An Interview with Robert “Freightrain” Parker

Today we sit down with Award Winning – Hall of Fame Artist Robert “Freightrain” Parker and discuss his successful music career. Robert tells us about his debut album, Freightrain Live, his sophomore album Outside Ourselves, and his recent awards and nominations.

Thank you for being with us today! Can we begin with where are you from and where do you currently reside?

I am from Buffalo, NY and currently reside in Hamburg, NY a suburb of Buffalo…

How long have you been making music?

I have been making music for about 40 years, I started on trumpet in 7th grade, I was pretty good but decided it wasn’t for me, taking advice from my Father I picked up the Bass and haven’t looked back…


How many songs /albums have you released to date?

I have 2 Albums out in my name “Freightrain Live” 2016 which has 9 tracks one written by myself and Grace Lougen called “Club 48, the 2nd Album is “Outside Ourselves” 2017 which is an all original album with 9 tracks as well.

Can you tell us about your latest release and the background/inspirations behind it?

Outside Ourselves is the latest Album which I am very proud of, the inspiration is much, My Life, My Career, My Family, My Son… The writing was very organic, we didn’t have any direction or genre based writing, all these songs just happened, creating in my eyes our own “Freightrain” sound.

Can you tell us a little bit about your Native American Heritage and how it’s instrumental in helping to guide your music career?

I believe being Native helps especially in the artistry and creativity I have been gifted by the Creator, I never have been noticed or tried to be by the Native Community till recently by winning an Indigenous Music Award and 3 Nominations in the Native American Music Awards.

You have recently produced your wife Sarah’s debut album Strawberry Moon. Can you tell us a little bit about that experience?

I have to say it was the most fun I have had, being able to help make these beautiful songs more beautiful was extremely rewarding and something I had hoped to do my entire musical journey, Sarah had written songs many years ago that I was very aware of, i had mentioned that we should record these, many years had gone by as life takes over.

Sarah had began seriously writing again last year 2017, and I had suggested that we seriously get in the studio to record as I heard so much potential in her incredible writing and thought these must be heard.

Well I was right, the album is something I am so very proud of, the folks we got to play on were all perfect, it’s a dream come true, this record deserves to be heard and noticed by all in the industry. I love how this is real, soulful music with real writing and playing.

How have you ended up in the music industry?

I had no choice, Like I had said earlier I was given a gift and decided at a young age to give up another love, sports, to pursue music as a career.

What do you think of the music industry in 2018?

I am very divided about the industry, I told my Band that I believe if this were the 70’s I know we would have been signed to a label, but these times have changed the industry, with social media and downloads and streaming, I know social media has helped after, actually still learning how to use it.

I am convinced that A&R people really do not exist like they used to, there doesn’t seem to be that person out there anymore that will discover and take a chance because they really believe in your talent, it’s more of a numbers game now, how many likes and followers amateurs, we have more work to do and less time to be an artist, I hate to say this but it seems the industry folks are somewhat dare I say lazy and depend on us the artist to lay all the groundwork for them, so these numbers lead to the more popular than talented being chosen by music “business” people.  So it is very frustrating and trying in a different way these days.

Who do you think is the most influential artist?

This is a very hard to answer question, I believe there are way too many artists that had an influence on me, my most influence comes from my Dad, My Dad really got me started on bass and taught me a lot about the business, I was way ahead of musicians close to my age in the business side of things… Although he did not think I would ever be a singer, LOL…Proved him wrong on that one. A big influence on me was a friend and great drummer Pete O’Donnell, My 1st paid gig was with him and he kind of took me under his so to speak and taught me much about music, grooves, business and what commitment and dedication it takes to be a player, I don’t think he really knows the influence he had. — Thanks Pete!

Who have you collaborated with so far in your career?

I have collaborated with many in my career, My Brother who plays sax and keys, My Friends Mike Merisola, Howard Wilson, John Collins, Mike Marinelli and all involved with my 1st original project “Street Scene” which morphed into “Where’s Broadway”…

I have worked as a session bass player on many CD’s but began acting as a producer about six years ago when my buddy Darryl Tonemah asked me to help him with an album of his named Mulligan. Darryl is a super talented writer and we had a lot of fun bringing in different players to get the sound that the songs deserved. I enjoyed every part of the recording process from the arranging to the mixing. It was then I started to realize my talents as a producer and to develop my ear even more… it has helped me in producing my own project’s as well as my wife’s.

Lately I thoroughly enjoy collaborating with my Current band “Freightrain” Grace and I come up with the general song and Greg and Damone add the seasoning.

You have been inducted into the Musician’s Hall of Fame. How does that make you feel?

I’m not big on awards or recognition and my wife Sarah had submitted my packet for consideration and I was inducted in 2015, it really didn’t hit me till a few hours before I was to be inducted, at that moment the speech just poured out of me with ease.

I realize all the folks inducted before me and it means so much, The Band Raven who i should have mentioned in the Influential question, it was an honor to be asked to perform with them the past few years, Rick James, the Goo Goo Dolls, Spyro Gyra and so on…

How do you think you differ from other artists?

It’s really hard to be totally different than other artists, but I believe I have found my own niche’, style and sound playing the bass… I am an aggressive pocket player!

Tell us about your very talented band?

This band really was years of a work in progress, i had moved back to WNY in 2008 and really just eased back in to the scene here, I became somewhat serious again joining up with 2 very talented players Willie Haddath and Ray Hangen, who is currently on tour with Bruce Katz. Willie, Ray and I formed the Willie Haddath band and we became quite popular and worked a lot. Unfortunately Willie had some health issues and the band had to stop, well I continued with a project called “Freightrain and Friends” basically hiring different players each gig, well it turned into basically a weeding out process finding Greg and then Damone and then Grace. It happened at a Benefit we were a part of that had the 4 of us, it hit me immediately how special it was, I got off the stage and approached the owner of that club and told him we would record our 1st album there, “Freightrain Live”.  The owner Dwane “Hall and The Club The Sportsmen’s Tavern have played a major part of our growing popularity and fanbase.

Dead or alive, who would be your dream collaboration?

I have so many folks like Jackson Brown, Michael McDonald, Kenny Loggins, Terry Kath, Fagan, Donny Hathaway and the list can go on, but I’m going to stick with my Band. It is so much Fun and has so much heart and soul, it took me many, many years and players to get to this and the sound we have created.

What was the first album you ever bought?

Oh man, I remember the 1st 45, don’t laugh but it was Mandy by Barry Manilow, I’m a sucker for ballads.  I believe the album was probably Chicago Transit Authority…or I remember The Average White Band Live Album…

What’s your favorite song at the moment?

I’m gonna go with Better man by Freightrain… So proud of that song…

Also any of Sarah’s Songs from Strawberry Moon…So Proud of that record.

If you had to sell your music collection tomorrow, what album would you leave in your drawer?

“Strawberry Moon”

What is your favorite saying?

I told you…Lol  — That’s what my band would say…

What other hobbies or interests do you have?

I Love to Cook, to create dishes with veggies, fruit, herbs from my garden or local farmers.  I love to build things in my woodshop…

Do you have any tattoos or piercings?

Tattoo, on my arm that essentially became a major part of the logo… Bass clef with feathers hanging off…

Recently your debut album “Freightrain Live” won the 2018 Indigenous Music Awards for The Best Blues Album of the year. Can you tell us the events leading up to this award and a little bit of what has happened in your career after winning this award?

Well I was proud to have a Nomination in the Indigenous Music Awards, I felt it meant so much to be honored with a Nomination by my own People.

I really had no idea or did not expect to ever win the award, I almost did not attend because I had gigs to honor, My wife Sarah had convinced me to attend and I was honored to win.

I felt especially proud as it was an industry vote, it seems to have helped somewhat, I did get some interviews and have seen some sales go up, also have a show booked to anchor a tour in Florida the start of 2019…

I didn’t expect much but also kind of made me realize that these things can help so I have amped up my career by hiring some outside help to give me a push.

Since winning the Indigenous Music Awards for “Freightrain Live, you have released your follow up album Outside Ourselves. This new album is now nominated in three categories (New or Debut Artist of the Year, Best Blues Recording and the Best Music Video Recording Performance for the prestigious NAMA’s (Native American Music Awards.  How have these nominations affected your music career?

These award Nomination are a popular vote so I have seen a major spike in gaining more fans because of our push promoting our band, in the tea of thousands, through social media we have gained more likes, looks and visits.

Do you have any plans to tour?

Yes, we have plans on Florida and hopefully some East Coast dates in January, getting back to Europe is very high on the list, especially Norway as I am very fond of that Country.

Tell us more about your upcoming project or this new project?

Currently we are working on our 3rd Release, so the writing has started and recording is scheduled for the end of November, tracking will begin for Sarah Parker’s new Album.. I also am in current negotiations with a couple of Buffalo Artists to produce.  Very Excited about where my career is…

Also my 6th Annual Toy drive will be in December, I gather toys and donations from our wonderful community and donate to local Native American children, we also use monetary funds to provide local native youth with instruments and lessons…

What’s in the pipeline after this project?

I Hope to keep this Band together for as long as I can, the ultimate goal is to build our own studio, I love producing records as well…

Thank you for your time, and may you carry on making great, fresh music.

Thank for your interest in Robert “Freightrain” Parker and all that is going on, I appreciate this with all I have…

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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