Music and Entertainment/ Pam Parker Interview

July 29, 2005

A Candid Talk With Pam Parker On The Heels of Her CD Release Party

Interview By:  Marco Mazzarino / Pointed Magazine Staff

 

We caught up with vocalist Pam Parker on a sweltering July night at D.C.’s Blues Alley. For those of you unfamiliar with Blues Alley, It’s the oldest jazz dining club in the nation, where legends like Dizzy Gillespie and Charlie Byrd played. Set in an 18th century brick carriage house right in the heart of Georgetown, its darkened, moody setting and jazz motif décor, resplendent with mounted saxophones and trumpets, is the perfect venue to take in a cool show, even if the night is steamy. We sat down with Pam Parker before the show to talk about her music, her influences and her new album.

PM:  What do you do when you’re not playing Jazz?

PP:  I’m a research analyst right up the street in Georgetown, at the Bureau of National Affairs, up on 25th street.

PM: How long have you been doing that?

PP: For about six years, and before that I was an electrician. I’ve had a broad range of occupations. (Laughter)

PM: Most musicians do. So why do you play jazz?

PP: I don’t know, its something I’ve just fallen into over the years. When I was very young I had it on at home a lot. My dad was into Jazz and Blues, and I didn’t know I was paying attention. And as I’ve gotten older I’ve kind of fallen into it. When I was a young woman, I sang folk music and acoustic blues, things like that.

PM: What kind of Blues?

PP: I wrote my own, you know, 12 bar blues or whatever, just whatever I wanted to speak about.

PM: When you want to listen to Blues, what do you throw on or drop into the CD player?

PP:  Well, recently I’ve gotten into the classics like Coco Taylor and Big Mama Thornton and people like that, but early on I was just playing around with whatever, I didn’t really see myself pigeon-holed into any genre specifically.

PM: Do you sing in the shower?

PP: I sing all day long, (laughing).

PM: I find myself singing Nina Simone songs in the shower.

PP: I love Nina Simone. We’re going to do one of her pieces tonight.

PM: Are you? What are you gonna do?

PP: We’re going to start with I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free.

PM: Is she one of your vocal influences?

PP: Yeah, and not only that but she was also outspoken politically, which is how I found my voice with music. I used to sing at protest rallies, and I met her when I was really young, 20 or something like that, in D.C. I was really heavily active politically back then. I have a lot of respect for her.

PM: Are you not active as much anymore?

PP: I feel things deeply and I worry about the world a lot, I’m just not able to do as much as I used to, as I have a family and a lot of work, but I use my music for that too.

PM: I was reading that your son is actually involved in music. Was he the impetus to get back into it?

PP: Yeah, watching him blossom as a musician; he’s singing with us tonight. He’s done some really impressive things; he’s traveled to Italy and performed at Carnegie Hall and the Kennedy Center and at the State Department. He went to a performing arts high school, and in D.C. you meet all sorts of people sitting in the audience, so he’s just had some really good opportunities. Watching him has encouraged me to get back into music with both feet.

PM: That must be more comfortable, having your son up there singing vocals with you rather than someone you’re just trying to pair with.

PP: Right, right. Well, there are pros and cons, because we’re sometimes too comfortable with each other. I can’t push him like I would if I was his boss, (laughing). But we fall into harmonies pretty easily.

PM:  How long were you working on your record?

PP: We did it really, really quickly. We recorded it in about two and a half weeks. We all know each other, and we’ve done some of the songs before and I knew pretty much what we wanted to do. And everyone knew my budget was tight so we sat in there and kind of like recorded by looking at the watch, (laughing) and arranged on the fly. These guys are so talented, you know, and someone would say, “let’s do this one in bossanova style,” and they would all just do it and it would just come out beautiful. So I was really fortunate; if I had to pay people I didn’t even know to do it, or people who didn’t care about each other it would have taken a lot longer to get it done.

PM: Did you record it in D.C.

PP: Uh huh.

PM: You’re from D.C. aren’t you?

PP: Yes.

PM: Where did you grow up?

PP: Adams Morgan.

PM: Right around the corner…

PP: (Laughing) Yup, haven’t gone anywhere in all this time.

PM: It’s an area that’s changed a lot over the years.

PP: Oh Yeah, big time. There were streets when I was a kid that you couldn’t even walk down, or that my dad would tell me not to walk down, (laughing) and now I can’t afford to buy a house on those streets! Yeah, they’ve changed.

PM: Do you have a tour planned?

PP: No, some people have talked to me about a tour, but because I work forty hours a week…I may go places on the weekend occasionally, like I’ve gone to North Carolina, Richmond, L.A.; I’ve gone to New York a lot. But what people are proposing to me I can’t pull off without losing a lot of money.

PM: Like going on tour for three months?

PP: Yeah, you know, I can’t do something like that.

PM: Well, maybe one day…

PP: Yeah, when I retire! (Laughter)