Now/It's: An Interview with Molly Parden

Imagine meeting a titan of your industry and having them express a unique interest in your own efforts. That would be pretty phenomenal, right? Well what if that same titan of industry expressed said interest only to return your mutual interest with radio silence? It would probably serve as a vicious blow to one's ego. Or, it might serve as a powerful catalyst of self-actualization and improvement. In a way, such a hypothetical is precisely the scenario in which Molly Parden found herself a little while back with one very polarizing Heartbreaker singer who shall remain unnamed. While Ms. Parden could have accepted defeat, she instead opted for the second route of self-reliance and ultimate improvement in continuing on her unparalleled path of independent songwriter-dom. Wholly charming and disarmingly funny, Ms. Parden shares her thoughts on all sorts of compelling anecdotes and tidbits, all the while offering up ample humility and invaluable perspective for any and all to glean. 

Now/It's met with Molly Parden at her home near the Fairgrounds area in Nashville, back in September, during Americanafest 2017.

Molly - How’s your day going?

N/I - It’s pretty good. I was just with Zach and Alicia Threlkeld.

Molly - They’re great.

N/I - Indeed, but otherwise, pretty normal day. How about you? Have you been busy this week?

Molly - It’s been good.

N/I - Are you having to navigate Americanafest and all that jazz?

Molly - No. Not necessarily Americanafest…

N/I - Just prepping for what seems to be now, two rather lengthy tours?

Molly - Just one lengthy tour. The other one that I’ll be hopping on is just the US side.

N/I - And that’s for Faye [Webster]’s?

Molly - Faye Webster, yeah. So I’ll just take a week off of David [Ramirez]’s tour to join hers.

[Molly heads into another room]

Molly - [Jokingly] Both of those waters are for me, by the way. So don’t touch them.

N/I - Yeah. That’s what I figured.

Molly - Thank you for coming over here.

N/I - Oh my gosh, thank you for having me.

Molly - And thank you for wanting to interview me [laughs]. Do you drink?

N/I - I do.

Molly - Would you like a mango pale ale with me?

N/I - Sure. I’ve never had a mango pale ale.

Molly - [Jokingly] Oh my god! How exciting! Are you familiar with Ballast Point?

N/I - I am familiar, but not much past that.

Molly - Well you’re in for a treat, here. It’s a very light session ale.

N/I - Well that’s very nice, because I have a rather weak countenance for carbonation…. Not really. I’m joking.

[Both laugh]

Molly - Cheers.

[Cheers]

N/I - I think this is one of the few times we’ve spoken at length outside of a crowded social setting or the Internet.

Molly - Truly.

N/I - Truly indeed. So who knows how this goes?

Molly - No one does [laughs].

N/I - I guess we’ll just have to find out for ourselves.

Molly - We are about to find out.

[Both laugh]

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Molly - What’s your week been like?

N/I - During the day, it hasn’t been all that bad. The shows at night are…. Not a slog, I enjoy them all, but it’s late. You know that, because you played Americanafest last year, right?

Molly - I did. I had a showcase.

N/I - That’s right. At City Winery.

Molly - Yes! Were you there?

N/I - I was there!

Molly - Sean! Thank you.

N/I - Ah yes, of course. Of course. I was trying to take photos, but it was a little awkward.

Molly - I remember that! Because I showed up on your old site. I was like “Oh, he was there!”

N/I - Exactly. I was trying to take photos, but City Winery is so awkward, especially for taking photos, and then for someone such as myself to be the one taking the photos - being taller…..

Molly - And everyone else is sitting down, so you’re most definitely getting in someone’s way.

N/I - It’s glaringly apparent that I’m standing up, and in the middle of everything. But all that to be said, Americanafest is always fun. I did an interview with Lydia Luce….

Molly - Fiddle player, right?

N/I - That’s right! That’ll go up later today.

Molly - Nice!

N/I - So when do you go on the road with…. It’s David first, right?

Molly - Ramirez, yes. My first stint with him will be September 21st - next Thursday - until November 10th…. It’s either the 9th or 10th. And then I’ll take a three week break. After our San Diego show, I’ll fly back here and be home for one full day, and then fly to New York City on Monday, November 13th, and be with Faye [Webster] from the 13th until the 21st. Then I’ll fly home from I believe LAX, and I’ll have about a week off, maybe a week and a day, and then I’ll meet back up with David on November 29th, and do two weeks and three days with him until December 16th, with our last show being in Birmingham.

N/I - That’s pretty specific. You’ve got it down pat.

Molly - [Laughs] Yeah. The first six shows are in Texas, but they’re split into two different weekends - Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and another Thursday, Friday, Saturday - but Texas is a long ass way away from here.

N/I - Yes, very much so.

Molly - So I’ll be leaving next Wednesday, just so I can get all my driving done, and then the next day would be the show. It’ll go show, show, show, and I actually got a show in Austin - not with David - because I’m going to be missing his Austin show to play with Faye. I’m actually only missing like three shows of his to take this Faye tour, which is wonderful.

N/I - Yeah. That’s great.

Molly - But I’ll be missing his Austin show, which is his hometown! So that’s a bummer. But I got an Austin show, so it’ll be that Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Austin on Sunday, drive home from Austin on Monday, and be home for two days. The next show is in Houston, so I think I’ll just fly to Houston and then join up with the band, and just travel with them. We’ll have another four days off - Sunday, Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday - until our first show outside of Texas, which is Norman, Oklahoma. So I guess I’ll just camp out somewhere in Austin and start being in a band with them. And then we’ll go non-stop until that November 10th date.

N/I - That’s intense, but you’ve done tours like this before, right?

Molly - You know, I’ve never traveled with a full band, at least not for very long.

N/I - So you’re doing all of this with a full band?

Molly - Well not mine, sorry. David’s

N/I - Ah, okay. With David’s full band.

Molly - Yeah. And a manager, and a front of house. So it’ll be David, Matt… this is good for me to practice - Adam is playing drums, Morgan is bass, Simon is on electric - so five piece band, plus the manager, Shane, front of house Melanie, and me. So that’s eight people in the van, towing a trailer.

N/I - Okay. But then you’re driving down there by yourself?

Molly - Yeah. I think I’m just going to rent a car. I just don’t want to…. Originally I wanted my boyfriend, James [Wilson], to come along, but he hurt his hand, so he has to go to therapy twice a week.

N/I - How’d he hurt his hand?

Molly - You know, he is a bartender at Josephine…. Sorry, I’ve picked up the intro to sentences “You know,” from James, and it used to drive me insane, because I’d answer with “Actually, I don’t know,” because he was saying “You know” before everything and I was like “I DON’T, TELL ME!”

N/I - No, I understand completely. My dad used to get onto me about that type of stuff all the time. I was really into basketball growing up, and when basketball players were interviewed, they’d say “You know,” all the time, and my dad would always say “Sean, look at that. He might be a good player, but he’s not the strongest speaker,” or something to that effect. But with regard to saying “You know” in this interview, if there seems to be a frequency of “You knows” I can simply delete them.

Molly - Oh! Are you recording this!?

N/I - I am.

[Both laugh]

Molly - That’s amazing. I was like “transcription? Is he memorizing this?”

N/I - I wish, that would be amazing.

Molly - It would.

N/I - Except that it would make me a freak.

Molly - It would be very weird.

N/I - I’d be like a serial killer of some sort.

Molly - So James. You don’t know this, but when James isn't playing music, he works at Josephine as a bartender, and on eclipse weekend, a million people flocked to Nashville, and thus, Josephine is slammed. Some liquid spills behind the bar, and when he goes down, his hand crunches on a champagne glass, right on his palm. Blood’s gushing, race to the emergency room, wait four hours to get it stitched shut.

N/I - But they finally got it?

Molly - They did. But they took an x-ray, and he cut like five tendons and a nerve.

N/I - Oh my gosh. So he has to do the physical therapy in order to play music again?

Molly - Just to move his fingers. He lost some feeling in some fingers. But the surgery went well, and the doctor was hopeful that “he’s a healthy, strong, young man,” and thought he’d make a great recovery. But it was one of those scenarios in which he quickly realized “How do you do life without your dominant hand for two months?”

N/I - Right hand? Left hand?

Molly - His right.

N/I - Gosh.

Molly - So I’m telling everyone to kiss their hands before they go to sleep at night.

[Both laugh]

N/I - As one should.

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Molly - Anyways, it appears as though he’ll no longer be able to come with me. But that’s originally why I was going to drive out and drive back for the first leg…. But also, I got tickets to see War On Drugs in Atlanta, so I want to come back for that.

N/I - Ah yes, but of course. I assume you’ve listened to their new record, then?

Molly - I haven’t listened to that one quite as much, but I have listened to it at least once, all the way through. I like it.

N/I - It’s really good. Where are they playing in Atlanta?

Molly - They’re playing The Tabernacle. I hope I get to go, I hope I’m not too exhausted driving home from Austin. We’ll see.

N/I - I suppose we shall. Hopefully it pans out.... So you were recording stuff the first time we tried to meet up, is that correct? Was that Kid Swim stuff?

Molly - Oh? When was that time, exactly?

N/I - I don’t fully remember. In one email, you mentioned you were recording something in Madison, I believe.

Molly - Yes! Then that would have been my music, this past weekend, like a week ago.

N/I - Were they just demos? Or just full album things?

Molly - Well, my demos are me singing into my iPhone.

N/I - Sure.

Molly - But I recorded the “real thing” for three different songs. I was just going to say, I don’t make music very often, and I definitely don’t release things very often. I’ve discovered that I’m a slow worker, and I just…. I just like to take my time. I don’t like to co-write, I don’t necessarily try to work a lot with different people, I work really well by myself and when I have a lot of time to do it. I was…. Can I give you the long story?

N/I - Go for it! By all means.

Molly - So Ryan Adams approached me last year, on the Internet.

N/I - Naturally.

Molly - Naturally. And we got on a phone call, and he said “Hey, I want to make your next record. I’m a huge fan of what you’re doing….” and I was like, “Well great. I just put out an EP…” and he goes “Oh, don’t do that. That’s stupid. That let’s people know that you don’t know what you’re doing.” And I just waited there, thinking, “Can I talk?... I don’t know what I’m doing.”

[Both laugh]

Molly - And I said, “I’ve got like two new songs, man.” And he said, “Well, get a notebook, fill it up, because I want to do this as soon as possible.” So this was roughly around last August, and I was like “Okay!” So I was like “Hell yeah I want to make a record with Ryan Adams.” I wanted to have around eleven songs ready for him, and by January, I did. Well, I had eight, and then a few were demos ready to be recorded.

N/I - But the majority were in fact songs.

Molly - Correct. So I was stoked. It was “Alright Molly, you can do this, you little wimp.”

N/I - Was it just a case of having never done it before, at least that heavy an amount of writing? The lack experience was the biggest deterrent?

Molly - I lacked the focus to do it. Because I obviously had it in me, but I’ve never wanted to…. I’ve never really given myself the time to be a writer, or at least a consistent writer. I needed to learn to be disciplined about it. But a couple of the different days when songs came about, I would sit down for an hour and force myself to type on my computer, or write things down, or play an idea I had in my voice memos for three years or something. And when I did that, good things would happen. I got to learn that when I work at it, I can make something great. Anyways, fast forward to July, I have a conversation with Ryan that makes me feel like I was the one that was begging him to make this record, and I was just like “Okay, dude.” I put the ball in his court. I said “Here are my demos, let me know if there are any you’d like to record.” And he never got back to me, so I went to Juan Solorzano. And I said “Juan, I want to make this record with you.” It was Juan and this guy Zach Dyke, from COIN. They’ve been teaming up to make a couple different records this year. One of them I got to sing on, for three or four songs.

N/I - Which one is that?

Molly - Preston Lovinggood, from Wild Sweet Orange. He’s making a solo record.

N/I - Oh yeah. That’s really cool!

Molly - It sounds so good. Like really rocking. But Juan has just been such a…. I want to say “blessing,” because he’s been my musical soulmate/brother, ever since I’ve been playing music with him over the past few years. I feel so safe giving him my demos. Anything he does - even when it’s wrong - is so perfect. He has such a beautiful inclination toward music.

N/I - And more specifically, your music.

Molly - Yeah! So I told him that I wanted to make this record, and he said “Zach’s moving to LA,” and I was like “Well, shit.” But we figured out that at the end of December, we could start recording, all three of us. Even still, I told Juan, “Dude, I really want to try and release a song before I leave for tour, or during the tour. I think that would really help me.” He said “Alright. We’re going to make this work.” So Zach was totally cool with just Juan and I working on the first few songs together, and last weekend was the time that it worked out for me and Juan to meet up at his place to record together. We tracked three songs, had a drummer play on two, and I played acoustic and sang, and Juan did everything else except drums - bass, electric, wurlitzer, and engineering. They sound really good for not being mixed or anything. I got to show them to…. So the only “team” member I have is - actually, I guess I have two - I have licensing through Whizbang and this guy Shawn Fowler, who’s a digital distributor that does that stuff instead of me uploading to…

N/I - CD Baby or Tunecore.

Molly - Yes. Instead of me doing that, he does it. I think it’s through Tone Tree Music.

N/I - Okay. And he probably has a little more direction. Where CD Baby and Tunecore just throw it all up at once, he can direct things through the proper channels.

Molly - Yeah! And I don’t know how long he’s been doing it - I should ask him - but he’s just built great relationships with a gal at Spotify, or maybe two, and then the folks at Apple Music, there’s this guy named Bruno who is apparently the king or something. But [Shawn] has several artists on his roster for digital distribution, so this past week, he organized these two listening parties, or gatherings. They were the folks from Spotify - Laura and Meg - and Apple Music, could listen to six different artists’ new music set to come out sometime soon. That way, the big whigs could put a voice to a face.

N/I - And get a feel for everything that would go with pushing that particular artist or song.

Molly - Just to hear a tiny snippet of their stories, or how they interact with other people. But that was so cool, getting to show them two songs I just did last week. Everybody else’s were mixed and mastered, and just sounded really thick and polished, and mine were pretty rough, but they still stood up. Maybe not out, or maybe out because they were rough.

N/I - Did you have to preface it with that fact?

Molly - You know, I didn’t want to defend it too much, so I just said that I had just recorded them four days ago.

N/I - So was it a presentation format? Like going up in front of the class, so to speak?

Molly - A little bit. It was a room as big as this.

N/I - So laid back.

Molly - Very relaxed. It was a studio. So we just listened from the engineer’s speakers. He was there too. We were borrowing his studio. It was very friendly and supportive. That was really cool to get to show them rough cuts of the songs, and get immediate feedback on them. I’d love to show you after we get done with this.

N/I - I’d love to listen!

Molly - It’s going to be great.

N/I - So as far as Ryan Adams’ role, is it still kind of radio silence?

Molly - Yeah.

N/I - Interesting. It sounds like the ultimate purpose he was supposed to serve in the process was to light the fire that, at least, gets you to the point of which you understand just how well you can focus.

Molly - Absolutely, absolutely. That’s the most positive way to look at it, and so that’s the way I’ll choose to look at it.

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