Q&A: Indie-folk singer-songwriter Mel Parsons

Q&A: Indie-folk singer-songwriter Mel Parsons

Award-winning Kiwi musician Mel Parsons is treating our ears to a brand-new album, Slow Burn, and is hitting the road for a nationwide tour.

The title track of the new album sounds great. What can we expect from the songs that aren’t released yet? It’s quite a mix I think. It’s still me writing songs, so I don’t think it’s any great departure from what people know of my music already, but there are a a few more upbeat songs on there that head towards a bit of indie-new-wavey kind of a vibe.

Tell us about your experience recording this album. We made the record at LOHO Studio in Christchurch, with my band and a few guests. Being local was actually really awesome, getting to head home and regroup at the end of each session made it really relaxed process. We had a lot of fun in the studio, after the uncertainty of the last wee while we were excited to just be back in a room playing together. Pre-production meant the songs were pretty well shaped before we went in, but actually the band hadn’t heard anything before we set up. They’re all such brilliant players in that way. There’s a lot of energy in the recordings rather than it being too laboured.

It sounds like the album name is a bit of a commentary on the process? Haha it sounds like it should be! Slow Burn comes from the title track which was the first song I wrote for the album, but I guess everything for everyone these past couple of years has slowed down too, and the album-making process was no exception.

What influence did your Lyttelton location have on the writing? I think it’s hard not to be influenced by your environment, and Lyttelton probably has just the right balance of grit and beauty which appeals to me. Ultimately though, my writing is a very unconscious process in that I write what comes out, so probably I could have been anywhere and these songs would have arrived in a similar form.

You’ve collaborated again with your cousin Jed Parsons on some of these tracks – what’s he like to work with? We joke around and tease each other a lot, but really he’s one of my favourite people. Jed has been playing in my band since 2015 and honestly I can’t imagine not having him in there. He’s brilliant musically, a very sensitive ear which makes him a natural harmony singer, and beautiful feel as a drummer as well. He’s such a mellow and fun person to have around too which is really key to the vibe of everything. We also have a secret agreement where we have to say extremely nice things about the other person in interviews. 

Our lips are sealed. What do you do when you’re not writing, recording or touring? Gardening, playing the drums, cooking, hanging around. I’ve got a mild obsession with water blasting, so quite a bit of that. Lawn mowing. I like to ski in the wintertime.

Are you planning anything special for the tour? I feel like being able to tour at all is special in itself, so we are just focused on putting together a really great show, staying healthy and having as much fun as possible on the road.

What’s one thing people probably don’t know about you? My favourite instrument is actually the drums. Hands down the most fun.

Best piece of advice you’ve ever received? To just keep turning up. I think as a creative person it’s easy to get bogged down in critiquing yourself and thinking something is never going to be finished or good enough or just never going to happen full-stop. But I guess through my career I’ve found if you just keep turning up to whatever it is you’re doing, eventually there will be an outcome. Songs are like that for me, I have to just make myself sit down with the guitar or at the piano, even when I might not feel like it, and see what comes out. It might not be that day that the gold turns up but if you don’t turn up you’ll never know.

What music have you got on high rotation at the moment? I’ve been listening to a lot of old stuff, digging back into the '90s actually. We listen to a lot of classics at home, jazz, soul, a lot of '60s and '70s songwriters. Khruangbin I love the sound of. Also there are a bunch of great artists coming through from Canterbury which I find really exciting, acts like Pretty Stooked, Goodwill, MIM, Emma Dilemma, Sam Heselwood to name a few.

How do you relax? Catching up with friends, I like the drop in culture in Lyttelton. Our house is quite hectic so people know just to turn up and there will be coffee or wine and maybe a fire going outside to sit around. I’ve gotten quite into gardening lately too, veggies mostly.

If you could invite any three people to a dinner party, who would they be? I’m obsessed with British comedy, so probably Ricky Gervais, Dawn French, John Cleese.

What’s next for you after the tour? A cup of tea and a little lie down to start with. But really, when you’re an independent artist things don’t really stop in between tours and albums. There is a massive amount of planning and organising to keep things rolling. But I feel lucky to be able to do it at all, so will just carry on working towards the next thing.

October – November


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