Michael Perry is a humorist and author of the bestselling memoirs Population 495: Meeting Your Neighbors One Siren at a Time, Truck: A Love Story, and Coop: A Year of Poultry, Pigs, and Parenting, as well as the essay collection Off Main Street. Perry has written for Esquire, The New York Times Magazine, Outside, Backpacker, Orion and Salon.com, and is a contributing editor to Men’s Health. He has performed and produced two live audience humor recordings I Got It from the Cows and Never Stand Behind a Sneezing Cow and he performs regularly with his band the Long Beds.
Raised on a small dairy farm, Perry equates his writing career to cleaning calf pens—just keep shoveling, and eventually you’ve got a pile so big, someone will notice. Perry further prepared for the writing life by reading every Louis L’Amour cowboy book he could get his hands on—most of them twice. He then worked for five summers on a real ranch in Wyoming, a career cut short by his fear of horses and an incident in which he almost avoided a charging bull. Based on a series of informal conversations held around the ol’ branding fire, Perry still holds the record for being the only cowboy in all of Wyoming who was simultaneously attending nursing school, from which he graduated in 1987 after giving the commencement address in a hairdo combining mousse spikes on top, a mullet in back, and a moustache up front—otherwise known as the bad hair trifecta.
Perry began writing songs in the early 1990s during long nights when he was struggling to survive on prose. With no arts background (he has a nursing degree) he found himself drawn especially to the work of poets and singer/songwriters. (In interviews Perry tends to list his greatest literary influences as Dylan Thomas and Steve Earle - and not necessarily in that order.) "I remember writing late one night and hearing a Kevin Welch song with the line, 'I whiskey'd up my coffee cup... sittin' here tryin' not to call you up,'" says Perry, "and I was floored by the rhythm and the story in that single line..." He began writing songs as a way to break up all-night typing sessions, and eventually he had enough of them that a musician friend invited him to play a coffee shop. "I'm not saying I was nervous, but I ripped out a sixty-minute set list in thirty-two minutes flat," says Perry. By 2004, he had begun recruiting Long Beds. In 2006, he released his first album, Headwinded followed by in 2010 by Tiny Pilot
While the music made by Perry and the Long Beds has been variously described as 'country folk,' 'roughneck folk,' 'folk-twang,' and Americana, they prefer the description given by an audience member after a benefit concert in Perry's old high school gym: "You sound just like Gordon Lightfoot... only zippier!" Nice - but there are limits. "Zippy or not," says Perry, "when 'The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald' comes on the radio, we sit down, shut up, and listen."
Michael Perry lives with his family on a small farm in rural Wisconsin, where he remains active with the local volunteer rescue service. He can be found online at www.sneezingcow.com.
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