Catch up with LA-based singer-songwriter William Caleb Parker and watch the acoustic video for his single, "Full Moon Rising", off his Marie EP, out now.
What got you interested in music and songwriting?
William Caleb Parker: I played in bands in high school and junior high and I wrote some terrible, awful music, like everybody does in junior high and high school, with exceptions and those people are very lucky. I grew up listening to a lot of the music that I try to emulate, to some degree, now. A lot of James Taylor, Paul Simon, Sting, Nickel Creek, and just a really wide variety of different things, but I was mostly writing rock stuff in high school because I was listening to a lot of Radiohead and Muse and things that were cool back then - they're still cool, but I'm just not working with that. Late in college, I realized that in folk songwriting you're telling stories but you're also conveying things. The thing I really like about folk writing is that, a lot of times, the stories have a deeper meaning with them, so on the surface they're about one thing but then when you dig into it, it's a little deeper; really it's a social commentary or it's a look into a single person's life or a look at what it feels like to be hurt by somebody or to get revenge or any of those number of things and that was just really appealing to me and I thought that I would try my hand at it. Plus, that's what I was listening to anyways, so it was an easy sell.
Do you remember the first song you wrote?
I didn't really take record of that stuff very well.. I have an EP of a band that I was in and I wrote all of it and I have no idea what the first song was, but it was probably on that record somewhere. [Laughs] But, yeah, it just didn't go well; I don't let anybody have those recordings. It's pretty bad [laughs].
You've already mentioned a few of them, but which other musicians have you been influenced by?
I haven't actually said this a whole lot but, recently, I've just been realizing, I have a ton of Radiohead in the back of my brain. I got into them when In Rainbows came out and I worked through their catalog backwards and I really am influenced by that record and also Kid A by them, which I don't think any of my music sounds like them, but just some of their structures and harmonies and the sounds that they go for are familiar sounding to me. And, a lot of classic rock too, so The Eagles, Fleetwood Mac, The Police. I was really into Styx for awhile as well which, I don't know, I feel like I'm a little too young to be into Styx, ever, but I was super into Styx for a long time.
Is there a current artist you're hooked on now?
Yeah, totally. I've been listening to Aoife O'Donovan a whole ton. Honestly, I think that she is my favorite artist at the moment. The record that she just put out has a song on it - it's pretty popular right now - called "The King of All Birds" and it's just fascinating to me. Every time I listen to it I'm blown away. The ideas on there are just ridiculous and I cannot figure out how, from a production standpoint, they came up with the combination of instruments that they did, because it's definitely a folk rock song, but it has a string quartet in it and a horn section and the arranging is just phenomenal and really far out of the box. It's definitely not the most accessible thing that I've ever heard, but it's inspiring to me and I really love it.
How would you describe your own sound?
If I was being really honest and not wanting to be cool, I would probably say soft rock [laughs] but that's not really a neat thing to say. Most of my songs are pretty lyric and story based and really melody driven, so it's maybe less of a feel and groove thing and is more so melody music. I listen to a lot of music - that I like, I'm not talking down on stuff at all - but it seems pretty popular right now to have melodies that are pretty static, so maybe they're using combinations of three or four or five notes and that can be super interesting and I actually really like a lot of music that's coming out right now, like I listen to The 1975 and St. Lucia and all that electronic pop and things like that and I think it's great; but that being said, a lot of it isn't particularly complicated, as far as melodies go, and I think that my brain naturally goes to longer melodies where the line does something, where there's a rise and fall to it and it's not totally dependent on what's going on with the drums or the bass or anything like that.
The video for "Full Moon Rising" was just released, what was the inspiration for that song and why choose to release it in this acoustic format?
I read a book called Gilead by an author, Marilynne Robinson, a while ago and that song, in particular, is special to me because it set off a chain of songs because I realized that, when I didn't have good ideas for what to write about, other people might have good ideas. So, looking in other literature, magazines, whatever I'm reading, seeing a story on T.V., or even reading an article on the internet that's being passed around - whether it's true or not doesn't really matter - but there's tons of stories floating around. There was a particular story in Gilead that stuck out to me that, honestly, I don't really need to describe a whole lot because I pretty much just tell the story in the song. It's a story about a father and son whose grandfather had run off and - we don't know a lot of the details but it was a tumultuous relationship - and they loved him but they also thought he was crazy so, when he left, it wasn't really a surprise, but they find out that he died and it's the story of a father and son going to bury their grandfather and pay him their last respects. The thing that I liked about it was that you learn a lot about the father, but you also learn a lot about the son learning the father's lessons, so it's one of those things where it's pulled from the son's perspective and he's learning things about his father that he never would have otherwise, and I just thought it was a really fascinating, beautiful story and would be a great subject for a song and that's where that came from.
As far as why do an acoustic video for that, it actually is pretty simple. I just had some good feedback about that song in particular and I only had the means to do three videos, mostly it was a time thing, at the moment, and that one just popped out as, 'oh, yeah, I think this one would be good'. And, when you're taking songs off an EP and there's only six options, I mean, [laughs] three of them are gonna make it and three of them aren't.
Could you sum up your EP, Marie, in one sentence?
I could do it in a run on sentence [laughs]. Marie is a collection of story songs, for the most part, that cover a really wide variety of thoughts and emotions and sounds and textures using the same instruments over all of it.
What do you hope that your listeners are able to take away from your music?
I always hope that there's a connecting point in them. A lot of times when I'm writing lyrics I'm really sticking to things that are interesting to me, maybe because they're funny or maybe because they're thought provoking, but my hope would be that some of those ideas that I've had and some of the thoughts that writing the lyrics and the process of songwriting has brought up, might be brought up in other people and, honestly, a lot of the music is done in such a way that I'm hoping to stir some of those same thoughts and ideas in other people. It's a little artsy and it probably doesn't happen super often [laughs] but that would be the hope.