Charlie Parr: New album, new tour, same guySome people feel Charlie Parr plays simple music. Others feel the Duluth resident of 11 years plays incredibly complex music.
By: Shannon Gwash, Budgeteer News
Some people feel Charlie Parr plays simple music. Others feel the Duluth resident of 11 years plays incredibly complex music. Whatever it is, it certainly is a hit Wednesdays at the Brewhouse.
Parr played his last gig there before going on a 10-week hiatus earlier this month. He leaves the venue where he feels most at home to complete a tour across Montana, Utah, Colorado, South Dakota and Minnesota.
“I’ve been playing [at the Brewhouse] for five or six years,” Parr said. “It’s definitely my favorite place to play. I feel most comfortable here.”
The British band My Two Toms is accompanying Parr on his tour. It first played with Parr in 2004 and 2007 in England. My Two Toms then decided to take the leap across the pond and tour in the States with Parr.
This will be the first time the band has played in the U.S. When asked about the differences in fan bases between the United States and the United Kingdom, Parr said the fan bases are incredibly different. The fans in England are much more rowdy with people of all ages, in one pub, enjoying the same music, he said.
On top of a tour, Parr released his eighth solo album, “When the Devil Goes Blind,” last month. Listeners can still hear the folksy, bluesy sound Parr is known for but there is one difference: It is the first album Parr has recorded in a studio.
“I played everywhere but a studio,” he said. “Usually it was in garages, basements, bars after bar close, living rooms of friends — anywhere.”
Recording in the studio offers a variety of benefits, including better audio and no overdubs, he said.
This record is simply Parr doing what he does best: singing and playing music.
Recording “Devil” wasn’t all a walk in the park. Parr admitted he first recorded the album in November 2009 but did not feel good about it. He said it just wasn’t his best work and he knew he could produce something better.
After teaming up with fellow performer (and producer) Bo Ramsey for moral support, he re-recorded the album this past March at Wild Sound Studio in northeast Minneapolis.
Parr said writing songs is challenging for him because he cannot write about himself or his own life because he claims “my life is boring.” Instead, Parr reaches out to the memories of his working days when he was on the front line helping homeless people. He and his team were often the first anyone saw of social services. Although difficult, Parr said the job was incredibly rewarding.
“I loved it,” he said. “It’s something I felt I was really good at.”
Because of his selfless ways and dedication to helping those less fortunate than he, his songs are filled with stories of poverty, homelessness, and suicides. But at the end of the day (or song), his goal is to make the listener feel connected to the music.
“The thing I like about folk music is that it’s accessible,” he said. “I hear something and think, I could play that. That’s what my goal is.”
One of the major driving forces behind Parr’s decision to focus solely on folk music is his wife, Emily. She is the one he credits for influencing his decision to follow his dream and play music. The schoolteacher is Parr’s muse. He draws from her the confidence he needs to face the audience and play his music.
“She is my Zen master,” he said. “Emily is very good with advice and has always been the one to support me and give me encouragement.”
Parr normally tours with Emily and their two children, Elijah and Tallulah. But now that Elijah is starting fourth grade, Parr said it is getting a bit harder to take the kids out of school.
The family has seen many places thanks to Parr’s touring, including Australia. He said it starts to get lonely on tour without the family.
Iron Range freelance writer Shannon Gwash can be reached via email@example.com.