Parker Millsap Has “Other Arrangements”
By Savannah Evanoff
Parker Millsap didn’t necessarily write his latest record to cheer everyone up; he just wanted to stop bumming people out.
The Americana singer-songwriter from Oklahoma put out “Other Arrangements” in 2018 to give people something to dance about. He wrote most of the songs on electric guitar.
“It made the whole record lean a certain way,” Millsap said. “The previous three records have a lot of bummer songs or songs with darker themes. I wanted to lean away from that a little bit just for the live show—just to have stuff that’s fun to play every night, not feel like I’m bumming everybody out for most of the set. It worked. We’ve been touring on these songs for a year and a half now, and I’m still having fun.”
When it comes to exciting the crowd, “Hades Pleads” from his 2016 album, “The Very Last Day,” always works, too.
Millsap is in relax and repair mode after rousing up crowds during a monthlong tour that stopped in Canada, New York City and Detroit. He surmises he has a story for every day of the tour, but only one comes to mind.
“I got to see Sheryl Crow play, which maybe seems like a weird highlight,” Millsap said with a laugh. “But in Newport, we got to see Sheryl Crow do an awesome set. I grew up listening to Sheryl Crow’s records, so that was pretty cool.”
Millsap admires other musicians and was influenced by many.
“Growing up, I listened to a lot of gospel music because we went to church and I played in church a lot,” Millsap said. “My dad was really into blues music, so I got to a listen to a lot of cool old blues music like Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters, Mississippi John Hurt—all kinds of cool that maybe other people my age weren’t listening to.”
Millsap rattles off “alternative country songwriters” John Hiatt, Lyle Lovett and Robert Earl Keen for further proof from his dad’s playlist.
Other musicians are a fan of his, too. Millsap bonded with Elton John over their shared musical tastes.
“It’s kind of surreal,” Millsap said. “All of my interactions with Elton have been really awesome and life-affirming. He’s a sweet guy. He really loves blues music. We really connected talking about blues music and listening to blues music.”
Perhaps taking a note from John, Millsap started writing songs on the piano.
“I think even calling myself a novice would be an overstatement when it comes to piano,” Millsap said, followed with a loud chuckle. “But I’ve been using it as a writing tool, and it makes me approach melody and chord structure in a different way. It also lends itself to more R&B stuff. This piano I’ve got has all these crazy built-in drum loops and stuff that are a little bit electronic sounding. I don’t know if any of those sounds are actually going to make it onto the record, but it’s making for some interesting songs that I think can be taken to a band and made really nice.”
His latest songs are written with a simple form, rooted in blues music, he said.
“That’s exciting me because those are the kind of songs that can be taken any direction stylistically,” Millsap said. “That blues form is so universal. You can do it gypsy sounding; you can do it like a rock ‘n’ roll song. You can do it as a shuffle.”
Millsap has 20-plus songs in various stages of completion, but no rush.
“I’ve kind of figured out that I’m a slow writer,” Millsap said. “I’m making peace with that … There’s an element of songwriting that’s kinda like building a puzzle—that requires weird quiet. It has to be quiet to make a noise that becomes a song.”
As Millsap wades through originals, he recorded a cover song for Amazon Music. He chose Sly & the Family Stone’s “Everyday People.”
“‘Everyday People’ seemed to be the one enough people knew and that I could pull off,” Millsap said.
Amazon and Millsap shot a music video for the cover in Nashville.
“I lose my dog—not my real dog; we got an actor dog,” Millsap said. “And then I’m going around on my bicycle looking for my dog, and I recruit a bunch of randos off the street to help me find my dog.”
And that’s his video in a nutshell.
Millsap digs it. His real dog, Mavis—part Jack Russell Terrier and part Border Collie—might not have been up for the challenge. She was named Angel at the shelter, but Millsap quickly realized it didn’t fit her quirky personality.
“Mavis is a special creature,” Millsap said. “I have a lot of friends who have had a lot of dogs, and they’re always like, ‘That’s a weird dog.’ She’s just a very strange, neurotic little creature.”
AN EVENING WITH PARKER MILLSAP
WHEN: 7 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 15
WHERE: Vinyl Music Hall, 2 S. Palafox