Q&A with Twin Cities' singer Joyann Parker - bring the Blues, Soul and Rock n' roll in her unique hot style

"Blues and soul music have always been genres that have united people across all of the lines that typically divide. If you look back at the history of places like FAME Studios and Stax Records, you see people from all different walks of life working together."

Joyann Parker: Love American songbook

Hopeless Romantic Records is proud to announce the release of soul blues singer/songwriter JOYANN PARKER's "HARD TO LOVE", her sophomore release, on APRIL 13, 2018. Produced by Parker with guitarist Mark Lamoine and bass player Michael Carvale, "HARD TO LOVE" features 13 songs co-written by Parker & Lamoine. Parker travels from the Memphis-style soul of “Envy” to the New Orleans-flavored “Ray.” The eminently danceable “Dizzy” inspires images of Motown’s Temptations and Four Tops dancing their signature choreography. The darkly simmering soul-blues ballad “Jigsaw Heart” finds Parker pondering where a rocky relationship is going. Joyann Parker  bring the blues, rock and roll, funk, soul and more together in emotionally charged, powerful original music as well as an exciting mix of classic covers done in their own unique style. Surrounded by a supporting band of some of the Twin Cities' premier professional musicians, vocalist, multi-instrumentalist, songwriter and front-woman Joyann Parker brings energy, passion, and authenticity to every performance.

Joyann Parker / Photo by © Jeannine Marie

Joyann Parker's sound reflects the large variety of the band's influences, from artists like Etta James and Joss Stone to groups such as The Allman Brothers and The Rolling Stones. Joyann Parker & Sweet Tea aims to create music that moves not only your feet but also your soul. Joyann Parker has been a must-see addition to the Twin Cities' music scene since May of 2013 and is the 2015 winner of the International Blues Challenge for the state of Minnesota. Singer, pianist, guitarist and songwriter Joyann Parker is an exciting new voice on the contemporary blues music scene and is frequently associated with descriptors like passion, power and genuine soul. She sings from the gut with an authenticity seldom found in today's vocalists. Her vocal prowess and control allow her to move freely from one genre to another, from Patsy Cline to Etta James and right over to Janis Joplin with the greatest of ease.

Interview by Michael Limnios

How has the Blues, Soul and Rock n’ Roll music influenced your views of the world and the journeys you’ve taken?

The blues is all about authenticity. It’s the music of the common man and the stuff of everyday life. I have always been a seeker of truth, of soul, of something genuine, and this music speaks right to my core because it encompasses all of those things. Blues is all about the writer or performer’s story, and I am a storyteller, too. Some of it is my story, some of it is a story I may have overheard in a small-town diner somewhere, but all of it is real. That’s the most important part to me.

What were the reasons that you started the music researches and Soul, Blues, Jazz experiments?

Blues is the root, the basis of all the music that I love. I didn’t even know that until about 4 years ago when I was really first introduced to classic blues and started digging into it. It was only then that I realized how deeply I was already in love with soul, blues and roots music. It was at the beginning of the first band I was in, Sweet Tea, that I really wanted to understand the origins of the music I liked to sing, songs by artists like Aretha Franklin, Etta James and Otis Redding, as well as the music I grew up listening to and still enjoyed such as Led Zeppelin and Cream. It was then I was introduced to Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, Howlin’ Wolf and the rest of the legendary blues artists and it was like a lightbulb went off in my soul. I then understood that all of this rhythm and blues, soul, rock – it was all part of one big picture.

What do you learn about yourself from the blues culture and what does the blues mean to you?

I have learned that blues is a way for me to sing what isn't always okay to say. The music expresses feelings and emotions that might be difficult to talk about, but something about this genre moves people in a very deep way.

"The blues is all about authenticity. It’s the music of the common man and the stuff of everyday life. (Photo by © Jeannine Marie)

How do you describe Joyann Parker sound and songbook? What characterize your music philosophy?

I like to say our music is "indie blues." I have been influenced by many types of music over the years and it shows in my writing, which is a potpourri of blues, rock, soul, funk and more. I and my writing partner and guitarist, Mark Lamoine, are storytellers. We write about experiences and people and things that our listeners will be able to relate to and engage in. I don't believe in putting music in a box. I don't think there has to be boundaries on a specific genre. A lot of blues purists will tell you one kind of blues is the only kind of blues. I don't believe that. I think music changes and grows and becomes more beautiful as musicians take it and mold it.

How do you describe "HARD TO LOVE" sound and songbook? What characterize album’s philosophy?

Hard To Love is an album of many styles and feels, from Memphis Soul to Motown to country blues, even a little bit of Great American songbook. I love it all and because I listen to so many things it all sits inside my soul and stews for awhile and then comes out in my writing as the eclectic mix that you will find on the album.

Are there any memories from "HARD TO LOVE" studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I had an amazingly talented team of musicians and engineers on this album and everyone put forth an amazing effort to make it great. We basically wanted to make this record in a more old-school way and keep it a little more raw and just put it all out there musically. We had a lot of fun in the process and I think it shows.

If you could change one thing in the musical world and it would become a reality, what would that be?

That independent artists out there making it happen all on their own – writing, producing, marketing, touring etc. – would be able to make a decent living. It’s a very hard job, but I wouldn’t and couldn’t do anything else.

"Blues is the father of those other genres you have mentioned besides the basic things like the blues scale and formats such as call and response, I really think that the storytelling and raw emotion are what's really important." (Photo by © Jeannine Marie)

Which acquaintances have been the most important experiences? What was the best advice anyone ever gave you?

Music has always been an important part of my life and I have to thank my mom and my uncle for that. My mom made me start singing in church at two years old and taking piano lessons at 4, and through the years I wanted to quit many times but she didn't let me give up on it. My uncle gave me a very small AM/FM radio when I was about 5 years old and I'm pretty sure I didn't turn it off until it died when I was about 12. He always had music playing in the car or blasting in his house, anything from Eric Clapton to Leon Russell to Emmylou Harris, so I was exposed to a lot of great music that way. On the other end of the spectrum, my mom always had some kind of gospel music playing at home. I do remember that the exception was listening to Supergold radio show every Saturday night and getting to sing along to those hits from the 50's and 60's. The best advice I've ever received is a cliché, but it always rings true for me: Fake it 'til you make it. I can think of so many times when I felt like giving up, when I just wanted to stay home and throw my hands up and say I was done with a job, with a performance, sometimes even a relationship that I needed to mend but just didn't feel like working on it anymore because it was difficult. Instead of giving up I put myself back in the ring, even when I don't feel like it, and I keep working. Choosing to continue to work through the hardship, even though I hate it for a time, gets me to shake off the blues or the anger or whatever feelings I may be having and gets me moving forward again.

Are there any memories from gigs, jams, open acts and studio sessions which you’d like to share with us?

I met Little Bobby Storm, another blues recording artist that lived in Minnesota, at a jam a couple of years ago. He heard me sing and afterward he approached me and told me he loved my voice and what I was doing. He then asked me if I wrote my own music. At that time I hadn't started writing yet so I told him no. He then said, ”Well, why not?” I told him that I wasn't a writer and that I really didn't think I could do that. What he said next was a game changer for me. He said, “What do you mean, you can't? You're a woman, of course you can! Go home and write.” So, that same week I started writing my first song and I haven't stopped since.

What do you miss most nowadays from the music of past? What are your hopes and fears for the future of?

I miss the “messiness” of older music, the human element that you can hear on a lot of those recordings.  Today we are very concerned with making mistakes and have the ability to make things perfect, so we fix things with auto tune etc. I like the rawness of those old rock, blues and soul records. They sound alive and like what you would hear if those artists were performing in front of you.

"I have learned that blues is a way for me to sing what isn't always okay to say." (Photo by © Jeannine Marie)

Make an account of the case of the blues in Twin Cities. What touched (emotionally) you from the local circuits?

There is a pretty active blues scene in the Twin Cities. The crowd here is most definitely getting older and we are facing the challenge of attracting younger people to the blues scene. A lot of the blues supporters and musicians here have a very specific view of what blues is and we are working very hard to open people's minds in both Minnesota and across the country to a new type of blues. There are a lot of fantastic musicians here and there is a really great bond between us. What has really touched me is how the blues music community bonds together to raise money and give help to people that are in need. I have seen and participated in many fundraisers in which musicians donated their time and energy to help people in need and have even been a recipient of it over the past few months while raising money for our trip to the International Blues Challenge. The blues musicians and blues lovers in Minnesota are very giving and caring people.

What are the lines that connect the legacy of Blues with house-rockin’ blues, funk, Southern R&B and soul?

Blues is the father of those other genres you have mentioned besides the basic things like the blues scale and formats such as call and response, I really think that the storytelling and raw emotion are what's really important. That music deals with things everyone can relate to, things like money, sex breakups, depression, joy – descriptions of the human condition can all be found in these genres.

What does to be a female artist in a “Man’s World” ? What is the status of women in music?

In the words of Todd Rundgren, “It's a woman's world, it always was.” We just let men think they're running the show! Seriously, though, I'm pretty new to all of this and I can only speak for myself, but I have noticed that there really still is a lot of work to be done as a woman to be taken seriously as a band leader and chief visionary. I am still working on making some people believe I am serious about my career and making things happen in this business. The only thing I can do is keep on working harder than everyone else and prove the doubters wrong. 

What is the impact of Blues and Soul music and culture to the racial, political and socio-cultural implications?

Blues and soul music have always been genres that have united people across all of the lines that typically divide. If you look back at the history of places like FAME Studios and Stax Records, you see people from all different walks of life working together. I think the music speaks to people at such a deep level emotionally that it helps people see beyond other people's surface and understand that we all are the same on the inside. Blues music helps us all relate to each other a little better.

"Blues is the root, the basis of all the music that I love." (Photo by © Jeannine Marie)

Let’s take a trip with a time machine, so where and why would you really want to go for a whole day?

I would love to make a trip to 1967 and be at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals and hang out while Etta James records  her album  “Tell Mama' and be there to hear her put “I'd Rather Go Blind” down for the first time, to hear that perfection being as it was being created.

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