Purcell, OK singer songwriter Parker Millsap turned twenty in February. Another year and he’ll be able to slide onto a barstool and order a beer in the same venues he’s been playing for a while now. Barely out the door of Purcell High, Millsap released Palisade last April. Featuring Millsap’s songwriting, guitar and gritty vocals with the substantial support of his buddy Michael Rose on bass, it’s an excellent album by any measure and an impressive debut effort.
The new year finds Millsap and Rose back in the studio in Norman, working on a follow up. The duo is now a trio with the welcome addition of talented fiddler Daniel Foulks. While Palisade was a stripped down, acoustic affair, this sophomore album will include a few more instruments, Millsap told me in a recent interview. For starters, there’ll be drums, courtesy of Millsap and Giovanni Carnuccio III (from John Fullbright’s band). “On one song, there’s a little banjo, some lap steel. I think a little bit of electric guitar, harmonica...we brought in some horns. Yeah, it will have all kinds of sounds,” Millsap laughed. Listen closely and you might even hear a toy piano. “For real; get ready,” Millsap warned.
The Villain is the album’s working title, taken from a song on the recording. “A lot of the time, you’ll name the album like the lead single...this (song) is probably the least like single material, but I just like the title,” Millsap explained. Millsap’s songwriting continues to reflect the musical influences of his father’s record collection (musicians like Lyle Lovett, Robert Earl Keen, Ry Cooder and John Lee Hooker), his own appreciation for the music of Tom Waits, and his church upbringing (the new record includes a song called “Truck Stop Gospel”, complete with tambourine). However, this album will be different from Palisade. “It will have more songs on it; hopefully, it will sound better, “ Millsap joked. “The goal is to always write better songs.” He’s taking a slightly different approach to his songwriting this time around. “I don’t want to say they’re more like pop songs, but they’re more like pop songs. They’re more ‘sing along-able’, I guess, some of them. There are still some songwriter type songs on there, but there are also some songs that are just catchy, but hopefully still good."
“A lot of my favorite songs are the kinds of songs that get stuck in my head, so I guess I started writing those kinds of songs,” he continued. “It wasn’t a conscious decision. It wasn’t like ‘I’m going to write songs that are more accessible.’ They just happen to be more accessible. By ‘pop’, I just mean better hooks...a little more prone to getting stuck in people’s heads.”
Millsap opened for Jonathan Tyler and the Northern Lights at the Cain’s Ballroom in February, a gig he really enjoyed. Playing the Cain’s was “something that me and Mike (Rose) have been talking about since high school,” Millsap commented. In 2013, Millsap hopes to do more regional and national touring. He’d also like to find a label home for the new record. “Getting this record released by a label would be really cool,” he said. “That would take a lot of pressure off of me. I wouldn’t have to be the label and the songwriter and the touring musician and all of it. That would be nice.”
For now, Millsap has no plans to move away from Purcell. “That’s one thing I think is unique about Oklahoma musicians. They don’t plan on leaving,” he remarked. “We can tour from anywhere. It’s having a place to come back to that seems important to a lot of Oklahoma musicians. (John) Fullbright still lives in Bearden, right outside of Okemah. It’s like a suburb of Okemah, if there’s even a suburb...I think we like small towns. Maybe we’re just scared of the big city.” He reconsidered and laughed. “Yeah, or maybe, for me, it’s like there are places that I like to go to eat and I don’t want to not be able to eat at those places. It’s like I’ve lived in the same house for 17 years and the 2 years before that we were in a house that was less than a mile away.”
Or, maybe it’s the friendship and support of fellow Oklahoma musicians like Fullbright and Samantha Crain. “They’re all extremely supportive...There’s not a whole lot of competition here. It didn’t go through anybody’s head ‘Oh, dang it, Fullbright got nominated for a Grammy, not me.’ It was like the other way. ‘Oh, all right! Somebody’s finally noticing!”
-With thanks to Currentland