Photo: Sunday Peach
Third time lucky. That's what ever-positive Fremantle-based singer songwriter Rose Parker reckons.
Parker has just released her debut solo album. It's been a long time coming and there were at least two previous attempts to record what would become Under The Same Sun.
“I went into the studio and got started and then for various reasons like hard drives getting dropped and people losing everything...,” she laughs before continuing, “there were a number of disasters that occurred.”
Parker admits to being quite disheartened at this time and also because she couldn't seem to get the sound she heard in her head into the desk. She was using good players but for some reason it wasn't working.
She was particularly disheartened because all of these mistakes cost money and as a long time independent musician she knew only too well that all the bills came to her address. She had been performing solo shows for more than a decade and was used to people coming up to her at the end of the night to ask where they could buy recordings of the songs she was performing. Previously she had been half of the well-regarded duo, The Velvet Janes, where they had recorded four albums in just over four years. “Songwriting and live performance is my great love, but recordings help grow an audience,” she reasons. “What these people were telling me was, 'Oi Parker, get cracking’.”
Parker had talked about the situation with fellow Fremantle musical journeyman and neighbour, David Hyams. They had been friends for many years, first having met at a Freo-based songwriting group where all participants had to turn up with a new song to perform before the group each fortnight. They knew each other’s work well and Hyams suggested that what Parker needed to do was to whittle down the likely songs to be included in an album from the dozens and dozens she had at hand. That wasn't easy but with his encouragement in early 2016 Parker picked a dozen – she actually pushed for two dozen and a double album, but Hyams persuaded her otherwise – and they began pre-production at his home studio.
“He insisted we do pre-production and that was painstaking, going to his studio and making demos. Stuff that is so far removed from the fabulous live experience. I got dragged there kicking and screaming but once I had 12 templates I was happy with, I was set. He is the yang to my yin. He is the voice of restraint, he is the parer down. In doing so he helped me focus and bring it down to a project that was doable.”
The album was recorded by Lee Buddle at Crank Studios in August-October 2016. It captures Parker’s persona perfectly. It is genuinely uplifting music with a breezy summer feel. The songs are of various vintages. A couple (Mission Bell and Everyday Kinda Woman) go back to the last decade and have long been stage favourites. Sycamore Tree, Rivers Run, Hey Sista Sista and irresistible opener, Take The Ride, are all from the last year or so.
Hey Sista Sista finds golden memories from the difficult childhood she shared with sister Jill as their family fell apart and the girls were raised in a variety of orphanages and foster homes. This period of her life is also recalled evocatively in the closer, Apartments And Subways, which has a sample of her grandfather's grandfather clock and a recording of her family talking.
Parker recalls very fondly holidays with her extended family on her grandfather's Goomalling farm. Family gatherings were where she first discovered her love of singing and was four the first time she stood in front of a family group in Northam to belt out a hit of the day. “My mother was a gifted musician and when I would go and see her during holidays she would often be playing with my grandfather.” Her mother's mental health was such that she was not able to care for her children full-time. Even now all these years later Parker recalls so vividly how happy she was to be heading to the farm and how sad she would be holding Jill's hand as they left to return to the city.
She sang in primary school and in the orphanage and in high school and with the encouragement of Mrs McRae and Mr Edwards she took part in Applecross Senior High School productions. She speaks their names with great fondness and hopes that they know that “the shy little teenager has grown wings.” Somewhere between primary and high school Parker received a guitar and almost immediately started writing songs.
She describes Hey Sista Sista as a “bittersweet song celebrating the bond with my sister.” As for the upbeat tone and warm memories that are included like the pair of them playing under the spray on a tractor sprinkler, she puts that down to being an eternal optimist.
“Music has allowed me to transform those tough times into works of art, into things of beauty. I was having coffee with my friend and she said that we are all tumbling tumbleweeds aren't we? My songwriter antennae went off and I thought that my sister and I as we went through those orphanages and foster homes we were like tumbling tumbleweeds. We had to roll pretty much with whatever was happening. We had to be flexible and chameleons almost and we needed to be that so we could become the strong women we wanted to become. I needed to learn how to put down a taproot to become a strong root for me and my family.”
With her songs coming from such a personal place, Parker explains that there is a simple trick to keeping dark memories from your mind while singing on stage. “I have had a few emotional moments,” she confesses. “You just need to sing it a lot. Then the emotion dies down and it becomes joyful to sing. The art of songwriting is telling your story and having it have resonance in other people's lives as well.
“I see myself as conquering fear. Fear was a huge part of childhood and early adulthood. I wanted to be able to push the eject button on life. When performing you have to confront fear. I was terrified of performing. I had stage fright until I was 25 and it was only that I loved the physical act of singing and playing that I continued. I feel I can fly. I decided early on I was never gonna quit. I will be singing until the day you put me in the ground. It's in my blood and it is in my bones.”
Rose Parker and her band, featuring David Hyams, Roy Martinez, Elliot Smith, Lucky Oceans, Dave Mann, Phoebe Corke and Karlee Brown, launch Under The Same Sun on Sunday, December 10, at the Fly By Night. There are a few tickets left. Doors open at $6.30. For more info visit flybynight.org