Charlie Parr reflects on fatherhood 

Plus: What's going on in Duluth these days

click to enlarge Charlie Parr - SUBMITTED PHOTO
  • Charlie Parr
  • Submitted Photo

When I rang him up, Charlie Parr reflected happily on his last journey to Indy, just a few short months ago for a show at Radio Radio. It was his first time in Fountain Square, and he noshed at Siam Square before playing a great show for "really, really kind guys." Those kind guys, assumably? Burtch and Angel, who bring him back for a fest slot at the Sun King Stage at Wildwood Market on Saturday. Parr's a one-guitar road warrior, putting out a dozen albums in the 20ish years since he began playing music. The catalyst for his first song, the toe-tapping "1922" is a rough one: his father's death, which he says he's still grieving all these years later. His father — an intriguing figure by all accounts — looms large in Parr's musical portraits. Here's a portion of our conversation about dad stuff — having one and being one — plus his adopted hometown's music scene, and excitement over contemporary folk music.

On folk in spirit, not instrumentation:

"Some of my favorite musicians, I consider folk artists because it's more related to a do-it-yourself ethic than it is to a certain kind of music. I really appreciate that about the current stage of folk music. Folk music for me is at such a lively point in its progression. Real fans of folk music will really embrace the idea of this whole process [of evolution], saying 'Now we get to have folk music that also includes sampled beats and computer stuff and banjos and fiddles, and, and, and.' You just keep bringing it in, because it's all folk music. We're all folks creating music. That's what the essence of it should be."

RELATED: Click for all our coverage of Saturday's folk fest 

On fathers and fatherhood:

"I don't know if I'd be doing this if it wasn't for my dad. It's wasn't anything overt – my dad was a huge music fan, but he never played anything. He worked in a packing house. He worked all the time. When he wasn't working in a packing house, he helped my uncle farm potatoes. He was just constantly doing this manual labor. He wasn't home a whole lot, but when he was home, we had this big ol' Magnavox stereo, and he had this bizarre, large collection of records that included tons and tons of stuff. He would play records all the time. He didn't like the TV, he didn't like news, he hated politics, he hated religion. He didn't like to go to church. He couldn't read until he was 55, and then he taught himself how to read just because he wanted to read from a certain book.

"He was a very independent man, and he liked to be outside. Half the time he was home, you'd find him sitting in the garage with this stereo speaker outside with him so he could listen to records. I got an early appreciation for music out of him. He got me a guitar, and didn't get me any lessons. ... Dad just encouraged me to just sit down, listen, and figure it out. Eventually you'll make something about it. That's what I did. He gave me the space and encouragement to do that. In every way, he was supportive in these real subtle kind of ways. He graduated from third grade; he wasn't a talky person. He didn't really talk a lot, but he had a lot to say in other ways. For some reason, I was just a receptor to everything that he was about. When I was 25, he died of lung cancer. It shook me to the core. That was 1995 and I still haven't recovered from that. I've tried really, really hard since I've had kids of my own to bring some of the stuff that he was about into my own idea of fatherhood. Because you can sit and talk to a kid all day, but I don't know if that does as much as a demonstration will."

On his adopted home of Duluth:

"Right now is the Homegrown Festival in Duluth. It last for seven days and hosts 150 bands now, and they're all from Duluth. It's the weirdest [fest]. When I'm home, and I'm not doing my solo stuff, I play with a trance blues band called the Devil's Flying Machine. We played last night for Homegrown, and last night in addition to us, there was a couple other rock bands. There was a band made up of instrument-playing robots. There was a poetry reading; there was a hip-hop outfit downtown; there was a punk night at the Barrel Room. I think a through line isn't so much any certain sound; the through line is the community here.

"I've only lived in Duluth since 1999, but the moment that I got here, I was floored by the sense of community that comes here. I moved from Minneapolis, where there's a real strong music scene. It's also more fragmented, where you've got all the folkies over on the west bank; the rock bands uptown. Up here, the scene is pretty small – you kind of have to mix it up with other people. I find myself playing a solo set on a bill with a hip-hop band, a punk band, some other way out there instrumentalist. There's a woman here who plays looped cello experimental music [Kathy McTavish]. Maybe it's the same in Indianapolis – there's this real, eager sense of community here. Everybody wants to get together and make music together all the time."

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Katherine Coplen

Katherine Coplen

Always looking for my new favorite band. Always listening to my old ones, too. Always baking cakes. Always collecting rock and roll dad quotes.

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