A Chat With: Molly Parden
Nashville based singer songwriter Molly Parden has perfected her craft of harmony-heavy folk songs throughout the years, taking her time on follow ups to her 2011 debut album Time Is Medicine, which include the 2016 EP With Me In The Summer and the brand new single "Sail on the Water." When she's not carefully finessing and honing in on her own music, the multitalented Parden also lends her stunning vocals to fellow Nashville musicians, or takes her skills on the road, recently touring as part of Faye Webster's band. On December 2nd, Molly Parden will return to Schubas (where she just played with Faye Webster) to support David Ramirez with her own material. Before the show, we chatted to Parden about everything from growing up with eight siblings, her favorite studio projects, and her 2018 goals. Tune in and get to know Molly Parden now!
ANCHR Magazine: As I understand it, you grew up with 8 other siblings and didn’t have much exposure to music at a young age. Do you remember what it was that sparked your interest to start playing music, and who some of your first influences were?
Molly Parden: Honestly I don’t remember what it was that sparked my interest in music, except that my life has always had a soundtrack. There was music every Sunday at church, a CD of worship music playing in our living room every day, and we listened to the radio as a family any time we piled into the van. Growing up in the church, Hillsong was a huge influence at first. When I began listening to secular music, it was Coldplay that led me to Radiohead that led me to Björk that led me to Feist. Feist (and probably Radiohead) played a large role in shaping my penchant for delicate vocals and jazz-flavored chords.
AM: Speaking of all of your siblings, what’s been the biggest lesson you’ve learned from growing up with so many siblings?
Molly Parden Biggest lesson: life is meant to be shared. Not that I always operate in that fashion, but when I sense that someone is freely giving me their time, talent or just something of theirs that means a lot to them, I am just undone. I try to remind myself that every little thing that I “own” is a gift. Sure I work hard, but things are just things; they can easily be lost. I feel freedom when I loosen my grip on life; on possessions, on relationships. Growing up surrounded by people helped me understand this.
AM: What are some of your favorite projects that you worked on as a studio vocalist when you first moved to Nashville?
Molly Parden: Two months after moving to town, I was invited to record harmony vocals on Caleb Groh’s record “Ocelot” and later on Joseph LeMay’s “Seventeen Acres”. I have listened to these records so many times. Chad Wahlbrink engineered both projects in (what was at the time) his home studio in Sylvan Park at The Pink Mailbox.
AM: Can you talk a little bit about your transition into the spotlight when you started working on your own music, instead of being a studio vocalist? What were some of the challenges and what have been some of the biggest rewards?
Molly Parden: I was stuck in a writing rut when I moved to Nashville. I had no idea what to write about. I would invent song ideas, record them on my iPhone, and try later to chip away at them ... to no avail. It was awful; I felt like maybe I had lost my knack for making songs. Singing harmony on records and at live shows was nice. I didn’t have the pressure of being the face of the band, but I was definitely being heard. I met so many artists and songwriters this way, by being a supporting vocalist. This role lent itself well to my very supportive personality. I truly don’t mind being beside the spotlight.
I’ve played small shows regularly (once every 2 months) from the time I moved to Nashville in 2013, but I’ve never cared much for recording my own music. The pressure of time and money can feel harsh, making me want to wrap things up in the studio maybe too quickly. Being my own label, manager, lawyer and agent, I make my own timelines... and that’s probably why there was a 5 year gap between my first record Time Is Medicine to my 2016 EP With Me in the Summer.
AM: What are some of your favorite aspects of the Nashville music scene right now, from venues to other artists and just the overall vibe?
Molly Parden: Hmm. I’ve been here just over four years. One of the things I love about Nashville is how many different people can rotate in and out of bands. I’ve played shows with 8 different electric guitar players, 3 bassists, and 2 drummers. It is pretty awesome to have 4 backups in case your #1 and #2 are both booked. I love the variety of club sizes here in town and I will always love playing Grimey’s dingy little precious venue underneath his record store, The Basement. Always.
AM: You’ve been on tour this month, and you’ll be out throughout the first half of December. What have been some highlights, and what other cities are you looking forward to?
Molly Parden: I’ve been a David Ramirez fan ever since he beat me at an open mic contest at Eddie’s Attic back in 2010, so the fact that I get to share a stage with him for 45 shows is a rather wonderful thing to me. I had a great time in NYC at Mercury Lounge, Toronto at The Drake and in LA at Bootleg. New York is always so dreamy, in an exhausting way. We stayed in Montana on the way to Spokane, and I really enjoyed waking up to a mountainous backdrop. I’m really pumped about playing my tunes at Schuba's and 7th Street in Minneapolis. I played bass with Faye Webster at Schuba's on November 17th; it sounds so great in that room. And you know, I’m kind of excited about touring Florida. I don’t know why, but I am.
AM: What are some of your favorite ways to stay entertained on the road during long drives?
Molly Parden: I have one really boring one: the ABC game where you find (and shout) a word 4-or-more-letters outside of the car that begins with each letter of the Roman alphabet in sequential order. My sister Hannah and I are really good at it. My van BFF Matt (David’s keys player) played with me one time and hasn’t suggested we play since, so... I’m going to assume he’s not a fan. I don’t have any other good activities. If any of your readers have some, please. Email me.
AM: I love your latest single, “Sail on the Water.” Where are you in the process of your next album, and when can we expect more new music?
Molly Parden: Thank you! I love it too. Took me about 18 months to write that bugger. Juan Solorzano (the producer and multi-instrumentalist) really breathed life into it.
I am 3 songs in to creating a full-length record. 10 songs? 11? I’ll cross that bridge when I get there, after David’s tour ends in mid-December. I’ll hop back in the studio with Juan, Zachary Dyke, our drummer Tommy, Ben on strings and hopefully Matt Wright on keys for four or five days and knock out the rest of the record in Madison, TN. I’ve no clue when this one can be expected. Crossing my fingers for 2018. My fans are patient, as we’ve established earlier (re: five-year recording hiatus). Perhaps I’ll test their patience, make this five-year thing a trend.
AM: What else are you looking forward to in 2018?
Molly Parden: Every year you learn something new. Same goes for each tour, and I’m ready for the next one. A couple are in the works already for spring...can’t wait to see where the wind will blow me. I’m excited for baseball season; Nashville has a minor league team, the Sounds, which is cute, but I didn’t make it to a single Braves game in 2017 and I hope to change that next year.