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Beyond Slash


“I wanted to play electric guitar. I mean, Slash played guitar!”

Idyllwild Arts Academy Songwriting senior Caelen Perkins no longer dreams of shredding for Guns N’ Roses.

“My excuse is I was seven. A few years later the eighth-grade me was ‘I have so many feelings.'”

Caelen moves constantly in his chair while recounting his musical autobiography.

“I love singer/songwriters like Ryan Adams. My voice is pretty high—I don’t sound like Ryan Adams!—but I’m used to it. What can I do about it, anyway?”

Nervous energy has Caelen crossing and uncrossing his legs, sitting forward in his chair and then leaning back. The excess energy pulls you into its force field and you’re sure he’s using part of it now to compose a song. You feel his excitement and think you should write one, too. . . except it wouldn’t be as good as anything he writes.

But could you write a song with him? Jackie Giroux, the Songwriter who graduated in May, collaborated with Caelen on this song and many others. With Jackie at Berklee College of Music, in Boston, he needs another partner.

Then he talks about the challenges of collaboration, and you give up your idea.

“Collaboration is an artistic choice,” he says, meaning you can’t work unthinkingly with someone else to compose a song.

“You can’t bring your ego to a collaboration. You have to give yourself up to what you’re going to produce together, so you need confidence that you’re working with the right person. If you can’t give yourself up, you should write your own song.”

Caelen’s remarkable talent has enabled him both to write his own songs, like this one, and to write with Jackie. Hearing him discuss the challenges of collaboration, you recognize an acute musical intelligence working through a problem and you realize his collaborations with other Academy Songwriters will succeed beautifully.