Georgia Parker – MUSIC


Let’s get to know Georgia Parker better together, shall we? As I like to do, hearing and sharing the early stages of a musician’s development serves to open our eyes (and ears) to what gives their songs life.

Contemporary Classic Country. Three words that, unfortunately, don’t go together much. You have your “contemporary country,” which, if you have been a reader of this column over the last five years know that I cannot stomach it. You have your “classic country,” which I love, but you have to go back a long way to find music that should be classified as such. 

Then there are the distinctions of what we may refer to as “classic.” In some ways, I would say that classic country could even be found as recent as the 1990’s, though, for the sake of this column, I am thinking of classic country as what was happening in the rootsy, folky, Americana tunes of the 1940’s and 50’s. 

You see, in that special era, there could be a seamless fusion of jazz, elements of swing, and a downhome downbeat that allowed the listener to grab their partner and dance a little bit with an effortless sway.

As a fulltime performing musician, my ear perks up immediately at that undeniable energy that is felt by live music. One day a few years, I decided to grab some lunch at the local Boerne gem that is Cibolo Creek Brewing Co. If you’ve been there, you know there’s a stage out back that a number of area talents share their songs. Even from the front walking down Main Street, I could hear, but more so feel, the sonic waves being created in real time.

In walking out back, there was a trio of musicians that I knew right away were cooler than the other side of the pillow. They were fronted by Georgia Parker (what a great name, right?) on a classic Epiphone hollow body archtop acoustic. Next to her was Nick Lochman on upright bass and Greg Harkins playing lead on an almost twin Gibson guitar to Georgia’s.

Parker was driving the bus, but they were right in step with one another. At various points, they would bunch around the same mic in the front and center singing gracefully in three parts. When there’s a group of people together enjoying truly quality music, there exists a communal experience that is undeniable. And when the music is just, well, right, that experience is something that is quite special. 

That afternoon, on a nearly perfect day around 72 degrees, sunny and blue skies, the music of the Georgia Parker trio created a vibe that allowed everyone there to just soak in the sheer beauty of the day. Sitting there for the remainder of the show was a treat that I still remember quite vividly several years later.

Let’s get to know Georgia Parker better together, shall we? As I like to do, hearing and sharing the early stages of a musician’s development serves to open our eyes (and ears) to what gives their songs life.

“I started as a kid in piano lessons with my brother. I never really loved it. Practicing piano when I was young felt very solitary and uninspiring; I quit as soon as I was able. My older brother and I grew up attending the Kerrville Folk Festival in Kerrville, Texas. It’s a songwriter-oriented festival with a vibrant song circle scene in the campgrounds. We went as small kids, but I didn’t go back through middle school or high school. I started attending the festival again right after graduating from high school and was immediately inspired by all the folks of all ages, styles, and skill sets playing music literally everywhere. 

“I started learning how to play folk guitar as soon as I got home from the festival that year. A couple years into my learning to play and write songs on guitar, my brother and our friends got into playing bluegrass music. They seemed to each have a contributing instrument to the style, except that no one played the bass. My mom had traded a couch for an antique upright bass a few years before that she was using only as decoration in the living room. Naturally, the group pressured me to pick it up and learn it so I could play with them, so I did. 

“I was 21 and got setup with a pickup and an amp for my bass and was living in Austin. Folks started calling me to play their gigs with them around town, and I would literally tell them, ‘I’m just learning, I don’t think I’m good enough yet.’ Most of them were unphased by my response. They would say something like, ‘But you have an upright bass and an amp, right? You’re hired.’”

“I did most of my learning on stage, for better or worse, but I did learn fast. I ended up dropping out of college to go on tour with our friends’ bluegrass band and have been playing music full time ever since. I toured with them and played for all kinds of folks, playing all kinds of music around Austin for a few years. Sometimes bouncing around between friends’ houses or living out of my car because I didn’t make enough money to afford rent. 

“I fell in love with western swing somewhere along the way; I was maybe 23, I think. It was then that I started learning to play that swing style on the guitar as well as learning how to sing. Singing didn’t come naturally to me. I spent hours learning melodies on guitar and singing them note for note, trying to power through the pitchiness and to be able to sing the melody I heard without the assistance of simultaneously playing the guitar. I’ve always been someone to get bored with jobs as soon as the learning part is over and all that’s left is repetition. I think that’s why music has kept me captivated for so long. The learning and growing part will never end. 

“I’ve been learning and growing musically for many years, as well as learning and growing it as a ‘business.’ I’ll say, the money isn’t great, but without fail, it has gotten a little better every year. The opportunities and the audiences and the other musicians I get to spend my time around get better all the time, too. I do still sometimes live out of my car, but now it’s by choice because I’m on tour making new friends and fans all around the country.”

In talking with Georgia, she shares how Cindy Walker and Bob Wills have had the most direct influence on the music she plays. If you are familiar with Walker and Wills, it won’t take more than a minute for you to hear their impact on Parker’s music.  

“I’m also hugely influenced by other musicians and songwriters in my community such as Grace Park, Brennen Leigh, Katie Shore and so many more. Hearing them and watching them live in my own community played a huge role in my feeling that making good music was a possibility for me.”

There are significant challenges to being self-employed, especially when your line of work is in the arts. With many uncontrollable variables like weather, holidays, and economic shifts, there will always be times of stress and uncertainty. On the other side of the coin, there are periods where you almost have more work than you can handle.

“The schedule is both the most challenging and the most rewarding aspect to me. Being self-employed is hard for a lot of folks. When you’re in charge of your own time and schedule it’s easy to overload and stress yourself out. There are also times of the year when there’s an abundance of work (wedding season/summer touring season) and times when there’s almost no work at all (post holidays/January). 

“Those things require you to have to learn to budget your money and your energy to flow with the way the industry works. Another note on scheduling is that working hardest on weekends, spring break, and summer means that it can be a challenge to keep up with relationships with friends and family that don’t exist on the same schedule. The flip side of that is that the music community becomes bonded (tempted to say trauma bonded) and starts to feel like its own family.”

One of the things I noticed about Georgia right away was that she was obviously multifaceted in her musical talents, influences, and makeup of her personality. She plays multiple instruments well, can weave between related musical genres easily, and is both cool and comfortable being expressive in her love of humor and apparent authenticity.

When trying to find time to rest and recharge, Georgia shares, “I like to get outside. I’m a country girl and a hippie at heart. I like to get on the river, to kayak or swim or go fishing, and I love to garden. I grow exclusively native plants and have a big butterfly garden I love to tend. I also like to get out into the woods to observe the native plants and bugs and rocks in their natural environment and identify and learn about them. I am kind of obsessed with naturalist studies and spend a lot of time out in the woods looking at plants.”

Watching Georgia perform, you see a young woman in her natural habitat. Happy, confident, at home. In sharing more about herself, I learned something I didn’t expect about her. “I think most folks would be surprised to hear that I feel shy. I get intimidated easily in social settings. That’s probably why I feel most comfortable on stage.”

Just like anyone else, balance is one of the greatest challenges in life. And in what can feel like an incredibly uncertain, sometimes discouraging path, it’s in the songs that the joy is restored.

“Balance is not something that you can find and land on permanently. You can work your way up to it, and then fall away again as soon as you touch it. Mostly the life responsibilities and the music industry responsibilities are ever growing and highly demanding and the path of least resistance is to take care of business and not leave any time for yourself and your creativity.”

“We’re trained as Americans to be as productive as possible and to work as hard as possible, which does not feed creativity. I’ve lately been just working hard enough to survive and to take more time to enjoy life and to be myself.”

Well, you keep being you, Georgia. Your songs and spirit make the world a better place. And to my readers, please do your ears and heart a favor and go catch one of Ms. Parker’s shows as soon as you can make it happen. You can thank me later.

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