I didn’t really see myself doing that in the future. It was just something fun to do. But then I started to take it seriously and see myself in the music industry, so I released my first album on SoundCloud. After making that album, I noticed my mixing was really bad and thought, “There must be something more to this.” I considered going to school; I was in Nova Scotia at the time, and there was a recording program there, similar to RAC but at a community college. By doing some research online though, I discovered there were bigger artist communities in Montreal and Toronto. In the end, I chose Montreal, which is one of the best things that’s ever happened to me, to be honest.
RAC: You list Drake, PartyNextDoor, and Bryson Tiller as major inspirations. How do these artists shape your unique work, and what do you appreciate about their creativity?
DonPerry: I wouldn’t limit myself to their music, I really listen to their work as a whole. I appreciate that they are so versatile. It’s the way they say things, the way they deliver it, that is really inspiring for me – the idea that you can be yourself, even though you’re trying to express something. I like the way they flow.
The first time I listened to these artists, I listened to every layer: their production, songwriting, and mixing. These artists and their projects have stuck with me, and they’ve made some memories for me – their songs are nostalgic.
RAC: Your latest single, “WIND BLOWS”, stems from your own history in a toxic relationship. Describe your perspective on music’s ability to unpack and convey emotion.
DonPerry: When I make music, writing lyrics allows me to say what I want in whichever way I want to say it. It feels so easy to be able to express how you feel with music – there is always some kind of reference or inspiration. Sharing emotions is essential to my process. If I make something that isn’t personally meaningful, I can acknowledge that it technically sounds good, but what does it mean to me? That’s one of the big things I always think about when I’m making music – does this mean anything to me?
RAC: Walk us through the journey of making “WIND BLOWS”. What was your favourite aspect of the creative process?
DonPerry: The angle I take in this single is actually inspired by other artists like Brent Faiyaz and Frank Ocean. I tried to follow their path in terms of the writing and the production, and I enjoyed the entire process of making this song. It was really challenging: I chopped and processed the sample for that song, and it ended up being really off-beat. I also tried to program the drums, and that really didn’t work. When I first sang the song, and that first melody came out of my mouth, I decided it was just going to be as is – the mixing was going to be raw, instead of becoming super processed.
In the end, it’s all about paying attention to what the music wants and always uncovering that. It’s easy to tell yourself, “I’m going to be big someday,” but I don’t want to think about that just yet. I just want to keep working. Each day, think, “Okay, let’s make a beat” and that’s it… at least, that’s the creative process I’ve attempted. If I miss a day of making music, for me, it feels like I’m giving up already. I gotta keep moving, creating, making, expressing – that’s what I love about this career. The only time I won’t be making music is when I give up.
RAC: Since beginning your career, you’ve also shared your sound on numerous hip-hop projects with artists like TMB Niicky. What role does collaboration play in the development of your own music?
DonPerry: With collaboration, my approach is “If I f*ck with you, we’re going to have a vibe”. If I don’t like your music, and if we don’t click, we aren’t going to do anything together. Making songs for me is all about having a vibe and sharing stories that are combined into one piece of art. With the example of TMB Niicky, he’s from Nova Scotia – where I’m from – and I didn’t know him as a person beforehand. In high school, one of my schoolmates produced beats for me, and he sent a song that the two of us wrote to TMB Niicky. I remember thinking “Yo, this dude’s really got something”. TMB Niicky contacted me and we started talking, gaining interest in each other’s work. That’s so great, as an artist, to have those types of connections with other artists in your city.
Working in local studios with local artists is one of my favourite things to do. There’s this local studio named Keke Beatz back home in Scotia and the owner’s brother knew my dad. We connected that way, and he told me to come to the studio where we made a song and vibed. It was a great time. Collaboration is really fun and whether it’s local or major, it’s still involving the industry. It’s still about the music.
Right now, I’m recording with some artists. I’m working with Alhandra here at RAC; I made a beat for her and I’m mixing and engineering her song. It’s a whole different vibe with a whole different expression of feelings. When you’re with an artist, and they’re sharing those emotions with you, it’s a really special time because they’re opening up to you. From their perspective, I know what it feels like to be there on the mic, when there’s someone waiting for you to have the best delivery. I know what it’s like to feel vulnerable.
RAC: What have been the biggest takeaways from your career in music production?
DonPerry: I’m still searching for those big things, but right now I’m just happy that I’m releasing and writing music. One of my biggest takeaways is just to make music, and to make it real. Also, the importance of going to RAC and meeting people in the city.
In Montreal, I visited some studios like NBS, where I went to a session with Skiifall’s producer YAMA//SATO. They really inspired me, production-wise and when it comes to their process. It was a huge, crazy session and served as a big inspiration, a big refresh for me as an artist. It reminded me that I could do something like this and turn it into music that sounds great.
When I make a song, even if it’s good, I think “I can’t stay on this, because I’m not going to like this if I keep listening to it”. I have to make more, I have to make another song, and then another, you know? I don’t even have a favourite song of mine; I’ve listened to them so much, mixed them so much, that the interest I still have in them is not the same. It’s about expanding. That’s what I want to do right now: I want to go city to city, and expand my connections in Canada. I want to go to Toronto, and connect with students at the RAC campus there. You never know, maybe I could meet someone who is really popping off. Artists are artists, it doesn’t matter who you are as long as you start vibing and creating something great.
There have even been times where I’ve made a song on the spot. Over one weekend, after I recorded a song, I started immediately working on another in the studio. The quickness is amazing: if a producer and artist click, it’s only a matter of time until they can make something beautiful. This kind of lifestyle is my drug, you know? I keep wanting to come back to this.
Sometimes I do need to step away from a minute, though, and come back into what I’m making. I put so much pressure on myself as an artist. Sometimes I have gone to my computer thinking I was going to make a crazy song, and it turns out that I can’t even make a chord progression. Those sorts of things can be discouraging, but with every session you ultimately just have to go in with an open mind. You have to think, “I don’t care what we do, or what genre it is going to be, but I know it’s going to be great.” I try to keep that in mind when I record.
RAC: How do you make an effort to evolve as an artist? What do you feel that you have yet to learn?
DonPerry: Learning is never done. This journey in this industry is never done. Every time I make something, I learn something, and I think that’s one of the best parts of being an artist. I feel like if I’m not learning, I get stuck doing the same thing, and that’s when I feel like I should give up. That’s why I try to have an open mind and learn something new. If I’m there with someone more experienced than me, I sit and listen to that person. And even if you’re not more experienced, you still have a different pair of ears: you hear things differently, you have a different brain. So I will listen to those ideas as well.
With mixing, songwriting, and producing, I love exploring. I always switch from chopping samples to making things from scratch. Sometimes it can be challenging to make chord progressions or to chop samples because it doesn’t sound right to my ear. It’s all about whether the music makes sense in my head and whether it flows. And if a song isn’t working out, I might grab its core idea and put it into another project. That’s one of the main techniques I’ve been using; mixing things together.
It’s all about starting stuff. If you start something, that’s how you’ll finish it.
RAC: Thank you again for sharing the afternoon with us! Ending things on a high note, what does the rest of 2022 look like for you?
DonPerry: I’ve just finished filming a music video for “WIND BLOWS”. The video is shot on VHS, and the videographer is amazing; I can’t wait to release it. I also remixed the song, and added a twist to it, so that there’s a transition into straight hip-hop, similar to Travis Scott and JACKBOYS. With my single with Alhandra, “Special”, I’ve finished mastering it – we just have to register with SOCAN and release it.
The only time I’m not going to be making music is when I give up. Some days are harder than others, but you just have to keep going, keep digging. Otherwise, you get too comfortable. That’s why I keep moving from studio to studio, finding inspiration, listening to mentors, and starting new collaborations. I actually just visited an indie-rock studio, and I might be recording there in the future. I’m going to keep connecting with people, hitting them up to visit their studio and talk.
Overall, I am keeping things open. I am planning to save up, travel across Canada to continue those connections, and hopefully get a placement someday.
Written by Rebecca Judd
Illustration by Yihong Guo