Music has always been a part of William Caleb Parker’s life. He loved it growing up and was fascinated by the sounds of decades past. When he headed off to college he studied a lot of classical guitar, but asks that you don’t ask him to try his hand at that today because according to him, he’s a bit “rusty.” While he studied and could play you the classics, he yearned to do his own thing and started creating music himself. Today you can find him playing around LA but he says he’s yet to find the singer-songwriter/folk scene. So if you happen to know where that is – let him know and continue on with the rest of the interview as travel to the past and back again. With William Caleb Parker.
Kendra: You just released an acoustic version of “Full Moon Rising,” and you have a few more waiting to go. What made you want to acoustify some picks from your EP Marie, and how did you go about picking which songs would be the ones?
William Caleb Parker: There’s a few reasons! From the outset, I tried to write songs that wouldn’t lose their identity if I just played them in a coffee shop by myself. I sent Phil (my producer) a bunch of demos I recorded on my phone and we really tried to keep those original arrangements in tact when recording Marie. These acoustic sessions really get back at the original versions of the songs. They also look more like what a lot of my live shows look like because I don’t always play with a full band.
I’ve gotten a lot of positive feedback from “Full Moon Rising” and “Words Won’t Do” so they were an easy pick to acoustify. I had a hard time picking between “Zossima” and “Marie,” but ended up going with “Zossima” because “Marie” is such a sad song. I love it, but it makes me sad so I decided to not put other people through that yet.
Kendra: You were inspired by Marilynne Robinson’s novel Gilead when you put pen to paper and started working on “Full Moon Rising.” That’s not weird for you though because you’re often inspired by literature. Were books always your muse?
William: A lot of people write songs inspired by their own lives or by their own thoughts. This is how I started out writing, but I always have always had a hard time thinking of stuff that comes out of my own head as good song material. Every so often I get a great song idea on my own, but when the ideas don’t come naturally, I’ve found that literature is a great place for me to find inspiration. So I guess what I’m saying is that I’ve found a really fantastic songwriting crutch…
Kendra: Would you ever do a concept album based solely on one novel? If so, which one would it be off the top of your head?
William: The Brothers Karamazov. I’ve gotten two songs from a single section so I’m sure there are another eight or 10 hiding in there somewhere.
Kendra: Books and sounds created way before you were. What about the 60’s and 70’s makes that your go-to music?
William: First off, I really like the sound of a lot of those records. They don’t sound particularly clean by modern standards, but they are so human and relatable. There was a lot experimentation going on so many of those records sound interesting because people were trying things. It bothers me when records sound as if they are aiming at perfection instead of just making really great music. A lot of these are just great music.
As far as songwriting goes, I just really think that guys like Paul Simon and James Taylor, have songwriting that is worth really paying attention to because it hasn’t aged badly. Also, as I’m answering this I’m realizing that “I just like it” might be the best thing I can say. I’m really attracted by the aesthetic of those decades.
Kendra: If you could’ve written one song from either of those decades, which would it be and why?
William: For the song, I might say “Something in the Way She Moves” by James Taylor. I’m not sure if it’s actually about him or if he just made it up, but he managed to develop both characters and their relationship in a way that is clear but also leaves you asking questions. You never really find out why he is troubled, but it is very clear that when she is around, she gives him peace. This character is self aware enough at the time he is saying these words that he knows that he doesn’t have to feel troubled. I think for people dealing with depression and anxiety there is often a feeling of victimization and helplessness, but from the perspective of this guy in this story, he is clearly feeling fine at the time he is writing this song. It’s deep, thought provoking, and colorful.
Kendra: Now to the here and now, where can people see you live next?
William: I have rough plans for a multipurpose SoCal coffee shop tour – the multi-purposes being play shows and explore coffee shops. Coffee shops are really fascinating to me. I have pretty particular taste in coffee, but I really respect how coffee appreciation varies from place to place. Dates will go on the calendar here soon. Also, I’m from Woodinville Washington which is just outside of Seattle, so I’m working on lining up a few things up there as well.
Kendra: Usually we ask artists to let us know about another up and coming artist but I want you to shout out a new author you feel our readers should check out. Let us know what new writer has influenced you lately.
William: Golly… I’m going to ignore that and tell you about a couple artists anyways! You should check out the Show Ponies. They are a so-cal band, are fantastic musicians and their live shows have a ton of energy. Really great arrangements and a unique take on folk/country. Full disclosure, two of their members Phil and Kevin are in my band. That said, I was not encouraged to say this. I really do think they are doing something pretty great.
You should also check out Pearl Botts. No official releases yet, but she is coming out with an EP sometime this year. She’s got a youtube channel and stuff. I play with her pretty regularly, and am working on her record. Again, I think she is a really great songwriter, has a beautiful voice, and comes up with a lot of really great ideas. Also, if you have not listened to Aoife o’Donovan, she is the best. I want to make music like her when I grow up. Amazing songwriter, unbelievable singer. Just the best.