Singer-songwriter Parker Millsap talks with C&I about his new album, Other Arrangements, due out May 4.
At just 24 years old, Parker Millsap sounds like a seasoned artist. With his smooth, versatile vocals and masterful guitar, he’s stretching his repertoire of sounds and throwing his career into high gear with his new record, Other Arrangements. The release follows 2016’s The Very Last Day, which Rolling Stone called “a folk album whose powerful, church-tent charisma shone a light on the singer’s roots in gospel music.”
It hasn’t been a straight line from his hometown of Purcell, Oklahoma, to the national stage. It took inspiration from guitarists like Stevie Ray Vaughan; starting a cover band called Fever in Blue with his former classmate and present-day-bassist Michael Rose; a move to Northern California; a move back to Oklahoma; selling his first album, Palisade, from the back of his van; and a visit to Nashville for Millsap to finally gain the recognition that propelled his career.
After impressing Old Crow Medicine Show’s manager during the Tin Pan South Songwriters Festival, Millsap booked a string of shows opening for the band, including a New Year’s Eve gig at the historic Ryman Auditorium.
Now Millsap is poised for the May 4 release of what is sure to be his breakthrough solo album, Other Arrangements, a shining showcase for Millsap’s considerable talents in songwriting, sound, and vocals.
We recently caught up with the rising star to talk about Other Arrangements, his musical journey, and his favorite things about Oklahoma.
Cowboys & Indians: You’ve had so much success already, including making your TV debut on Conan and performing at Austin City Limits. What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
Parker Millsap: For me, the most rewarding moments are when my band and I are playing with a sort of hive-mind. There’s something magical about sharing music with people close to you, and getting to a point where you can communicate nonverbally. It’s a spiritual reward, I guess.
C&I: You’re gearing up to release your new album, Other Arrangements, on May 4. What do you hope your fans will get out of it?
Millsap: I hope that people listen to it on the way to work, and on the way home, and on the way to the bar. And that when they hear these songs later in their life they re-experience the best things that happened to them while these songs were playing in the background.
C&I: What are some memorable stories along the way of getting your album from concept to actual release?
Millsap: We played a lot of Golden Tee Golf. We drank a lot of sour beers. I completely rewrote the lyrics to at least half the songs multiple times. I wrote the title track first of this batch of songs and knew that it would be the title track as soon as I thought of the title.
C&I: Is there a song you’re most proud of in your career?
Millsap: No way! That would be like being more proud of one of your babies than another — though you may think it, it shouldn’t be said publicly.
C&I: Since the release of your 2012 indie album, Palisade, which I hear you sold from the back of your van, how has your music evolved?
Millsap: Well, in a lot of ways, it’s the same. I’ve been playing with my bassist, Mike Rose, for about 11 years now, and my fiddle player, Daniel Foulks, for about six. Also, I still write songs in kind of the same way: sit down, play, sing, and yell till you catch a little something. The main ways it has changed are sonically. Mike went from upright to electric bass, we added drums, I started playing more electric guitar, [and] Dan plugged his fiddle into an old tube amp. I don’t know if that’s evolving, but it’s a lot of fun.
C&I: Without giving too much away, what musical direction are you heading toward in the future? Are there any styles or sounds you would like to experiment with?
Millsap: I’ve been playing with drum machines and loop pedals quite a bit lately. Some of the songs on this record were written with drum machines (“Other Arrangements,” “Let a Little Light In”) but then transferred to my full band. I truly believe that drum machines do have souls and that it offends them when you say they don’t.
C&I: What can we expect in terms of touring?
Millsap: Lots of it. All over. Check out [the schedule] and come see me.
C&I: You started playing guitar at age 9. What’s your favorite guitar? Any specific brand you are loyal to? What about equipment?
Millsap: Lately my favorite guitar is a 1960s Julio Giulietti archtop that I found at a pawn shop in Charleston, South Carolina, and my favorite amp is a ’70s Fender Champ Silverface. The only brand I’m loyal to is D’Addario strings, because they rule.
C&I: What’s something that fans might not know about you?
Millsap: I have finished first place on every level and every speed of Mario Kart 64 and I will challenge you to a race.
C&I: You’re a native of Oklahoma. What are some of your favorite places to visit when you go home?
Millsap: The Wichita Mountains are majestic and scrubby — one of the only places I know that fits that description. Norman always feels like a tame party, which is my kind of party. Tulsa is friendly and hip, which is about as rare as something majestic and scrubby.