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INTERVIEW: Butch Parnell

Hi Butch, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Thank you for having me. I am very well. Loving that it’s finally becoming Fall in New York City.

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Give Me A Reason”?

Absolutely. Give Me A Reason is a simple lullaby-ish kinda tune. It’s a song about a character who meets this amazing and wonderful person and they get together, but the singer doesn’t know what to do with that. He only knows dysfunctional ‘relationships’ and chaos and therefore is looking for any reason to get out of the relationship while the other side of himself is just amazed that this wonderful person has entered into his life. The verses are the amazement of the wonderful person and the choruses are the singer basically pleading with the other person to convince him to not run away from this.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Yeah. Completely auto-biographical. I meet this amazing girl who was beautiful inside and out and somehow my past failed relationships haunted me too much to pursue it. I wanted her to convince me to stay, but she was confident enough to know who she was and smart enough no to come running after someone who wasn’t emotionally available.

How was the filming process and experience for the video?

I had absolutely no hand in making the video. As a musician in today you have to do pretty much everything yourself on the budget of nothing. So while I am writing and recording the next release my manager put the video together himself. I would love to shoot an actual performance video of this song with the talented folks I had playing and singing with me on this track. And if I can get us all together for more that 20 minutes we might be about to pull it off.

The single comes off your new album The Fall – what’s the story behind the title?

I am a sucker for words and phrases that have multiple meanings. Just like most things in life it’s context that determines its actually meaning. It’s The Fall because it’s released in fall and it’s The Fall because the entire EP is a fall of a relationship that burned out due mostly because of outside influences beyond anyone’s control. It’s about falling in love and then falling from the highs to the lows.  The cover is even an homage to the ‘Fall’ of Adam and Eve and at the same time it’s a play on the Lovers card in a tarot deck.

How was the recording and writing process?

This was one of those songs where I came up with the melody and chord changes ages ago and it just sat on my computer in an instrumental demo. I had no idea what to do with it. No story. And generally when I do this these songs never become anything. If the story, melody, and lyrics don’t arrive pretty close together I pretty much don’t ever use the song. But in this one case I kept coming back to this melody and one day it all just came out. When I was writing it I had no idea what it was about and was only able to see the actual story when it was completed. When it came time to record it I wanted to keep it very sparse and I wanted it to sound ‘real’. And this is where I am betting the majority of criticism will come. It couldn’t be Nashville slick. To me it needed to sound like the song was being written at that exact moment you hear it. So everything we did for the recording was really fast. There are times where I probably should have rerecorded the vocals in a spot or two, but I didn’t.

How has Brandi Carlile and Lone Bellow influenced your writing?

Honestly, none. I know the names, but I couldn’t tell you one song they have. I am sure they are fine musicians I just am not familiar. When I grew up my dad was listening a lot of Bob Dylan ,much to my mother’s dismay. We didn’t have a lot music in the home , but we also listened to a lot of country music on family car rides. When I got older I fell in love Oasis and KISS of all bands. So I am not sure where the style of music I do comes from exactly. Though I did buy The Jayhawks ’Hollywood Town Hall’ when I was a kid and that record blew my mind away. I was supposed to buy the new Ozzy record that was coming out, but someone in the store had  The Jayhawks on and I forgot all about that Ozzy record.

As you write under a new moniker, has this decision affected your sound?

I think moving away from having a band definitely did. The first few EPs I put out were mostly acoustic and had no drums and I was responsible for playing everything or almost everything and therefore all of my parts became simpler. As I’ve released more and more EPs I have brought back drums and am even pushing for a ‘band’ sound on a few tracks on the new EP. I think EPs allow you to try more things and experiment. If you do one and your fans don’t like it, they can just wait a couple months and something else will come down the line. As an artist it allows you to move quickly and make inspired choices in the moment. It’s hard to stay fresh working on an album with a band for multiple years, but I have had that experience and I just prefer working quickly. I think it helps keep the songs the focus and doesn’t give the internal critic enough time to make you second guess every little aspect of the recording. Write it. Record it. Get it out. Move on to the next thing.

Where else did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

A lot of the songs I write are just responses to things that have happened in my life. And I think they are experiences that most can relate to. I do my best to try to keep it fresh by not always writing from my point of view in situation because t’s fun to tell someone else’s truth. Or at least try to. When I am just creating characters for a song I find that I always have to create an entire back story. And the song has to stay true to that story or the back story itself  has to change. A lot of times these songs come about because the EP is missing a link. It’s missing a song that I wish would have happened or needed to happen. So in those cases I fill in the holes. As far as lyrics my mini-dachshund Winston writes them all.

Any plans to hit the road?

Hopefully very soon. The last band I played in would play any and everywhere. I have learned from that mistake. You can find yourself in some terrible situations. Crowds that don’t respond well to your music, broken down vans, fights amongst band members. So I decided with this project to make better decisions. Part of that was to release music more often in smaller chunks. To do all the recording and mixing in my own studio to help keep costs down and turn around much faster. And along with that I have decided to do shows that make sense. Smart tours that are routed well in places that are known to like the type of music I do. This is a headache for my management, but I think it’s a necessary step if I want to continue making music. Otherwise I’ll do bad tours, get burnt out and then just quit music. And I don’t want to ever do that.

What else is happening next in Butch Parnell’s world?

I am gonna make myself a turkey club sandwich. And then work on the next release.

Stream “Give Me A Reason” on Soundcloud HERE

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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