Parker Millsap says that he never really noticed the distinctiveness of his voice until other people noticed it and pointed it out to him.
“I have this theory that it somehow comes from growing up in the Pentecostal church. It’s pretty lively, and I spent a lot of years getting ‘yelled at,’ because, you know, the preacher gets really excited and screams and stuff, and I think a lot came from that,” the Purcell native explains. “Anything that you experience twice a week for your entire life, it has to affect you in some way, so I think maybe, subconsciously, that worked its way up through my voice,”
Although his vocals have been compared to those of one of his idols, Tom Waits, what resonates the most about Millsap is not his voice, but rather something even more captivating under the surface.
Like with Waits, when you strip away that signature gravely voice of his, what you’ll find is a brilliant songwriter at his core, and that’s the concrete that is solidifying his position as one of the Oklahoma music scene’s up-and-coming artists.
His ongoing regular Tuesday night gig at the Deli in Norman aside, he’s been busy expanding his live performances across the state and Texas, and playing bigger shows such as the Folk Alliance Festival in Canada, Stillwater’s Red Bull Gypsy Café and SXSW.
Millsap opted out of the Stevie Ray Vaughn/Eric Clapton-esque guitar solos that he enjoys and once played, choosing instead to dig into his blues and gospel roots and add a soulful, folksy edge: less in-your-face, more in-your-head.
“That kind of playing is fun, where you play a solo and people go wild and clap, but it’s more like pyrotechnics with a guitar, and that’s just not my kind of art,” he explains.
“I’d rather make someone feel something more than just react. I like to make someone sit quietly through an entire song and really connect with it.”
This appreciation for what he calls “the silence in space” may very well be that extra something special that has his debut album Palisade not only catching the attention of music fans, but of his peers and critics alike.
Millsap says that he wanted the album, which was hailed as one of Oklahoma City’s best local albums of 2012, to come together naturally without having to force fill anything up.
The resulting product is true to taste: an accurate reflection of the tone he wants to convey because it was recorded exactly how he plays live.
“It seems like when a lot of artists record a record, they bring in a full band and try to make it sound like a huge rock record. I didn’t want to make a record like that,” he remarks. “I think it’s the quiet moments that are more important – you know, the space between the notes and the music. You make people wait for something and they might appreciate it more when it gets there.”