You can generally tell when an artist is ready for the next stage of their career. It shows up in timing and tonal certainties, and there's a sense of conviction that just can't be faked. Steve Parisien's catchy new track ‘As Time Passes’ has that audible conviction, but its sheer inventiveness and mainstream digestibility fulfill the other half of the equation that determines who gets radio time and who goes home unheard. It also doesn't hurt that the critics have raved about his award-winning work: ‘'As Time Passes' makes an unhurried way through a clever campaign of guitar gambits to deliver one of the most intricately executed jazz padsages the year has produced.’ Independent reporter Alexis Adams recently caught up with Steve Parisien to talk about his new single and the passion for home-grown jazz that gave rise to it.
ALEXIS: As an artist on the rise, what is one thing you are most excited about and one thing you are most afraid of happening in your career?
STEVE PARISIEN: A lot of things have been happening at my end in the music scene in the past year or so and the one thing I’m excited about is the gaining in recognition of my music. Several publishers have some of my tunes on hold for future projects in T.V./film and that sort of thing. Also, several of my songs are in ‘heavy rotation’ spins on radio worldwide. Because of developments in the past year, earning (5) #1 hit song awards and several best song awards, the industry is taking notice and knocking on my door so to speak as opposed to my knocking on doors to possibly have one of my songs heard. At least the trend is going in that direction. That’s cool!
However, the thing that I fear and perhaps is common (don’t know), is one day I keep thinking I’m going to run out of ideas in composing and wouldn’t be able to contribute to the music world. What a feeling that would be knowing that in the past, you had touched people somehow with music that you create and the next thing you know, you draw a blank. To me that would be like a piece of you had gone. Weird!
ALEXIS: Your song ’As Time Passes’ is receiving a positive listener response on radio. What was your initial reaction when you first heard your song playing on radio?
STEVE PARISIEN: At this point, I haven’t heard ‘As Time Passes’ on the airwaves yet. However I’d expect as with previous songs that have aired, I always get a rush. It’s a cool feeling knowing that people are listening to something you’ve created enough times that it stays on radio. It’s even more cool when one earns a #1 hit song status. The other neat thing is when friends call from other parts of the globe telling me they’re listening to one of my tunes. I have to keep shaking my head thinking I’m dreaming or something. Only a couple of years ago I would have only dreamt that something like this would happen.
ALEXIS: What was the inspiration behind your debut radio single?
STEVE PARISIEN: The inspiration in writing this tune as with most of the others I’ve written, is based on experiences of the moment. In most cases, all of a sudden I have an idea for a tune and away I go. In this particular case and you're going to love this one, it was definitely an experience of the moment. My wife and I were down in Puerto Vallarta which is our usual winter destination, sitting on the beach under a palapa with a bucket of beer. Willow Brizzio who is a wonderful guitarist and arguably one of the best jazz guitarists in Mexico, always makes available a guitar for me to play while down there. Needless to say I had this with me and the relaxed scene just stirred these musical ideas in my head. The next thing you know, this tune spills out. I met up with Willow later along with his wonderful wife Beverly Moore who’s got this amazing voice, honest to god, she sounds like Billie Holiday. Anyway, I played the tune for Willow and he loved it. The next thing you know, we threw an arrangement down but I wasn’t there long enough to put it to the test and perform on stage. Needless to say considering the success of the song, we’ll no doubt be performing it when down there next year.
ALEXIS: It is often said that great art arises from difficult experience. Is there something in your life experience thus far that you would describe as the ‘catalyst’ or ‘fuel’ for your desire to create music?
STEVE PARISIEN: I’m not sure that there’s any one single experience that I can attribute in wanting to create music. I grew up in the world of music as my father owned a music business. Because of this, I’ve experienced and learned pretty well every aspect of the music business and scene. It’s this constant exposure since I was a little boy that I believe has led me to where I’m at now.
ALEXIS: How would you characterize yourself as an artist/musician? (Ex. Down-to-earth, serious, fun-loving, complicated…)
STEVE PARISIEN: I believe my character particularly when it comes to music, is easy going. I don’t think I can write if I’m tense or serious. I think that would disrupt the very nature of what makes me want to write.
ALEXIS: What has your experience been like working with the other people on your team?
STEVE PARISIEN: Basically, I’m a one man show so to speak. However, I’ve had the pleasure of collaborating with wonderful artists such as Laurel Moore about whom you people had written when won an Akademia Award for Best Jazz Album back in October of 2014. The unique thing about that story was the fact that we had never met. She lives clear on the other side of the globe. It took a while emailing music files back and forth, but we built a wonderful rapport during that whole procedure and in fact I am still in touch with her periodically. There could be future collaboration at some point down the road. I’m also in contact with other artists who would like to write and perform lyrics to my tunes. Cool things are going to happen soon and I always get excited when new projects such as that are in the works.
ALEXIS: Did you come from a musical background? Are there other musicians in your family?
STEVE PARISIEN: As mentioned earlier, I grew up in a musical environment. My father actually is the one that really taught me how to use what I had learned through the Royal Conservatory of Music. I think he knew from the time I was a young child that I had the ability to play by ear and create my own arrangements of tunes. He also gave me every opportunity to learn other instruments which I seemed to have picked up on rather quickly. Also, other family ranging from grandparents to cousins played instruments. In fact getting back to Puerto Vallarta, I have a cousin that lives down in that area who gets a variety of amazing musicians to come down and hang out with him. That’s a great experience.
ALEXIS: What do you find most rewarding about being an artist? What do you find most challenging?
STEVE PARISIEN: The thing I find most rewarding which I briefly touched on in the last question, is when other people are playing my music. Some of those wonderful musicians that my cousin introduced me too, started playing some of my tunes. My cousin and his wife are my best fans when we're down there and they really push my stuff to other artists. I think it’s a family pride thing and I thank them for that. They’re great.
The thing I find most challenging, is trying to compete with what the ‘music industry’ expects these days. It seems particularly true of the ‘pop’ scene, that a strong music video and beats are all that count. The advent of the music video which certainly serves a purpose, unfortunately has led to weak music writing. Under some of these genres, the music is not timeless because there’s no passion in the writing. For many of the producers, it’s about quick dollars which typically end up in their pocket. Thank goodness there are still many producers, radio execs., etc. that do know what a good song is all about. But as with anything, you have to concentrate on the masses and if the majority of people want beats and videos, so be it. This however makes it tough for a lot of those great writers out there to compete.
ALEXIS: Who are your role models in music?
STEVE PARISIEN: My role models that have influenced my music extend to a variety of different instrumentalists. These would be such people as Oscar Peterson, Chet Atkins, Lenny Breau, Miles Davis, Julian Bream... the list goes on and you can see that the genre is wide. Again because of my upbringing, I’ve been exposed to a variety of different performers.
ALEXIS: Describe your best or most memorable performance.
STEVE PARISIEN: The most memorable performance I think would be when I was younger because of it being a new experience. The one that sticks out in my mind at the moment would be of me performing a solo of the theme song to Romeo and Juliet on my classical guitar. That shows you how far back that is, around 1975. I was 19 at the time and was teaching guitar in my dad’s business. A show production was in the works for top students and some of the guitar teachers to be held at a concert hall which I can’t recall. The place was packed, the students started off playing followed by a combination of students and teachers and so on. I was asked by the coordinators of this production if I’d play a solo to which I agreed. Anyway after performing that piece, there was this big thunderous roar of clapping and yelling from the audience. Unfortunately the stage lights were so bright, that I couldn’t see what was going on. My girlfriend at the time was in the audience and because it was the last act, she came back stage to see me. I told her that was quite a response from the crowd but couldn’t see what was up. She looked at me and said “Well dear, that’s because you got a standing ovation”. I have to tell you, that gave me a rush that night.
ALEXIS: What advice would you give to young, aspiring artists out there who are unsure and need guidance?
STEVE PARISIEN: My advice to others who want to become artists and/or writers is to stick to two things. The first is to write or perform music that connects with you. Doing this would convey the passion in your music that it would otherwise lack if one were to only write or perform based on commercial demand. The other thing would be not to ever give up on your dream. There will always be music critics out there who will try to knock you down, but the important thing is what the fans think. If you keep pushing and marketing your product, it will eventually reach the ears of those you aim for. Be patient.
ALEXIS: What's next for you as an artist? Is there a new single in the works? If so, what can you tell us about it?
STEVE PARISIEN: As mentioned earlier, there are a couple of wonderful artists who are very interested in writing and performing lyrics to my music. One of them is in Africa somewhere and is at this time working on some of my material. Another one is a wonderful singer by the name of TC Eckstein who is busy with radio shows and will be co-hosting the Poze Production awards show in August. With all that on her plate, she’s finding time and is very excited to collaborate with me. I’m of course just itching to get that in the works.
I’ve just released my latest single called ‘OverLoad’ and it really moves right along. It was challenging to write but was fun to do. You can hear it on the following sites along with other songs of mine. Hope you enjoy it.
ALEXIS: Sounds great! Thank you so much for letting me get to know more about you as an artist. I wish you continued success in your career.