Pamela Parker started out playing music at a super-young age — in fact, based on our phone conversation last month, she detailed her entire musical upbringing in a very clear and organized way.
She remembers playing “Heart and Soul” with her brother when she was in first grade, and she brought me right up to date by talking about her college music internship stint in California, which was helped along by various friends in the music business, including Micheal Franti.
Pamela has multiple degrees in music — she majored in vocal performance, with minors in piano and classical guitar. After that, she got aother degree in music technology — which she uses at her current job at Hyde Street Studios in San Francisco, where she helps produce music for other bands.
“It’s a legendary, historic studio, the Grateful Dead, Janis Joplin and Jefferson Airplane, recorded here. James Brown recorded ‘It’s a Man’s World,’ it’s just amazing stuff, and I’ve been working here for six years,” Parker said.
Pamela currently fronts a rock band called Pamela Parker and the Kings, and the band combines her original songwriting skills and rock guitar ability with her upbringing on the classic rock sounds she heard as a teenager.
“It’s kind of my dream to combine Janis Joplin and Jimmy Page into one person, and I’m headed that way. I’m not quite as good as Jimmy, yet, but I’ve got the Janis thing down,” Parker said.
Pamela makes a stop in Hood River on May 22, at the Trillium Cafe, for a solo show, and she’s looking foward to bringing what she’s calling a “different side” to her music out to the audience.
“I think solo shows are fun because I like to showcase the other sides of me, ones that people don’t normally get to see with the full band. Right now we’re kind of diversifying our set, and featuring the other styles of music that I do. One example is a kind of a New Orleans ballad style. I’m also writing a rock opera called ‘Circles of Time,’ so I have a few songs that I feature from that. I wrote a pop-rock song to try out, and I’m bringing a keyboard, acoustic and electric guitar with me. I feel we’re branching out in our genre,” Parker said.
May 20: Lorin Walker Madsen & the Hustlers and special guest Randall Conrad Olinger.
May 21: Kristen Ford. One-woman-band performance includes guitars, percussion and a variety of looping effects pedals, to create a unique musical experience that’s different every night.
May 22: Pamela Parker. Stunning vocals, clever guitar licks, classical piano chops, and a colorful twist on songwriting.
Pamela said her third solo CD is a mix of “everything she’s about.”
“My first solo album was acoustic, and the second was rock and roll. Those two were really planned that way. My next one is going to be everything I do, and I feel like I’m getting more into a place where who I am is coming out more in all the songs. It’s different when the whole band plays my songs, like on the new single “When,” it’s always fun to see where the band takes it, Parker said.
Pamela chose her music path after having an “epiphany that music was her calling” moment after a roadtrip with friends that took her from Oklahoma to California.
“I had one of those moments in time that I didn’t know what I wanted to do. I tried to study art — painting, sculpting and metal work type art, but my dad wasn’t too sure of what to make of that. So he encouraged me to take one semester off from school so I could go try and find myself, and encouraged me to do what I really, really love, so I did,” Parker said.
Since she couldn’t take her childhood drumset or piano to college, she opted for an old classical guitar her mom gave her, and eventually taught herself to play.
Now, with at least five albums behind her, Pamela stays busy at the studio, with the benefit of getting to produce her own music as well.
“Our plan is to release one single a month for the next 6 months, and then drop an album, because that’s what everyone seems to be doing now,” Parker said.
I expect Pamela’s solo CD, and everything else she’s involved in, will reflect 100 percent of what she wants you to hear. I got the feeling she’s not about to let anyone stand in her way.
“In tenth grade, I decided to quit violin because my teacher was really mean. If you have a fun teacher, it makes all the difference.”