SongWriter is a podcast of stories and “answer songs,” featuring performances by Joyce Carol Oates, Ted Leo, Susan Orlean, Sarah Jaffe and Michael Ian Black. You can hear an exclusive preview of the episode featuring Amy Turn Sharp and Parker Paul at Noisetrade.
There were a few good clubs to play in Charlottesville, Virginia in the ’90s, but my favorite was in the basement of a strip mall sushi restaurant called Tokyo Rose. The booker was a former record-store clerk who would go on to found Jagjaguwar Records, and sign Bon Iver, Angel Olsen and Sharon Van Etten.
I don’t remember the first time I was booked with Parker Paul (who later put out two albums on Jagjaguwar), but since that night I have harbored a lifelong fascination with his work. Parker sings in a rich warbling baritone, and plays piano with cheerfully loopy virtuosity. He sounds like a Midwestern piano salesman demonstrating an electric Wurlitzer for your grandmother.
But Parker’s superpower is his lyrics, which are somehow playful yet intense, and devilishly apt to surprise. He is as likely to sing about a secret monorail that runs along his dog’s tail as he is to sing about his ex-girlfriend’s orgasms (“her fluttering muscles send origami cranes to heaven”).
All of which is why I am thrilled to feature a brand new song from Parker on the upcoming episode of SongWriter. He brought poet Amy Turn Sharp to the project, and she hosted a live show at her Columbus, Ohio recording studio/art gallery, Secret Studios.
Amy read a piece about leaving her baby teeth at places that have emotional resonance in her life. Like Parker, Amy enjoys fusing humor and heat. She describes placing one of her teeth in a baggy of marijuana the day she broke up with a stoner boyfriend, and another on her mother’s gravestone.
Amy told me that Parker’s music has been the backdrop to her life as a mother and as an artist. “He just touches me in a really amazing place, right in the center of my heart.”
Listen to the latest episode of SongWriter at Noisetrade.