Michael Green Interviews... Parent
Originally posted on 11th March 2016 here is a Q & A with Rachel and Jason from Parent. We talked about their experiences performing live and writing songs.
Photo by www.vickerstaffphotography.co.uk
Where did it all start for you getting into music?
Rachel- I started singing in sixth form college with the college big band. I begged the teacher to give me a chance but they already had a singer. I knew I had an ok voice from all the years singing in my bedroom to whatever was in the charts! One day, the singer got nodules and he gave me a shot- the rest is history! (she’s fine now by the way and makes her living from acting and singing). Jason- I started learning guitar when I was about 8. I asked for a guitar for Xmas cause I saw Smokey on Top of the Pops and it looked like a good thing to do! I jammed with mates as a teenager and formed my first serious band in Manchester in 1989. It feels like music and the guitar have always been there at the epicentre of things (rightly so!). How did you get together as Parent? Rachel- It was a sunny day, I had taken my daughter to the park and there was nobody else there apart from a Dad with his daughter. The kids started playing together and we started talking. It turned out we had a lot in common professionally and musically. Jason is a guitar teacher amongst other things and also a musical examiner at the time. I had just finished my album and asked Jason to play guitar for me, which he was really keen to do. Amazingly, he had no other creative projects on at the time so it was fantastic timing! Jason- We met randomly in a park in Manchester (no, it's not what you think...) - we were there with our kids and did the usual parent chit chat only to find we had a lot in common. Rachel asked me to do a couple of acoustic gigs with her and as I had no other musical commitments at the time and was looking at getting back into music it seemed like a good idea. "Parent" came about after that when I thought it would be good to write some acoustic stuff together and as my wife is an amazing string player I thought it was a good opportunity to draw together all these amazing resources.
Who are your influences?
Rachel- I’ve always been a massive Jill Scott fan. I saw her perform on TV at the MOBOS when I was 18 and had just moved to London to sing. She is one of the most wonderful lyricists, vocalists and performers out there and no singer of that genre comes close for me. I’m also a big Springsteen fan, he still manages to be relevant and sing about issues that effect working classes, and although he’s a millionaire, you believe him! Rufus and Martha Wainwright, Jenny Lewis and Hozier are also on my CD player a lot.
Jason- There are many! Harmonically I love Astor Piazzolla. Someone on Twitter recently introduced me to Santaolalla who I'm loving at the moment. There are many others - NickDrake of course, Joe Pass, Django, Joan As Policewoman, Melanie Di Biasio...
With songwriting where do you tend to get your inspiration from e.g how do you start
your songs & what's your process?
Rachel- With Parent, most of the time, Jason will put a few guitar tracks on a CD for me and I’ll go away and write lyrics and a melody to them. Occasionally I’m aware that what I’ve written is weak or I’m just not feeling it. Sometimes I hear a track Jason has written and really love it straight away, other times ideas grow on me and I have to work on them a little. With our most recent song, Jason’s wife, Sarah came up with an idea of a story or what the tune reminded her of. I took her idea and took it in a slightly different direction, but it really worked.
Jason- Some of it is spontaneous where I can be listening to something and get an urge to capture a similar mood to what I'm hearing. Some of it is from exploring different harmonic vehicles and techniques to capture the sound or feel I have in my head. Listening to music is of course a great catalyst and I like experimenting with different harmonic sounds and moods. Lyrically it generally comes from life experience - what's going on around me. On a practical level I'll come up with a load of musical ideas and run them past Rachel - if we feel they work then Rach will cast her magical spell over them and turn them into something else - she has a totally natural sense of melody and the songs are carved out form there. The words are crucially important so we sometimes spend time further developing lyrical ideas. Once the song is complete we run it past our string arranger Sarah who then weaves her magic on it and takes it off somewhere else. We seem to have developed a system now which is working well.
How important is it do you feel it is to listen to current music as well as music from the past?
Rachel- I’m not sure that it is important to listen to current music, but I do. I guess from a business point of view, it’s interesting to see what audiences are finding appealing and what’s popular, but on the other hand we aren’t trying to fit in to any kind of sound and feel our music is ‘timeless’.
There are contemporary albums that I really enjoy and regularly listen to, such as 1989 by Taylor Swift or Hozier as I mentioned before. I also really get Lana Del Rey, I think that her management and record labels have been really savvy and her look, sound and voice really fit. From a creative point of view, listening to all music is important but I still find myself going back to albums I used to listen to when I was growing up, that’s where most of the angst is, and also overwhelming affection and fondness. There are also wonderful records from the past that I’ve really got into in recent years, and you can see that they have influenced so many current bands such as The Rolling Stones and Big Star.
Jason- Crucial. There is an overwhelming amount of stuff out there but keeping abreast is good - there's some great new stuff coming out.
Do you feel it is important to watch other acts perform and to watch other live music?
Rachel- Yes, brilliant for inspiration and ideas in terms of stage performance, how other acts do things. We’ve been putting on our own ‘pop-up’ gigs and it’s been working really well, but we get suggestions and new thoughts on how to present ourselves all the time. Because we have a string quartet, we haven’t done a ‘traditional’ gig at this point in popular music venues.
Jason- Of course. Music isn't created in a vacuum and as a punter it's great to appreciate the value of what music does for us.
Finally what tips do you have for anyone starting out when it comes to songwriting & performing?
Rachel- There are no bad ideas, if you have a theme or a story in your head for a song, write it. It might not be the one you use, but it could lead to other ideas that stick. Don’t try and be like anyone else or attempt to appeal to an audience with your song writing. The same goes with performance, just be yourselves and go with it.
Jason- Be true to yourself as a writer and a performer. Don't be afraid to take risks and don't feel there's a rush to get stuff out. If its good, it'll be worth the wait.
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