I’ve given up on a few things in my life. Hell, who hasn’t. Quitters live longer, is what I always say. I tend not to dwell on my uh, inadequacies, but lately I’ve been thinking about what I’ve dropped hobby/habit-wise versus what I’ve kept…and what I’ve succeeded at majorly makes up for not kegeling religiously.

Trying to Become Musically Inclined

Music, an addiction I gotta have. On a desert island I would be tormented without sweet, sweet tunes. I want to ingrain it into my veins and BE a song. I’m fascinated by the process and the people who can pick and warble and flail around the stage and get paid for it.

So every once in a while I get the inane notion that maybe, just maybe, a latent gift will rear its beautiful head when I pick up the right instrument. To this date I’ve had many loves…

recorder

cello

piano

guitar

ukulele

harmonica

 

Oh, goddamn it, Jules.

 

Trying to Hippie Up

One day I felt mighty and powerful and full of world-changery goodness after reading an article linking breast cancer to antiperspirant in deodorant and I thought, “Hey, why not switch it up?” and tra la la’d off to Sprouts to spend too much on a natural stick of aluminum-free pit stick.

 

jesus christ, no, tom

jesus christ, no, tom

 

Unfortunately, my sweat glands had other ideas in mind.

The relationship lasted about six months right around the time I was wrinkling my nose and wondering what smelled like dead goat rotting under the hellish sun. Man, I tried to San-Francisco-tough it-out. Lived in denial until finally I decided that hey, maybe I should go back to basics. Back to something stronger.

 

I now bathe in scotch

I now bathe in scotch

 

The lesson here is that deodorant with potentially deadly chemicals WORKS. Tom’s, If I could have used you, I would have. You made my underarms silky smooth.  But I couldn’t hold out and instead bought a deodorant stick full of delicious, delicious aluminum and lo and behold I now smell like fuzzy navel.

 

Trying to Snowboard (AKA: any physical sport)

Now this is more self preservation than “giving up” but if you want to get all nitpicky, OK fine. I snowboarded once back when I was 19. First time off the ski lift I twisted my knee and had to be carried down the mountain on some sort of EMT snowmobile. You do not know humiliation until you’re passed by five-year-olds conquering the black diamond runs and doing triple axels and other shit like that when you’re lying mortified in the back of snowmobile weeping that you never should have left your dorm room.

 

But there is one thing I haven’t given up on…

The only hobby I’ve ever really loved, wanted to work at, and work at hard, is writing.

I’m not the best and I’m never done practicing, but as of this moment at three o’clock in the afternoon when Pluto still isn’t considered a planet, and Miley Cyrus gets another tattoo, I am a writer. I have a 90,000 word novel in a second draft. My day profession is now a full-fledged copywriter. This is not to brag, it is because I am proud.  Working for a goal and then having it finally happen is a monstrous beast to grasp. It’s like whooaaa and blergh and herpdederp all at a WTF-once.

That other shit I gave up on is meaningless…but what I kept at isn’t. It’s learning how to laugh when you suck at something and frantically fist pumping when you find something you want to stick with.

Whether or not I actually publish a book, or anyone ever reads what I write (unless you’re a family member, then you’re just obligated so get ready), this is something I’m okay with. I finished my book. I wrote it because I loved it. And when I die, I will be proud to say, gnarled fingers clenched in victory, that I have had at least one passion in my life I have never given up on, unlike Magic Crystal Pepsi and bikini briefs.

You be proud too. Of whatever you have done that means something.

Maybe you had a baby, married the man of your dreams,  got that job at that library, managed to cut back to a pack a day, keep that sobriety chip or avoided calling Suzy in accounting a cocksucker, whatever you have successfully tried for and  accomplished, big or small, you should be happy and be proud and dance on graves.

Tables.

I meant dance on tables. But graves…yeah, I’m sure someone somewhere would pay you to do that while they watch. And if that’s not a proud moment I don’t know what is.

his name is Ron and he is a gem.

His name is Ron and he is a gem.

Mo’ Writing, Mo’ Problems

Posted: February 9, 2014 in Uncategorized
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What’s better? The movie or the book? An age old argument where the only solution is a hearty dance off pants off.  And though I tend to favor holding the written word over ogling glossy film reel, I do appreciate a good old fashioned Hollywood movie when done right.

Christ, please give this movie an Oscar. -my 9-year-old self

Christ, please give this movie an Oscar.
-my 9-year-old self

Recently, the Cousin (thanks, Cousin!) sent me a link I really enjoyed and agreed with and like a sweet, sweet STD, I wanted to pass it along to you fine readers and writers.

From IO9, the article featured the top problems and top trends a script reader noted when perusing screenplays for studios. Though not directly related to actual BOOKS, the article is very  useful and interesting. For any writer of anything, these are helpful tips for plot and character development.

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Hell, many of these are things I try to keep in mind as I’m writing my future-in-progress-maybe-it’s-a-book.

Note the #1 reason. NOTE IT. Sometimes I agree with it; sometimes I don’t. Maybe it’s still because killing your darlings is so hard, but I do love a good well-flushed out beginning. Not too slow, not too fast, but just riiiight. Straddling that fine line is a hard thing indeed.

#7 is something I always try to pay very close, extra-special-attention to. If there’s a purpose to her (any character), treat her right.

#15 is a trend I notice a lot in some amazing books. They start out so strong and then the last part just peters out. 11/22/63, The Silent Wife, and Choke are a few books that seemed meh at the end.

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These aren’t law. Just teeny tiny tactics for maybe, perchance, hopefully making what you write better. Because hey, unless you’re goddamn Rob Lowe, you can always use a little improvement.

Perfection duly noted.

Perfection duly noted.

I can attest to the south. I can raise a hand and fall to my knees. I can count the Cracker Barrels and the Chick-Fil-A’s and the Waffle Houses by the dozen.  I can pass the churches with just a little bit of guilt. Hell, I lived in Kentucky for two years and the south is an experience you should have at least once in your life. The people, kind and awesome souls. The food, fattening and deliciously fried. The dialect, slow and composed. Sometimes so slow in fact, I’d often listen to someone speaking to me and wish I had a remote control to speed ‘em on up.

And after visiting Nashville, TN to bring in the 2014 New Year, I miss the south. If I moved again, I would tell you true, I’d make Nashville my next home.

There’s something about it. Something that isn’t anywhere else – and believe me I’ve traveled like a sonofabitch so I know my states. Though I can do without the new fangled hipsterness of Nashville and I would never be brave enough to venture karaoke in a city where probably 50% are aspiring singers with a better warble than I, I do adore the laid back charm and southern drawl and music in every  single place you stop. Even the airport bars had a lounge crooner.

Nashville turns you devoted.  It makes you loyal. It makes you dear. It makes you ogle the fry cook with a blazingly sweet pompadour on Broadway. It makes you buy three CDs from local musicians. It makes you beatific on Honky Tonk row with a PBR in your hand.

In fact, Nashville is extra special to me because a part of my maybe-it’s-a-future-book? takes place in Nashville, so anything I did was looked at as an opportunity for literary research.

Yes. Eating an ice cream sandwich counts as research.

Yes. Eating an ice cream sandwich counts as research.

So what does a Nashville Itinerary consist of? Music, drinking and face meets floor.

Day One – The King’s in the (City) House

A three hour drive to Memphis from Nashville ain’t no thang, especially where the King of Rock and Roll’s concerned. Graceland has been on my bucket list for probably more than 15 years (ever since I found his records in my grandmother’s basement), so using the excuse of when-are-we-ever-going-to-be-near-Memphis-again? I dragged my husband along.

Graceland was not what I expected. And not in the bad way. I expected a HUGE mansion; instead I got a gorgeous, quaint house with rooms decked out in all their 60s/70s beauty. Touring where Elvis used to live and seeing the amount of gold records he racked up was amazing. You truly get a glimpse of the King’s professional and personal world. When we made it to Elvis’s grave, I slipped on sunglasses. I couldn’t help tearing up.

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Though Graceland is uber-touristy and slightly tacky, as we passed through the crowd I couldn’t help but hope that the 13-year-old kid whose parents had dragged him/her along developed an appreciation for the King. If Graceland can convert one kid a day from listening to Kesha (I refuse to use the “$” sign) to the King then life is pretty fucking beautiful.

After three more hours in the car, a quick pit stop at the hotel, we headed into East Nashville – Germantown – to have dinner at City House.

Rustic, brick, hipster is what City House is. It feels like you’re eating in a very well decorated warehouse. Concrete and brick walls, metal chairs, loft-like stairs, urban atmosphere, a menagerie of decorative pigs dotting the walls.

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Known for their pizzas and fried chicken, the menu had surprisingly interesting dishes like head cheese and scrapple and Tripp ham. Mmmmm, ham.

Usually I’m the adventurous sort when it comes to putting things in my mouth but the waiter did have to talk me and the Husband into ordering head cheese lettuce wraps mixed with pimento cheese. The rest of the menu was rounded out with pizzas that were unique creations topped with Kale, Catfish, Chard, random and odd combinations on a crackling crust.

The best part of the meal came at the end. It was gloooorious. No, it wasn’t stuffing my face with the best ice cream sandwich I’ve ever had in my life; it was the gentleman to my left politely tapping my arm and offering up his table’s uneaten appetizer they couldn’t finish.

WHAAAAAAAA?

Where else would this happen anywhere but the south?

Well played, Nashville. Well played.

Day Two – Coffee, Beer and Whiskey

Up, early morning.

Pleasedeargod if you ever go to Nashville hit up Barista Parlor. A magical coffee shop in East Nashville that now sits where a mechanic shop used live is vintage and modern cool all at once, with coffee brewers that looked like they came straight out of a laboratory, taxidermy on the walls, record player in the corner and garage doors that open out onto a stage, Barista Parlor would need to look hard to find competition.

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Look at this menu. LOOK AT IT.

Look at this menu. LOOK AT IT.

Order the sausage biscuit and one of the gourmet coffees. With selections like Stumptown, Intelligentsia and Four Barrel, you can’t go wrong with whatever you choose to jumpstart your morning.

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To while away the afternoon, head over to Antique Archaeology in Marathon Village. Featured on the History Channel, this shop has odd and historical wares that are too expensive to purchase but sure make for fun browsing and conversation.

Look ma, an old-timey sign.

Look ma, an old-timey sign.

After checking out The Old Time Pickin’ Parlor and Grimey’s Pre-Loved Music Record Store, we braved traffic and made our way to the Sheraton to claim our spot in downtown Nashville.

Next stop, Honky Tonk row. A street of fine and rascally drinking establishments and shops on Broadway. The bars lining the back alley of the Ryman Theater are the best and all have classic histories and star sightings, not to mention delicious, delicious PBR and live music. Hit up Tootsie’s Orchid Lounge, Legends Corner, Second Fiddle, The Stage, and Robert’s Western World.  I’m pleased to say I hit up all five of them in about 24 hours.

Making dad proud.

Making dad proud.

8pm, dinner that night was at the white-table clothed (la di da) Merchants, a restaurant on Broadway, right across from the boozing bars.

Merchants serves locally sourced produce and meats. A simple menu with familiar dishes that have interesting twists (Scallion hoecakes, anyone?) the dinner at Merchants was very good but not the highlight of the trip by any means.

From there, 10pm, we hit up the Station Inn.

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BY GOD GO TO HERE. A small space, twelve bucks a head, drink PBR on card tables and sit on non-matching folding chairs. It is an insanely amazing time. The husband and I got a table right in front of the stage. No matter where you sit the venue is so intimate, you feel like you’re getting your own personal show. That night we saw Robert Cordle and a better time could not have been had.

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Midnight, we go dancing at Legends Corner and drink whiskey sours while watching the confused country singer on stage try to sing Weezer for a $100 tip before heading back to the hotel at three AM.

 

BEEP DO BEEP BOPP

BEEP DO BEEP BOPP–

 

Day Three – The Mother Church

Sleep in until ten. We’re beat. Too lazy and bleary-eyed I order a $15 pot of coffee. I move slow. That is until we have a Ryman Auditorium tour at noon.

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This tour is a must. Hearing the history, learning about original bluegrass singers who played there is a testament to Nashville and country roots.  Tour this gem. Educate yourself about Ray Acuff. Drool over the Hatch prints.

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From there we headed to the Country Music Hall of Fame. And…

Meh.

In the right mindset this could have been fun. But I was tired. My feet hurt. I was probably biased BUT…there were too many people and it was hot and it was crowded. I get that it’s a Hall of Fame but there were just teeny tiny snippets of information that didn’t really do anything for me.

From there it was a drink, a nap at the hotel, a quick dinner, pregame with Buffalo Trace, and then onto the Ryman. The main reason for this New Year’s Eve trip to Nashville – Old Crow Medicine Show and Parker Millsap at the Ryman.

Seeing a show at the Ryman is a must. Add it to your Bucket List, STAT.

You have not heard music until you have been at the Ryman. You have not felt throbbing until you experience the floors hum and pulsate with the stompage of fellow music lovers. It sings through your soul and vibrates your bones.  It is an experience every music and concert lover should have in their life and pays a true homage to those who stand on its stage.

Parker Millsap and his crew killed with their opening act, the majority of songs coming from their new album debuting in February.

Old Crow put on a righteous performance. Clad in tuxedos and ties, they played a two and a half hour set like goddamn champs. They had their timing down, sang the classics and we rang in the New Year with bells and whistles and a whole bunch of beautiful balloons.

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Someone handed me a noisemaker that had my husband looking instantly regretful.

Oh, the regret.

Oh, the regret.

After the concert, Broadway in all of its crazy glory was a sight to behold.

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The line for a taxi was probably a half mile long; people were starting fights in the back of the bars and hot dog vendors were slinging wieners and raking in the dough. I bought chicken and grits from a food truck and posed on the Ryman’s steps.

My chaos is riveting.

My chaos is riveting.

While I have come away with the knowledge that I will never debut my karaoke skills in Nashville, Nashville isn’t just the south; it is a well-oiled city that knows their food, has beautiful scenery and brims with music. So work on your manners, develop an affinity for whiskey, and practice your white-trash-debutante curtsy because Nashville is a trip that must be had.

Hell, it made an honest woman out of me.

A behind-the-scenes photo of my Nashville pose and attire.

A behind-the-scenes photo of my Nashville pose and attire.

Two drafts and a polish. Advice I am trying to take without a fluttery heart. Because guess what?  About six weeks ago I finished the first draft of a story…a novel? A something, I guess.

It took all the restraint I had not to launch myself back into editing it the moment I finished. I felt lost without my story. My characters. I still had quotes and sentences and story line buzzing around in my head that I didn’t know what to do with. Instead, I took a breath and had a drink instead to celebrate.

 

wheeeee

can’t you feel the excitement?

 

First draft done, the next step is a read. And I’m not sure about the right way to edit. My style is an amalgamation of advice from different writers and just going with my gut instinct. According to Stephen King and others, let it sit, and that’s what I did. I was a good girl and patiently let it marinate on a shelf. I admit I took a few peeks at it, made a few teeny tiny edits (get off my back, OKAY, STEVE?), but for the most part have showed surprisingly good restraint for a Libra.

 

Obey the Man.

Obey the Man.

 

Now, six weeks later, back from a vacation (blog to come), well rested and raring to go, I’ve picked the story back up. I’m reading through it. No editing. Just making notes on a notepad as I go.  It’s difficult to pick up your piece and resist the temptation to red-ink the motherfuck out of it. But it should be done so you can soak up the full story…and then tear into the second draft of it with ferocious and worry-free abandon. Because hey, you read through it. You did your job. Now go at it.

Before I started reading I made myself five key tips compiled from random advice I’ve read. These seem to be most important for this first step of the first draft read. I posted them on the wall in my office. I glance at them often as I hold my story in my hands. They remind me to JUST READ. NO TOUCHING.

 

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Now I’m not a pro at these yet, and I’m sure I’ll break a few of them, but so far they’ve been helping me keep on track. No one’s an expert – everyone will and should edit differently according to what floats your boat and curls your toes.

But since sharing is caring, I wanted to post these five little tips that may or may not get you hot and bothered.

 

Ah, the scrawl of a serial killer.

Ah, the scrawl of a serial killer.

1- Reread:

                 - No editing

                -Just notes/thoughts on a pad

2- Ask:

                -First 20 pages – do you see the premise? Is it obvious?

                -Does the manuscript tell the story you wanted?

                -Kill anything extraneous

               -What’s the protagonist’s clear goal?

               -Is every back story vital?

3-Circle “thought” sentences. FIX.

4- Be honest – with your characters and the story you want to tell.

5- Kill your darlings!

 

I already know the let-your-novel-sit advice works. Before, all I wanted to do was fix it up ASAP, get it done, and do something with it. I was frantic and rabid, near inconsolable with wanting it to be perfect and done STAT.

Now, after letting it sit, and having time to ponder, I’m not impatient. I want to take care with my words and my characters. I want to make it good. I want to make it tight and hard. Be proud of it and not fuck it up.

I think that’s something we can all agree on. And with enough practice, do it too.

Book Breakdown of 2013

Posted: December 22, 2013 in Uncategorized

This is probably my last post of 2013…and it’s fitting to wind it down with the yearly book breakdown of all the books I’ve read and logged away in my book journal.

Read and recap. Let’s do this, bitches.

This year I read 16 books.

Last year it was 22.

I did not beat last year’s record.

Shamed. So shamed.

Shamed. So shamed.

However, let me blame this on two things and make excuses so I feel better about myself.

1) Spillover by David Quammen was amazing. However, it was also 582 pages and science-based. It took me a while to toil through this diseased beauty. But when you want a book about Ebola Virus and the Black Plague, Quammen’s your man.

2) The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes. Dude. No. Just no. This book was no bueno. So uninterested, I just slogged through it. It took me two months, eating up precious reading time I could have allotted to other, more deserving reads. I probably should have given it up but I typically can’t abandon a book. It feels wrong.

The 2013 list goes a little something like this:

1. Dare Me by Megan Abbott – YES.

2. The Typewriter is Holy by Bill Morgan – Non-fiction book about The Beats. Amazing read.

3. Hell’s Angels by Hunter S. Thompson – Fucking yes. Read this.

4. Lit by Mary Karr – Sad, painful, hilarious.

5. Sweet Valley Confidential – The Sweet Life #4 by Francine Pascal et al. – Much needed fluff after Lit.

6. Sweet Valley Confidential – The Sweet Life #5 by Francine Pascal et al. – ditto

7. Spillover by David Quammen – Non-fiction about Ebola, AIDS and other viruses. Humorous and intelligent.

8. Choke by Chuck Palahniuk – Meh. Made me realize I’m not a big fan of Palahniuk.

9. The Son of Rosemary by Ira Levin – As I explained earlier, WHY GOD WHY?

10. Code for Failure by Ryan Bradley – Enjoyed, great characterization.

11. Whatever Don’t Drown Will Always Rise by Justin Daugherty – Beauty of flash fiction.

12. Joyland by Stephen King – Classic King. Can’t go wrong.

13. The Shining Girls by Lauren Beukes – Nope.

14. Gulp by Mary Roach – Another homerun from the non-fic master.

15. Daily Rituals: How Artists Work by Mason Currey – Great, easy read about the creative process of artists. Writers, any creators, I highly recommend getting this short book.

16. Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy – Hard to get through. I love McCarthy’s writing but at times the description became too much. However, there are so many beautiful moments, writing and dialogue to appreciate as well. Worth reading, just slow.

Out of all of the above, my favorite book of 2013…I gotta go with non-fiction. Either The Typewriter is Holy or Hell’s Angels. I dug these books so hard because of the great writing and the history.

As 2014 dances on the horizon, I have a whole shelf of books that are waiting and ready for me to pillage. And of course I know there’s a bookstore out there that needs plundering and an Amazon shopping cart that needs filling.

In next year's running...

In next year’s running…

How about you? What was your count? Your favorites?

And remember…

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“Try a glass of bourbon while cleaning the house,” are singer-songwriter Parker Millsap’s wise-words to me about the best way to enjoy his newest album – due out in February 2014.

Hell, I’ll take him up on that.

Booking a trip to Nashville is how I came to learn about Parker Millsap. He’s the opening act for the upcoming New Year’s Eve Old Crow Medicine Show at the Ryman Theater.  And already being familiar with OCMS’s music, I wanted to learn about Mister Millsap.

Cue purchase of his and musical partner Michael Rose’s debut album Palisade (an album that was named Best Album of 2012 by the Oklahoma Gazette in their year’s end “Tops of 12″ issue).

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When I first heard Millsap’s voice it made me giddy. I couldn’t contain my holy-shit-this-is-another-Tom-Waits. FUUUUU YES.

The kid is a kid. Until he opens his mouth, gets on the microphone, and then this kid is a man.

Palisade is smoky. Acoustic and bare. Blues and gospel and a bit of countrified goodness. Millsap’s got a weathered voice that shanks you in the guts. Like most memorable things, peaceful beauty in its quiet awesomeness. This is not a record to put on and forget about. It’s the real thing.  It’s baby making music. Music to listen to when you have wine and friends. Music to cook and clean to.

What really hooked me about Palisade are the lyrics. Parker Millsap’s lyrics will cut you if you do not pay attention to them. Write about what you don’t know – only twenty, Millsap can do that. And somehow, from his words, I get that he knows what he’s writing about even if he hasn’t experienced it yet.

Millsap’s forthcoming album will have a full band. In addition to him and Michael Rose, they’ve added fiddler player Daniel Foulks. There’s more electric guitar, strings, horns. More accessible songs. Better songs, according to Millsap. It’s also an album without a label. Millsap’s doing it himself. Pressing, touring and driving about the country to show their good, musical wares. Millsap seems content to do this because he loves his art and work. But he wouldn’t complain if it found a home at a record label. In my opinion, it would be well-deserved and pretty fucking awesome.

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So when I jumped on the phone to interview Millsap – and let me just say, Parker Millsap’s mother would be proud because he was polite and right on time and he did not keep a girl waiting – we talked about Tom Waits, writing, and his up-and-coming newest album.

Note – bourbon and nakedness was only brought up once.

 

 

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JULES ARCHER:  What’s the first song you remember hearing that made you think “I want to do this or maybe I can do this?”

PARKER MILLSAP: It was a probably a Lyle Lovett song. Maybe, like, Church by Lyle Lovett.

 

JULES : Did he influence you a lot when you wrote Palisade?

PARKER: I don’t know. I listened to Lyle a lot when I was really, really young. Lyle Lovett and Taj Mahal were like the guys I really listened, that I remember listening to anyways, to when I was really young. By the time I got to when I was writing it had filtered through to where I was listening to a million other things.

 

JULES : I have to ask you about your voice. And not because it’s crazy that a 20-year-old has this voice, but because my first thought was, “Holy shit, it’s Tom Waits!”

PARKER: [laughs] Thank you.

 

JULES :  Do you like being compared to him or is it a burden or a lot to live up to?

PARKER:  I’ll take it. I didn’t get into Waits until right into after I graduated high school, basically my dad told me to go to college, do something, instead of sit at home. I got an internship at a recording studio out in northern California, I worked at a place…where Tom Waits recorded Mule Variations…and a lot of soundtrack stuff was recorded out there. I wasn’t really aware of him until I got out there.  And once I was out there the whole place was kinda immersed in Waits mythology so I really dug in.

 

JULES : What Waits song is your favorite?

PARKER: The whole Mule Variations album. The whole record.

 

JULES :  When you write – what comes first? The lyric or the music? Or is it a combination?

PARKER: Every song is different. Sometimes I get a piece of lyric that I have to try and figure out a melody, sometimes I get a melody and have to try and fit words in it.  A lot of times what happens, this is what usually happens with me, is it starts with an idea, like not necessarily a certain phrase musically or lyrically but the idea of the story, that’s generally where it starts. Like I wanna tell a story about a guy who sells bibles or something like that and then it kind of starts from there.

 

JULES : You read On Writing by Stephen King – what’s your writing process like? I know I read someplace that you don’t try to force it. But do you try and write once a day, once a week? Do you have a special place you have to go to write or can you write anywhere?

PARKER:  Well, this past month, month and a half, two months, I haven’t really written at all because I moved out of my parents’ house so I’ve been in the process of moving and fixing up a house. So I don’t know what my new writing process is. It used to be just in my room.

You know, the process is usually like, sit down with a guitar and pray something comes up.

 

JULES : Do you write a lot with Michael Rose or is it mostly on your own?

PARKER: I write the song and then I kinda bring the song to the table with Mike and we arrange the music together. But generally I sit alone and write the songs.

 

JULES : What’s your favorite book?

PARKER: Either Cannery Row by John Steinbeck or like East of Eden. One of those. Which those are like opposites in a certain manner, East of Eden is like a huge chunk of a book and then Cannery Row is not even a full page. I’m a big Steinbeck fan.

 

JULES : I get this from your songs – they’re very character driven instead of plot if that makes sense.

PARKER: Yeah, yeah, I’m definitely interested in just characters. Another thing I like about Steinbeck is that they’re generally very normal people, which some people think is kinda boring but to me if you can relate to something that makes it art.   You know, that’s kinda what I try – I don’t think I consciously do it – but subconsciously I try to write songs that people can relate to. Generally characters are easier to relate to than some abstract idea.

 

JULES : What was the first song that you ever performed in public?

PARKER: Okay. It was in church, I was probably five, it was a song called “I’ve Been Redeemed”.

[laughs]

I was raised in the church and so…not every Sunday, but like every other Sunday they have what they call “special”, where after prayer and worship service is over somebody gets up and sings a song before the preacher preaches the sermon and uh, yeah, I sang one of those when I was probably five years old, called “I’ve Been Redeemed”. I have no idea who it’s by. I have no idea where you can find it. I know that there’s a cassette tape somewhere in my parents’ attic that has the recording of me doing that.

 

JULES : Going off of that, did anyone from church, your family and friends ever tell you to get into music, or did you just decide to go that way?

PARKER: When I was nine I got a guitar and started taking lessons and I guess a few years in it, once I started figuring out the guitar, once it started becoming fun, and not just hard work and practice, I think I kinda made up my mind pretty quick that this is what I want to do.  I was probably 12 or something by the time I typically decided it was what I wanted to do, but you can’t really say when you’re 12 “I want to be a musician”, it doesn’t really go over so well.

You know I…I graduated high school. Basically after that I ended up pursuing it.

 

JULES :  Who’s your musical idol?

PARKER: It changes all the time.  For a long time it was Lyle Lovett, for a long time it was John Hurt, Howlin’ Wolf, then it was Eric Clapton. Then it was Stevie Ray Vaughan. Then  it was Tom Waits. It’s always changing.

 

JULES : Who’s your dream person you’d want to perform a song with? Like you saw them and thought, “Sweet, let’s jam out together”.

PARKER: It’d probably be Waits. Or…yeah it’d probably be Waits. Or like if Howlin’ Wolf was still alive.

 

JULES : How does it feel to be opening for Old Crow?

PARKER: It’s pretty cool. Can’t complain.

 

JULES : Were you a fan of their music before they asked you to open for them?

PARKER: I was sorta familiar with it because of “Wagon Wheel”.  I had heard a bunch of really terrible covers of it at like open mic nights and stuff like that. So I kinda had this thing where I didn’t know how I really felt about it because I had just heard some really bad versions of the song.

There’s this thing …that they do in Nashville, and I got invited to come do a “song-writer-in-the-round” kinda thing. And it was me, and John Camp, and then Ketch and Critter from Old Crow. And it was great night. You know, I got to be on stage with a bunch of heavyweights it’s kinda intimidating but it was pretty cool. And then Old Crow’s management was there, and after the show they came up to me was like “hey, how would you like to…” and I was like, “uhh, sure”.

Once that happened I was like, well let’s see what these guys are about besides “Wagon Wheel” and now I really love their records. They’re great, great writers and great performers. And really sweet guys on top of it all. Very supportive.

 

JULES : What essential items do you have to have with you on the road?

PARKER: [laughs] I don’t have any weird things that I like to take. I know some people take like little totems and things.  I’m just lucky I can remember to bring everything I actually need.

I’m gonna say…my final answer is my band.

 

JULES : If you weren’t a songwriter/musician, would you be a writer? Or do you need music to write?

PARKER: I’d probably write things but I’d have to do something creative, something where I’m in control because I’m a little bit of a control freak. I don’t know if I could ever work for an office job. I think have to be creating…but uh, I doubt that I’d be a journalist or a novelist. I’d probably want to be a short story writer but that’s like being a poet or something. You’re not gonna survive.

 

[cue me silently crying inside on the other end of the line]

 

JULES :  Tell me about your new album that’s coming out in 2014 – how does that differ from Palisade?

PARKER:  Right after high school, I moved out to California and was there for three months. I moved back and we recorded Palisade within the first six months of me moving back to Oklahoma. Basically Palisade was just me and Mike – and we had these 11 songs and we recorded the record in 17 hours. Pretty quick for most records. A lot of it was done live – we just went in and did it. And then the record came out really quick.

This record took about two weeks to record and it has a full band on it. A lot of newer songs. A whole bunch of different elements. You know, string arrangements and horn arrangements. It’s a much more diverse and a more accessible record because of it. I think the songs are better. And for me, it’s always about writing a better song. I wouldn’t put out a new record if I felt like I didn’t have better songs.

 

JULES : When I buy your new album, what’s the best way to enjoy it? Glass of bourbon? Clean the house? Write?

PARKER:   [laughs] Ummm, I don’t know. A lot of the records that I fell in love with when I was little I fell in love with cleaning the house.  When I record…let’s see I’ve made like 3-4 albums now. Two of them don’t exist outside of my computer. But…after I’m done I generally don’t listen to them.  It’s like standing and looking at yourself naked in a mirror. I’m like, “Oh god, I should change that.”

I haven’t listened to it in a situation yet that feels particularly right, but yeah, try it and let me know how it goes. Try a glass of bourbon. Try a glass of bourbon while cleaning the house.

 

JULES :  Last question…instead of a last meal, what would your “last song” be?

PARKER:  Last song I ever listen to? Oh, man.

JULES : I know.

PARKER: Oh, man.

Going back to Mule Variations. Probably “Come On Up To the House”.  I think it’s the last song on Mule Variations.  It’s a song about basically going to heaven as far as I can tell. So, maybe that’ll give me the extra juice I need to get there.

 

###

You can find details about Parker Millsap’s second album, due in February 2014, here. Pledge him some love.

Parker Millsap’s first album Palisade can be bought here. Go. Make some babies.

I wrote a piece I kinda love and I want to share it with you all. It’s called “Win One for the Man, John”.

The kind folks at Foundling Review have it featured in their December 2013 issue.  Thank you to them for giving it a great home.

A small excerpt:

We used to go down to Lake Elmo and catch catfish. You gutted, I cooked; I could never stand the blood and entrails. We’d get drunk and skip stones. You never talked a lot except when you drank. But when you really did talk, folks listened. I sure wish I would have. Because I didn’t know you were telling me the truth that day.

I got nothin left for me here, you said. Soon, I’m breakin ground, kid.

Where you gonna go, John?

Anywhere that doesn’t have my name on it. Anywhere that ain’t easy.

Your voice—soft and calm. I never took you seriously until you filled out the paperwork. Enlisted like you were such a badass motherfucker. You even got that skinhead haircut. That time at the lake, one of the last times, I remember you glancing at the sky and asking for rain. I had a bite but I never reeled it in.

If you read one piece of mine this year, make this one it. Do iiiiit. For this (wo)man.

Go to here and read.