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Charlie Parr prefers to play live shows as opposed to recording. But, he said, records are what help advertise his music to listeners and encourage them to come to shows. He has just released his new album, simply titled “Charlie Parr.”
The album begins with “Love is an Unraveling Birds’ Nest,” which has a happy, spring-like melody. In the lyrics, the rebuilding of a bird’s nest is a metaphor of how changes in oneself can lead to changes in the world. Parr said the song is about finding the best in bad situations. It’s among the most beautiful and personal songs he has written. But he hasn’t played it live yet, he said, because it is so different from anything else he has written.
Another new track, one that earns laughs from the audience, is “On Stealing a Sailboat.” The story, not a true one, tells of going on a walk with his friend, Ed, who decides to steal a boat and together they float away. Eventually the police, on their own boat, chase them down. Ed swims to shore and runs away, leaving Parr alone to be arrested.
Parr said the idea came to him around the year 2000. He was playing a lot of shows at Sir Benedict’s where a friend would comment often how much he wanted a sailboat, but they were too expensive.
The first single to be released from the new album was a re-recording of an older Parr song, “Cheap Wine.” This song is hauntingly beautiful with the imagery it evokes: an old liquor store, a gloomy winter day, depression, hatred, conflict, sympathy and frustration. It’s a song into which you can insert your own meaning.
“Cheap Wine” was one of many short stories Parr wrote for a book in the 1990s. “At the time I wasn’t into writing songs, I really wanted to write stories,” he said. “I had friends who were writers and we met once a week for a writing-philosophy hangout and I was inspired by all these folks. I wrote a book of interconnected stories and “Cheap Wine” was one of those stories. I gave it to one of the authors and he was pretty hard on it and said it was not good. I got discouraged and put it away and eventually when I started to write songs, I pulled it out."
In August 2018, Parr fell while skateboarding on the Lakewalk with his daughter, “breaking my shoulder into many pieces.” It took about a week before he could get surgery. When he got home, he said, he realized he couldn't remember the last day that went by in which he didn't play the guitar.
“It was a really deep and dark series of emotions on thinking of what else I could do with my life,” he said. “I placed guitar flat on my lap just so I could touch the strings and I listened to music I haven't in years. Like, not since I was nine years old. Later, when I realized I could pull the guitar up and play normally again, I was all kinds of happy.” He said of the experience that he would do it all again for the time spent with his children.
"Charlie Parr" includes a few covers, a few re-recordings and a few new tunes. The re-recordings are songs that he feels are not quite finished yet. When he is done with a song, he usually stops playing it. But for now you will keep hearing "Cheap Wine," "Jubilee" and "To a Scrapyard Bus Stop," as he is constantly tinkering with them.
Parr returned from touring his new album in Europe and just began his U.S. tour. He will be at the Cedar Lounge in Superior every Wednesday in November. The album is available from Red House Records or through his website, charlieparr.com.