I had the pleasure of interviewing Angela Parrish about her new music and of course ask her about Ryan Gosling cough ahem…. I mean her experience in dancing in a yellow dress in ‘La La Land’. ‘Chains’ Angela’s new release is a true love story in today’s age. I encourage you to watch the music video for ‘Chains’ and keep an eye out for future releases influenced by her time living in a car to being involved in a Hollywood movie.
Chains is an amazing song that pulls at the heart springs. For this song in particular can you take us through the inspiration?
A close friend and I were talking about marriage several years ago, and she said “After you’ve been through so much, especially the hard times, how could you give up on what you have together? It’s the hard times and the act of overcoming them that, together, make a relationship.” It really stuck with me, because I had never heard anyone talk about being grateful for the hard times, or seeing the conflicts as ultimately positive. I knew I wanted to write a song about that someday. Last summer, I was trying to untangle two necklaces from my jewelry chest, and I thought about how common and frustrating that experience is. Yet, we would never throw away those heirlooms just because they get a little tangled. And the good relationships are worth holding on to, despite the difficulties. That’s when I knew I was ready to write “Chains.” It went through several re-writes, and at one point was called “Sentimental Value.” But I think this title much more clearly communicates what I wanted to say.
Watching the video and listening to the lyrics had a big impact on me, for like many of us, I had a marriage that did not work out. Doing this it actually was therapeutic for me as life for me is amazing now and I realize how lucky I am now in my second marriage.
Thank you for telling me that, Jen! I’m touched that the song meant something to you. That’s really my primary goal as an artist, so thank you for sharing that with me. I’m so sorry you had to go through such a difficult experience. But I’m overjoyed for you that you found a love that will grow and strengthen forever. You found the love you deserve.
Reshma Gajjar is such a talented dance to portray a female side to the relationship. Did she do the choreography for this?
She did! I knew when I met her that she’d be the perfect person to choreograph the intent of the lyrics. She and her dance partner (Nick Heitzeberg, seen in the video), choreographed it together. It was really a joint venture, and Nick is incredibly talented and kind as well. I couldn’t have asked for a better pair. They were both great to work with from day one.
Nick was amazing too, I guess as a female I put myself in her shoes. Well like me Reshma danced in barefeet, the only way to dance!
The use of the phones in the video is so NOW. It is so sad to see people out and on their phones and not engaging with the people that are actually with. Is that the way you see this too?
It is! That was entirely from the brain of the video’s wonderful director, Adam Werth. Since this record utilizes all live players and an organic feel, I was originally hesitant to use the phones for fear of “trying” to be modern. But the more I thought about it, the more I realized that Adam hit the nail on the head. It’s one of my favorite parts of the video, and my favorite side commentary on modern society. That really speaks to the art of collaboration, doesn’t it? I never would’ve thought to use cell phones to represent the couple withdrawing from each other. I absolutely think our addiction to our phones can be a major problem, and I’m just as guilty as anyone else. Learning to put my phone in my purse instead of on the dinner table has helped me, but I still have a lot to work on. The phones can represent any kind of affair – person, passion, or machine. That’s up to the viewer.
True, I think that living with a phone in our hand actually masks a problem for people to live in the NOW. I have a severe illness that keeps me in a wheelchair and I can tell you that I don’t use my phone as much as I used to as I want to observe the world around me more than ever.
You have a story behind calling your album ‘Vehicle’ which in fact is and rags to riches (well maybe not riches) story. Can you share this with us?
I moved to Los Angeles in the fall of 2012, after finishing graduate school. I had saved up a mere $700 from a summer job, which of course was next to no money. But I knew if I didn’t just go at that moment, I would never leave. I took a bag of bread, a jar of peanut butter, and I think I also had a box of saltines. I lived off that food and $1 Taco Bell meals for two months. I planned to live with a friend, but I found with a job that was too far away and would’ve had me spending my entire savings on gas money. So I wound up living in my car (my Honda Fit, Tessa). I slept under a blanket on top of boxes of college textbooks. I couch crashed. I showered at the YMCA. But I’m so glad I left when I did. My first day in Los Angeles, I met Jose Perez, who became my drummer and has been with me ever since. He is the person who referred me to the people looking for vocalists for ‘La La Land,’ and I wouldn’t have had that opportunity without his trust in my abilities and his kindness. I may not be financially rich (yet, or ever), but I have a wealth of wonderful friends and colleagues here in LA and incredible opportunities to be part of big projects. And I have an apartment now. Tessa died the week ‘La La Land’ came out, ironically. But I have a new Honda Fit now, and life is good!
What a great story! Having a wealth of friends is the best! I bet sleeping in your bed is more preferable that you car but as you said if you did not do it then, when would you have? There is never a good time like the present. We can plan things to be “at the right time” but for some people that never comes.
What is next for you? Any plans before Christmas and next year?
“Chains” was the first song in a 10-song album cycle. The title of the album is Vehicle, and I’m releasing it one song/music video each month over the next year. The next videos drop on November 3rd and December 1st (expect a release the first Friday of every month). I can’t wait to share them with everyone. I was part of another project that comes out next year that I can’t announce yet, but I’m really looking forward to being able to talk about it. I’m writing a ton of songs and enjoying any opportunity that comes along.
So more music real soon! Awesome.
I must ask I mean every girl would want to… how does it feel that your song was in ‘La La Land, a movie with Ryan Gosling in it?!! 🙂
It still feels surreal. I never, ever thought I’d be able to say I was part of a project like ‘La La Land,” but I’m so grateful for it. The writers of the song (Justin Hurwitz, Benj Pasek, and Justin Paul) wrote an incredibly joyous and meaningful song that was coincidentally true to my own life story and a pleasure to perform. And long after I’m gone, my voice will live on in “the girl in the yellow dress.” That’s my definition of living my dreams. Plus, Ryan Gosling is very handsome and a true class act. I’m very proud and lucky to have had this experience!
You are. I must say I plan on the weekend seeing if I can find that scene and watch it again. Take care and I look forward to some more music!
More info on Angela below.
Subtle jazz flourishes, echoes of country swing and overtones of Laurel Canyon: Angela Parrish weaves radiant threads of American music into a style she describes as “new music for old souls.”
A breezy verve and a whimsical vibe, offset by poignant lyricism, illustrate her artistry in her newest collection of songs, Vehicle. Titled in homage to her personal history of living in her car in her early months in Los Angeles (a Honda Fit named Tessa), and the transitions of life, she notes that words and melodies are also a vehicle to transport her stories to the world.
There is a much wider world now. Millions of cinema devotees have heard her buoyant vocals on “Another Day of Sun,” the song that opens the Academy Award-winning film musical La La Land. Attending studio screenings and performing at the posh ASCAP Screen Awards is a far cry from dining on dollar meals from Taco Bell, as she did when she first arrived on the West Coast.
Angela is originally from Newton, Kansas, an industrious railroad town. “I grew up falling asleep to the lullaby of train whistles every night,” she remembers. Music came into her life with piano and viola lessons, children’s chorus and high school choir. Playing piano with the jazz ensemble in high school foreshadowed her future. After graduating from Wichita State University with degrees in special music education and jazz piano performance, she was awarded a master’s degree in jazz piano from the University of Northern Colorado.
Returning to Kansas, she was planning to travel to China for an extended gig, but the necessary paperwork never came through. She took this as an omen, and with $700 in savings, came to Los Angeles. “I wanted to pursue performing, a part of me I was denying,” she says.
After car sleeping and couch surfing, a regular stint at the venerable Vitello’s jazz club in Studio City became Angela’s anchor gig. It was through a musician friend that she heard about the La La Land opportunity. After auditions, she spent four days recording the track with the film’s creative team, including composer Justin Hurwitz and director Damien Chazelle. “I was being directed in the most positive way,” Angela says. “I felt challenged, but also encouraged in the most beautiful professional balance. I can’t say enough good things about the experience.”
Although Angela does not have a formal songwriting education, writing songs is her primary focus. Among her mentors are jazz luminary Mark Winkler, legendary drummer Jeff Hamilton, and the incomparable Oscar and Grammy-winning composer, singer and songwriter Paul Williams, with whom she has performed as a guest artist. “I consider myself more of a songwriter than anything,” Angela confirms. “I’m not the person doing backflips and cartwheels onstage, rather I want to pull listeners in by creating an atmosphere and a feeling.”
Awarded by the Songwriters Hall of Fame and ASCAP with the 2017 Abe Olman Scholarship for Excellence in Songwriting, Angela was named a New Folk Competition Finalist in the 2017 Kerrville Folk Festival, following the legacy of Americana legends and former Finalists Lyle Lovett, Lucinda Williams and Shawn Colvin.
Previously, Angela’s debut CD, Faithful and Tall, with guest vocals from Sean Watkins of Nickel Creek, was nominated for a pair of Independent Music Awards. Her song “Borrowed Time” was selected as a Grand Prize Winner in the John Lennon Songwriting Contest; she sang backup with Ben Folds at the Hollywood Bowl, and headlined listening rooms on a national tour.
Vehicle was recorded over time in a variety of locales. Authentic and organic, it features real instruments and sterling musicians, including a live string quartet. At the center glows the sound, soul and substance of Angela Parrish.
Living and writing in the present tense is essential to Angela’s musical mission. “I am making music about what my life is like and what it’s like to be alive right now,” she says. And Vehicle resonates with themes of encouragement from a small town girl who took a mighty leap of faith. “People might be afraid to try something because they fear the result. I would much rather have bad results than hate myself forever because I didn’t attempt a life as a performer and a writer,” she confirms. “I’m so glad that I did.”