Junction 10 Singer Robert Perez Ain't Your Typical Singer

If you've been keeping up with the country music coming out of Nashville, stumbled upon one of the industry's several televised awards shows, or even if you've just glanced at the cover of Country Weekly in the grocery store checkout line, you've noticed that most of today's male country stars look and sound a lot alike. You've got the standard muscle-bound and goateed rough-and-tumbler (Trace Adkins/Toby Keith) and the clean-cut, skinny jean guys who look like rock 'n' roll models (Keith Urban/Jason Aldean). Oh, and every once in a while a wild card like long-haired, biker-bearded neo-outlaw badass Jamey Johnson slips by the Nashville image consultants.

Then Tolleson-bred singer/songwriter Robert Perez, frontman for local country shitkickers Junction 10, walks into Tempe's Yucca Tap Room. He's carrying a guitar case on a Tuesday night ("I always carry a guitar with me wherever I go") and is, by country standards, one of the real wild cards.

"I'm 6-foot-4, 450 pounds with a Misfits tattoo on my arm," says Perez with a chuckle. "I think it probably jars people, you know?"

Perez's visage may not fit the Nashville mold, but he's among the best country singers west of the Rio Grande. He has a voice that any of the current hunks in hats riding the country charts would kill for: a keening, tequila-soaked tenor equally adept at tear-in-your-beer laments and dusty, rowdy, honky-tonkin' two-steppers that have come to define the best songs in the burgeoning local country scene.

"Friends, family, they're like, 'That voice comes out of you?'" Perez says. "Singing country music is not easy. There are a lot of people who have tried to do it for a lot of years. I listened to [country singers] and I could sing it. It happened just like that, and I am very lucky for that."

And about that Misfits tattoo? The seminal Jersey horror punkers' logo (a sparse, haunted skull) gracing the inside of Perez's right forearm makes it clear you're not chatting with Brad Paisley or Josh Turner. Then again, Paisley and Turner undoubtedly did not grow up like Perez did, playing bass in death metal bands and blasting Slayer, The Misfits, and Sepultura from his car speakers during the day and singing along to Merle Haggard while working nights on a loading dock at a grocery store. It's a bipolar dichotomy to most, but Perez insists it's not that far of a stretch between metal and country.

"As a confused teenager, I was drawn to more of the heavier, aggressive music, and then as I matured and got older, I'd always listened to country music," Perez says, noting such late-'80s and early-'90s new traditionalists as Clint Black, Alan Jackson, and Randy Travis as original influences. "I even got some of my metal friends, the guys I played in bands with, into country music — one of them even got really heavy into George Jones. When I told them I was going to put a country band together they said, 'Go for it. You're good at it.'"

Perez' first stab at a playing in a country band, I-10 West, came together five years ago when a music promoter friend approached the singer about opening a show at the bygone Coyote Hill in west Glendale.

"He always thought I should be singing country, but when he came to me about this show, I told him all I had was a metal band," Perez says. "He told me he wanted a country band and I had two months notice and would I do it? So I kind of put the heavy metal and the death metal on the back burner and I started this country band out of nowhere. The first show was back when Uncle Kracker first started to go country, and the second show we played was with Shooter Jennings on New Year's Eve 2006. You know, I was just getting started as a songwriter and a country singer, and those shows were just way too big for our britches at the time."

When the direction of I-10 West began leaning more toward the punk side of the band's country/punk mash-up, the singer went back to the drawing board.

"Musically, people grow apart, and I wanted to go more traditional, more of a honky-tonk route," Perez says. "I wanted a nice danceable groove to drinking songs, songs about the human condition and the refusal to learn your lesson, and those are the types of songs I've always written."

Armed with a batch of stellar, self-penned honky-tonkers, Perez hooked up with guitarist Ray Lawrence Jr. and began attending a country music open mic night at the Sage and Sand, a country dive situated across the street from Luke Air Force Base. The night was hosted by Chuck Pritchard.

"Chuck stayed late to see Ray and I play one night and I said, 'I have a bass and a little amp in the back of my Suburban if you want to sit in,' and he said, 'Shit, yeah,'" Perez says. "By the end of the 40 minutes we played together it's like, 'Hey, man, you wanna be in a band?'"

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4 comments
Kennethpostgate
Kennethpostgate

I booked the bands at the Sage and Sand back then, and this band was my personal favorite....This man and his band are trully REAL country...I wish them all the luck in the world. But with their talent i dont think they need much luck..!!!

Azarmstrong
Azarmstrong

Great songwriter, great guy, great friend.

 Mrs. Pines :)
Mrs. Pines :)

Junction 10, the real deal.... I love each and everyone of 'em! GREAT band and GREAT guys! My best wishes for your continued success ....and friendship, Jere

 

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