Even when hearing it from another guy who shopped in the boys' department during high school, Chris Perricelli wouldn't buy the notion that one reason he's such a consummate rock 'n' roll frontman might be to compensate for his short stature. It's a story line that's been stuck to Prince's blouse tails for years.

"That's hilarious to me," said the man whose nickname and band moniker is Little Man.

The 5-foot-2 rocker exudes confidence and energy onstage, bearing a charisma that's much bigger than he is. He also dresses kind of flashy and plays a style of bravely classic-sounding rock, ideally traits for a big man to pull off.

"It's just the way I am onstage, with or without a band behind me," he insisted. "I just really get into it. That's me 100 percent. It's nothing made up."

Nice try, anyway. Perricelli's rock-starry aura indeed appeared effortless when he sat for an interview at the Turf Club last Sunday, two days after he and the band played a T. Rex tribute set for Halloween. ("Pretty easy," Perricelli admitted. T. Rex is his most obvious influence, followed by Bowie, Zeppelin and the Who.)

Showing the quiet, timid personality that belies his onstage persona, the 34-year-old Chicago-via-Massachussetts transplant spent a lot of time talking about another big contradiction in his life -- one that helped explain the zen-laden, mystic themes on his new album, "Of Mind and Matter." He's promoting the new record Saturday at 7th Street Entry with an expanded Little Man lineup.

"The funny thing is, what I do is completely opposite of what zen is," said Perricelli, a well-versed reader of Joseph Campbell, Alan Watts and other meditative philosophers.

"When you're meditating, you're supposed to be quieting the mind and finding a serene spot. Songwriting, though, is all about imagination and letting your mind wander. I live in a world where my mind has to be very imaginary to come up with songs, so I turn to zen and Buddhism to even things out."

In the case of "Of Mind and Matter" -- which is being sold as a card with a code to download the music (and lyrics and video) -- Perricelli combined his two worlds. Most of the songs were written about his zen pursuits, from the rousing opener "Tarots and Arrows" to the coolly mellow "Talisman" to the sweeping, strings-laden epic "Get It to Ground." The cover of the record even shows the singer/guitarist in a meditation pose.

"The theme of the album is reality vs. fantasy, and living presently," he explained, pointing to "Don't Pray to Fantasy," one of the disc's melodic standouts. "It's about expectations. Imagination and fantasy go into expectations, and they result in things not being as good as you thought they'd be. So concentrate on now instead of what's to come."

One expectation that Perricelli did fulfill was having Ed Tinley -- producer and multi-instrumentalist in the Ike Reilly Assassination -- help him flesh out "Of Mind and Matter." In Tinley's hands, it's a softer and more acoustic but also more layered and complex album than last year's local hit "Soulful Automatic." They recorded the disc with new Little Man bassist Andy Ferkinhoff and IRA drummer Dave Cottini (who's actually a former Little Man member; Sean Sauder has since become the band's full-time drummer).

A former guitar tech for the IRA, Perricelli will join Reilly and Co. as both an opener and a fill-in guitarist for their night-before-Thanksgiving charity gig at First Ave on Nov. 26. He was touring with Reilly when he met his wife, Brigid, at the Turf Club, the main reason he relocated to St. Paul.

When it's suggested he's on a roll since coming to town, Perricelli demurred.

"It's nice to hear good things about my music, because it's my passion, but that kind of thinking can be dangerous," he said, using another new song as a pointer. "'Not Quite So High' is kind of about hubris and ego inflation. It's my reminder to just keep writing songs, and try to make sure the next one is better than the last."

Man, what a rock star.

Covered up in blue After working with a band of local MVPs for a couple years, bluesy piano crooner Alison Scott has gone and made a CD of songs by the Minnesota MVPs. Her new EP, "Hiding Under the Covers," features chilled-out, soulful versions of Paul Westerberg's "Meet Me Down the Alley," Prince's "Sign o' the Times" and Bob Dylan's "Big Girl Now," plus four more covers. None of the remakes offers much originality, but they do show Scott growing into a more versatile vocalist. The disc was produced by Kevin Bowe, Scott's guitar player (and once Westerberg's bandmate), and it features keyboardist Tommy Barbarella (ex-Prince). Scott and Co. will promote the EP at the Dakota on Saturday (7 p.m., $12).

Jess keep on livin' If you, too, have grown tired of hearing Nordeast rap duo the Unknown Prophets complain about not being bigger stars, Big Jess has put together a solo CD, "High Rule," that expounds on how he's going to keep rhyming regardless. That's good, because the disc shows there's plenty of ground for the rapper/producer left to cover, from fatherhood ("That Morning") to the Interstate 35 bridge collapse ("Falling," dedicated to fellow school-bus driver and childhood pal Kim Dahl) to what dictates a true record maker in the MySpace age (the hilarious "Is He OK?"). Jess will perform solo and then with the UP's tonight at the Triple Rock (10 p.m., $10).

Twangy two A "Prairie Home Companion" talent-contest finalist when she was 16, Nikki Matteson comes of age on her new album, "We All Live Together," recorded with longtime partner Rich Rue as Nikki & the RueMates. Matteson's girly but piercing voice comes off as a charming mix of Memphis Minnie and Iris DeMent in country-blues originals such as "I Am Your Angel" and "Green Light II," while Rue's resophonic guitarwork raises the Muddy Waters and Blind Willie McTell covers from being mere coffeehouse workouts. The duo, rounded out by bassist Carrie Dean, promote the disc tonight at the Nomad with Spider John Koerner (9 p.m., $5).

A local band not out to reinvent the alt-country wheel (mostly a good thing in this case), the Get-Rites celebrate the release of their fourth disc, "Tin Roof Sky," Saturday at the Acadia Cafe (9 p.m., free). Frontman Tom Feldmann's gritty ballads are dramatically spiked with desperate spirituality, and he found an ace pedal-steel player in Jed Germond. Mark Stockert produced the disc and opens the show.

Random mix With her widely praised rock 'n' roll memoir "Petal Pusher" coming out on paperback -- for you rock fans who'll plop $25 on a crappy Replacements bootleg but not an enlightening hardcover book -- Laurie Lindeen hosts a reading party Saturday at the 400 Bar (9 p.m., $8). The former Zuzu's Petals co-leader and a few surprise guests (or maybe not-so-surprising) will relive the book onstage with Retrofit, a covers band led by Randy Casey and John Eller. ... Speaking of bootlegs, another MSP Music Expo takes place Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., at the American Legion in New Brighton, 400 Old Hwy. 8 NW. ...

Jeremy Messersmith and the Glad Version will be the only two acts representing the Cities on the 20th installment of Cities 97's "Sampler" CD, a double-disc fundraiser this year that hits Target stores Nov. 20. Other artists on it include Jack Johnson, OneRepublic, Duffy, the BoDeans and Missy Higgins. ...

With the youngest sibling out of high school, local family band the Abdomen are temporarily residing in Los Angeles along with their entertainment-lawyer dad, Ken Abdo, to dip their toes into the music business. Looks like they're up to their knees already: They have gigs booked this month at the Viper Room, the Roxy and Hotel Cafe. ...

Officially billed as an "electronic jam session," Wednesday's show by jazzy, hippie-ish electro trio the Histronic Wednesday at the Cabooze will feature live collaborations with members of WookieFoot, God Johnson and more (9:30 p.m., $6). ... One more CD-release party of note: Synth-rock trio Solid Gold also has one tonight at the Varsity Theater after the Jack's Mannequin show (11 p.m., $10). But all I can tell you about the disc, "Bodies of Water," is it has a very nice cover and sleeve. That's all the band sent me. Perhaps wisely.

chrisr@startribune.com • 612-673-4658