The Playlist Interview: Monk Parker
The playlist interview is a new feature exploring The music behind the music—the songs and memories that inspire our favorite artists.
Monk Parker's first solo album arrived in 2016—the same year he turned 40.
It was through how the spark loves the tinder that the world was introduced to the anachronistic, melancholy world of one of music's last great explorers.
His entrancing new album, Crown Of Sparrows, draws from the same spirit and well of inspiration as the first—the music of a lifetime. Perhaps, more accurately in Parker's case, several lifetimes.
Raised by sculptors and academics in a dirt-road commune outside Nacogdoches, Texas, Parker was brought up on equally healthy doses of contrary artists like Bob Wills and Thelonious Monk, opening his ears early on to an eclectic array of sound. He eventually moved to New York to study musicology at Columbia (as well as history at NYU and poetry at Bennington), until a temporary but debilitating illness led him back to Texas. It was while recuperating there that Parker began writing and recording hundreds of hours of music, ultimately creating the content for both of his albums.
One look at his Lost World Radio page (a curatorium of Parker's favorite found songs that you should DEFINITELY check out), and you know that this is a man who has sonically traveled near and far, scouring centuries and continents in search of music in all its forms. That being said, it's clear with songs like "Gaudy Frame" and "Oh Cousin" that for Parker, there's no place like home—a foundation of traditional country, Americana, and the Cosmic American Music of Gram Parsons grounding the layers of droning reverb and feedback. It's the sound of a particular kind of America, suspended in the amber of his particular kind of noise. Mournful yet almost narcotic in their comfort—Parker's songs are dense worlds for you to inhabit—if only for their run-time.
Give Parker's album a listen below, and read on for his go-to karaoke jam, the Tom Waits song that made him want to be a musician, and the Beatles classic he wishes never existed.
The last song you listened to:
"The Coachman Does Not Ride Horses" by Alexander Vertinsky
"All morning I’ve been listening to Vertinsky, from his Black Pierrot period. The song titles are in cyrillic but auto-translate claims the one playing now is called 'The Coachman Does Not Ride Horses'."
A song from the year you were born:
“Stroke It Noel” by Big Star
A song that reminds you of your parents:
"Stay A Little longer" by Bob Wills
My folks split (along aesthetic lines, basically) when I was 5. I don’t think I’d be able to hear Bob Wills’ “Stay A Little Longer” without thinking of my dad and his buddies belting it out on our porch, down at the end of a red clay road outside Nacogdoches. My ma on the other hand is an urban, urbane lady from NYC. In some of my earliest moments of consciousness I remember Thelonious Monk’s solo piano floating around her loft. Those records still sound like her to me.
A song that reminds you of high school:
“Lifeguard Sleeping, Girl Drowning” by Morrissey
A song that makes you cry:
“He Stopped Loving Her Today” by George Jones
The best make-out song:
“I Become A Lonely Wind For You" (or anything else) by Doji Morita.
A song by one of your heroes:
“Fire & Brimstone” by Link Wray
The song guaranteed to get you out on the dance floor:
A song you wish you had written:
"Permanently lonely" by willie nelson
Oh, God, so many. How bout Willie Nelson’s “Permanently Lonely”...? I’d give a pinkie toe to have written that gorgeous thing.
A song you wish could be eradicated from this earth:
“Yesterday” by the beatles
A song that inspired your album, Crown Of Sparrows:
“Sin City”, the Flying Burrito Brothers
A song that feels like love:
“Sleepwalk” by Santo & Johnny
The best road trip song:
“I Lost Something In The Hills” by Sibylle Baier
"I drive slow."
A song you used love that you now hate:
“From Her To Eternity” by Nick Cave
Your go-to karaoke song:
“Holiday” by the Bee Gees
"Holiday" by The Bee Gees (from 10 years before they went disco) is, shockingly, on just about every karaoke machine in the world. It’s glacially slow, 6 minutes long, and beautiful. Great fun!
A song that made you want to be a musician:
“Johnsburg, Illinois” by Tom Waits
"Less than a minute and a half long but a perfectly realized little gem."
Your favorite cover:
“Ring of Fire” by Brian Eno
A song that should be much more famous than it is:
"I can only refer you to my Lost World Radio (monkparker.com/lostworldradio)… every song there should be world-famous and is instead utterly obscure."