Natural Beardy

An Interview with Charlie Parr

We at Natural Beardy are beginning to get very excited for the Pickathon Music Festival, coming up on August 5-7.  What better time than now to begin taking a look at this year's line up?  I was delighted to get in contact with Charlie Parr, who will be performing Saturday and Sunday of the event.  He agreed to sit down answer a few questions about his music.

Parr may not be a household name yet, and in truth, he has done little to change that.  Between his lack of any social media outside his website, and his self-depreciating description he has written on the Pickathon site, this beardy might well be dubbed a recluse.  But I promise, seek him out at Pickathon, and you will not be disappointed.

Natural Beardy: You play a very traditional collection of folk and Piedmont-style blues, and have been credited with an extensive knowledge of the histories of those genres. How did you first become involved in this type of music?

Parr: My Dad had a pretty diverse record collection that included a good deal of traditional music - folk, early country, blues - I was lucky for that and got to hear that stuff early on and I was hooked. I dug backwards from there.

Natural Beardy: Would you say there was a particular artist who cemented your commitment to traditional music?

Parr: There are a lot, I guess I'd have to say Spider John Koerner since I saw him live so much and he really embodies the idea of preserving the tradition while making it your own for me. I've been very lucky to be able to get to know him a bit and share some shows with him as well, and I think we're all lucky to have him around yet.

Natural Beardy: You grew up, started playing music, and currently live in Minnesota.  Do you feel as though you have been greatly influenced as a musician by your connection with the northern Midwest?

Parr: Absolutely, the landscape here and the people and the weather are all important parts of my life and influence my music in many ways. I think the most pronounced is a sense of seriousness that pervades this part of the country (it's probably the cold) and that creeps into my writing whether I like it or not.

Natural Beardy: We have been witnessing a new folk revival (or re-revival as some might say), birthing a new generation of music.  Where do you see the direction of this genre going, and how will it affect the traditional styles?

Parr: It's great to see some of the genre-blending that's happening now, and I think we'll end up near where we started with music in general defying strict categories. The idea of folk-music now seems to be headed in a direction where people are taking that to mean that they can make their own music, whatever the genre, and that gets to the heart of the matter, I think. There will always be a folk-revival going on, as long as people get involved in the music.

Natural Beardy: Have you felt pressure to maintain a balance between keeping a personal connection with your music and the necessary loopholes and red tape a professional musician such as yourself must go through to reach their audiences?

Parr: Definitely - I'm kind of caught in the middle sometimes since I want to keep playing, which means playing the game at times and yet I want to keep playing on my own terms. My goals are simple though, which means I can keep the business part simple and I'm lucky to have some folks helping me who are sympathetic to all this. Eventually I think we'll win and the folks who put money before music will move on and we'll be able to play.

Natural Beardy: You have a reputation for humbleness in terms of self-promotion.  In a press article, you are quoted as saying, "I don't want to talk about me.  I want to talk about music."   I do not wish to turn the interview to subjects you do not wish to talk on, but I am curious about it.  Would you say you desire to keep your personal life and performing life separate from each other?

Parr: No, I just think that given the fact that I'm a very, very boring person, it would just be better to talk about the music. I'm really not very good at the promotion stuff, I'm not much of an entertainer, hopefully the music speaks for itself since I'm not too good at speaking for it. It's a weird thing to do, and I understand that folks want to have more than the music, but I'm not sure what else I can offer. 

Being on the road a lot has led to some bizarre habits (manifold cooking, ninja camping, creative solutions to banjo and guitar repairs, hygiene issues ...) and I don't mind sharing all that with anyone. I think when it gets more important than the songs is when it goes wrong.

Natural Beardy: And last, but not least, Pickathon is on the horizon for you.  How did you become involved in this festival, and what are your thoughts on performing there?

Parr: I'm very excited to be playing at Pickathon this year and even more excited to have the time to be on hand for the entire festival so that I can see some other music! It's been a good year for me, I've been extremely lucky and I'm very grateful for the chance to play my songs at the festival. I'm also planning on spending most of my money in Portland's fantastic record shops.

Once again, you can catch Parr on the Aug 6-7 at Pickathon, and you can check out his music here.

MP3 :: Charlie Parr : "I Dreamed I Saw Jesse James Last Night"

-Adam Alexander  July 22, 2011

2 Beardy Folks Said...:

hearth_music said...

Great interview, I've just been discovering Charlie Parr. His new CD is killer!

Anonymous said...

I really like Charlie's playing. Gonna go see him play I think

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