In 2016, Singer, pianist, and songwriter Joyann Parker's debut album, On The Rocks, garnered national and international attention, landing on the Roots Music Report's Top 100 Blues Albums chart and being nominated for an Independent Blues Music Award for Best New Album. Now the accomplished artist is prepping the release of her new album, Hard to Love, on April 13th and here she answers her Essential 8 and talks songwriting, 80's music, Beth Hart, and much more.
Where do you draw inspiration from when writing?
All inspiration for me comes from life, be it my own, my friends or family or just a stranger I may overhear in a coffee shop on the road somewhere. I am a storyteller at heart and I weave them all together from real human experiences. That is why I think they are so relatable, because they are genuine. I am a very empathetic person and I feel energy around me, whether it be from people or even the building I happen to be in. Those energies give me insight into those people and places which then inspire songs. I’m not particularly good at writing about something that I’m not passionate about.
When/where do you do your best writing?
I write everywhere and anywhere. I’m a very busy mom of 2 when I’m not doing all the other things in my life, so alone time is sparse. Inspiration strikes at the craziest times. One of the songs on my first album was written in my car while driving with my kids in the backseat. I told my phone to record and made an extremely rough recording, so I could remember the tune later on when I had time to write it down.
Why did you choose to anchor the album with the songs you did?
A lot of these songs were written after my second trip to Memphis, TN. I have always loved the Memphis soul sound but after a trip to the Stax Museum I was totally inspired. The next few months I drenched myself in Otis Redding, King Curtis, Carla Thomas, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett, Staples Singers and the like and wrote a bunch of the tunes you hear on this record.
I always like to put a few surprises into my albums and shows, so there are a couple of those on the record as well, especially the title track, “Hard To Love.” I love the classic sound of the Great American Songbook and wanted to do a stripped-down version on which I could play piano and show another side of myself.
What’s the best advice to give to a musician just starting out?
Get out and play as much as possible, in your own town and outside of it. Nothing worth having comes easy, so get ready to work hard if you really want to make this your career. Also, get tough. People are going to try and get in your way or stop you completely all the time. Know why you’re doing what you’re doing so when people give you advice you can listen, take the truth from it and then discard the rest.
What are your “must have” albums for the road?
Whoever is driving gets to pick the music, but we always seem to agree on any and all Led Zeppelin. If I’m driving, I subject them to a mix of 80’s music including, but not limited to: Hall and Oates, Duran Duran, Billy Idol, The Cult, and Tears for Fears.
What do you love most about being on the road?
Reaching new fans with my music. It’s hard to get the word out when you’re not signed to a label or an agency, so I do it by putting boots on the ground and doing it grass-roots style. When you talk to people after the show and they tell you how much your music meant to them, that’s what keeps you going the next 10 hours to the next show.
Which song of yours gets the best crowd response?
“Home” has been the one to grab people lately. I wrote it for a friend of mine whose son committed suicide at a young age. It’s a song of hope for those who may be going through a dark time. I use it to encourage those people to ask for help, to reach out and tell someone how they are feeling and what they are going through. Many people come to me and share their stories after they hear it and it’s very moving for me as a songwriter. That’s why I do what I do.
Have you met any of your heroes? If so, how did it go?
I have been a huge fan of Beth Hart since high school. I stuck around a long time and waited for her after a show in Minneapolis last year and she kindly came out to talk to those of us still waiting (read: stalking) her about an hour after the show was over. She talked to me about my music and gave me some encouraging words and was generally very kind to me. I appreciated that very much.