Folk musician Charlie Parr was en route from New Haven, Ct. to Philadelphia when he pulled off of the road to talk to the News-Press about touring, recording, his latest album Hollandale and cooking meals on his van’s manifold.
“I just had a bean and rice burrito lunch today, actually,” Parr said. “It took a little longer than normal because we had some drizzle and anytime you get water under the hood it really botches up your cooking time…I was starving so I stopped at noon to eat the thing. I felt it and it was warm. I don’t want to eat a lukewarm burrito. I can make it that warm by sitting on it.”
So he put the burrito back under the hood – held into place by a brace he and his buddy Dave built specifically for cooking on the manifold – and kept driving. This is the life of a traveling guitarist.
“I’m riding in the car with some good music and a guitar and some coffee and I’m happy as a clown,” Parr said.
Parr, who grew up in Austin, Minn. and is now based in Duluth, doesn’t stray far from home much for live shows but he’s currently traveling the northeast and south for performances. He’s playing a show tomorrow night at Gypsy Sally’s in Washington, D.C., opening for Tim Reynolds & TR3.
“I have been playing a lot of new songs. On this trip I’m stopping in Raleigh for a few extra days and recording down there,” Parr said. “And so in my show I’m playing a lot of the stuff that’s going to be coming out on my new record.
A new album based on Parr’s Raleigh recordings would ideally be released in February, he said. His latest record, Hollandale, was released in January 2014 and is Parr’s first instrumental album.
It features a lot of guitar improvisations and some of the songs are longer than 12 minutes. And that’s why fans of the album shouldn’t expect to hear songs from that record in Parr’s live show.
“At a lot of shows it’s hard to trot one of those guys out without pissing everybody off,” Parr said.
Despite his reticence to play songs from Hollandale at his live shows, Parr said that the album is being received surprisingly well. He recorded it in the living room of guitarist Alan Sparhawk.
The recording studio Parr used for his latest record, his twelfth studio release, is not unusual, especially in this day of easily-accessible recording equipment, but his next record is being recorded in a tobacco barn. He’s previously recorded in a boxing gym, a warehouse and an abandoned storefront.
“I’m more comfortable when I make the space my own and I like that,” Parr said. “I have nothing against studios, I’ve worked in them and I like them just fine. But it’s definitely a more comfortable situation if I can decide how I want the space to look.”
Maybe another reason Parr chooses unconventional recording venues is because he comes from a tradition of musicians who played their music wherever folks were. He grew up listening and loving his father’s Lightnin’ Hopkins, Leadbelly and Woody Guthrie records.
“I gravitated right to that stuff and I really liked it and I listened to it a lot and when I started trying to play the guitar that’s the kind of stuff I really wanted to play,” Parr said. “I listen to a lot of stuff. My sister’s into the Grateful Dead and rock n’ roll stuff from the late 60s, but nothing moved me like Lightnin’ Hopkins, for example.”
• For more information about Charlie Parr, visit charlieparr.com.