You know you’re doing something right when your reputation precedes you. You know you’re admired when people talk about you in awe. You know you’ve developed a fan following when people can recognize your music from a mile away. Robby Parsons is a name I often heard around town, talked about and touted, respected and recommended, marveled at and mysterious. It’s not often that the rumors are reliable, but when it comes to the man behind the myth, Robby Parsons does not disappoint!
Robby Parsons deserves to be bailed out for the clever crimes he commits. He is a musical murderer, talented thief, polished professional, the classiest kind of criminal. He will booze you up on beautiful music until you’re befuddled. It’s not hard to get sloshed on his songs, wasted on his words.
TRobby Parsons goes down smooth, makes you feel glazed in the most graceful way. He inebriates with his ideals, makes you tanked on his talent. When he is playing you never want closing time to convene. When it comes to Robby Parsons I am a legitimate, loving lush!
Sara Fincham: You, sir, play music for the right reasons. When did you start?
Robby Parsons: Well, thank you for the compliment first and foremost. I grew up around music. Some of my earliest memories are of my family jamming together. My dad used to tell a story about himself and his brothers playing music when I was very young. I was sitting on my mother’s lap listening to the music and pretending to play guitar myself. After a song was over I jumped off my mom’s lap in a panic. The adults asked me what was wrong. My response was “I dropped my guitar pick.” Also, I remember being a young child, five or six years old, and all I ever wanted to do was be a musician. It was already in my blood and it took over my soul at an extremely young age.
How did you discover that you had such a gorgeous gift of music?
RP: I have never really thought that I am all that good. I think that what helps me out is my conviction for the music I am playing. People tell me all the time that I have a nice voice and whatnot, but really I think it is more in the emotion I sing with than the actual voice I sing it with. Like I said, I grew up around music. I remember pounding on my grandmother’s piano at a young age. I wasn’t really playing anything, but the nothing that I WAS playing, I was playing it with conviction.
SF: Do you still remember the first song you ever wrote, and when did you start playing guitar? Do you play any other instruments?
RP: The first song I ever wrote was when I was about nine years old. And yes, I remember it clearly. I had a little toy keyboard and I figured out how to play three chords (A minor, G, and F), and I wrote a little melody out of those chords. I put some words to it about acid rain because that’s what we were learning about in school at the time. I didn’t realize for a few more years that what I had actually written was “All Along The Watchtower” with an environmental message. As far as other instruments go I play a lot of them. Guitar and piano are my favorites by far, but I can make my way around a bass guitar, mandolin, banjo, saxophone, and harmonica as well. But, guitar is really my passion.
SF: Respect is certainly something you can’t market or demand and you have it. What do you think it is about you and your music that captivates the community, arouses the audience?
RP: Well, I wasn’t really aware that people felt that way about me. I just try to give the audience my raw emotions. I think that anytime you come to see me play you will know what kind of mood I am in just by the way the songs are coming out. Music, to me, is a medicine. It’s better than anything a pharmacist can prescribe. I can alleviate any stress I have just by singing it out of my system, and I hope that audiences connect with that.
SF: You sing with such conviction – where does that come from?
RP: It comes from life, I guess. We’ve all had rough lives. No one has had it easy. I am just lucky to have an outlet to get all the emotions out in a constructive way.
SF: How long have the Bootleggers been together and how did they begin?
RP: The Bootleggers began last fall as a necessity actually. I was booked to play the Capitol Theatre and didn’t have a band together at the time. So, I contacted the best musicians I know and threw something together in a couple of weeks for the biggest gig of my life. After that initial gig we were invited back to headline a show last November. For that gig I contacted Grammy Award Winner Kofi Burbridge of The Derek Trucks Band, who had recorded with me previously, and invited him to come play the show with us. He had just got done recording with Herbie Hancock, and flew in from Atlanta just for that show, which was super cool of him. But as we speak now, The Bootleggers are no more. I am working with some musicians on a new project and we hope to begin playing gigs in late fall.
SF: Your music is so meaningful – what does it mean to you?
RP: The music I write is always inspired by relationships of some sort. Whether it be my relationships with friends, family, women, Christ, Buddha, enemies, war, peace, intoxicants, etc. One time someone told me that one of my songs really touched home to them because what I was singing about reminded her of her relationship with her boyfriend. I didn’t have the heart to tell her that the song was actually about the devastation of cocaine abuse. But, that is the magic of a song. It can mean a million different things to a million different people. Sometimes I write a song and think it is about something, and then three or four months later I realize it is about something completely different.
SF: And just to lighten the mood – who is your favorite musical front-man?
RP: As far as front-men go, there are a few. But, if I could only watch one person perform for the rest of my life I would probably choose Joe Cocker in his prime. Nobody else can capture my attention like he can. Janis Joplin was the same way. Those are just two people that you can’t keep your eyes off of. More recently I think Axl Rose probably had some of those same qualities. There is just a fire to these people that can’t be extinguished. Now as far as my biggest influences in music, I would have to say that Bob Dylan, The Band, and The Allman Brothers Band are my all-time favorites musically.