Creative sparks spur singer-songwriterWritten by Vicki L. Kroll | | email@example.com
Four years, four discs. From 2004 to 2007, Graham Parker released three studio records and one live CD: “Your Country,” “Songs of No Consequence,” “103 Degrees in June” and “Don’t Tell Columbus.”
The witty singer-songwriter claimed he didn’t know what caused the creative outpouring.
“I look at the songs and I’m like, ‘How did I do that?’ I’m a really lazy guy; I don’t know how I get this done. I’d rather sit around and do nothing,” he said during a phone interview from his home in the Catskill Mountains of New York. “It’s like, ‘Whose songs are these?’ I know I worked hard for them; I know I put the time in, but it’s still kind of a magical thing to have this block of work.”
Parker packs poetic power. He began wielding words in school.
“I always wrote the best essay in the class. So it was there from the start — I was pretty good with words,” the London native recalled. “When The Beatles and The Stones came along, ’62, ’63, it seemed fair game for any kid to become a songwriter.”
But Parker didn’t just become a songwriter; he became an artist with a reputation for crafting memorable hooks that stick in your head.
“I think that a pop song or a rock ‘n’ roll song is something designed to manipulate people’s emotions very, very quickly. That’s one of things that’s so appealing about music, especially in the form of a song — it’s not like reading a book where you might have to really commit yourself to going along with something that might be kind of boring at first and you’re hoping it’s going to lead you into something more exciting, take you along for the ride and sometimes it doesn’t always happen.
“But with a song, you know it pretty quickly; you might need to hear it a few times before it digs in … You try to get over various emotional ideas in a very short time, and if there’s a few intellectual ideas in there, so be it, very good as well.”
In “The End of Faith,” a digital single released last fall, Parker analyzes religion.
“I’m trying to be playful with the subject,” he said. “The Richard Dawkins book [‘The God Delusion’] came out and was quite critical of religion, shall we say. The Christopher Hitchens book, ‘God Is Not Great,’ and the Sam Harris book, ‘The End of Faith.’ And I just kind of felt those books put into brilliant context how I feel; sometimes people can do that for you — that’s what art is about.”
He also takes on the war and the state of the country with “Stick to the Plan” on 2007’s “Don’t Tell Columbus.”
“‘Stick to the Plan’ is another with a few political undertones here and there, but again, it’s playful. I’m usually being playful with this stuff; occasionally, bile will creep in, but that’s more from the past,” he said and chuckled.
That past started with his band The Rumour and includes 1979’s “Squeezing Out Sparks,” which is regarded by many as Parker’s best effort.
“It’s hard to define what makes [‘Squeezing Out Sparks’] click, really. I just wrote a bunch of songs that worked together that were quite powerful, I think,” he said. “‘Squeezing Out Sparks’ broke the mold of what was being developed — these long recording processes where you try to make everything perfect, which is ridiculous, really, and ‘Sparks’ didn’t do that at all — we did it in 11 days.”
Parker will perform with Tom Freund at 6:15 p.m. Sept. 6 at the free Black Swamp Arts Festival in Bowling Green on the main stage between E. Wooster and S. Prospect streets.