Traveling Barista Sandy Lo Catches Up with Former Customer, Country Crooner Aaron Parker

Aaron-Parker-0714-300x200It’s been a while since I worked at the Starbucks on 21st Avenue in Nashville.  In the 2 years that I was a barista at the extremely busy location, I formed many bonds with other partners and customers.  From drag queens to photographers, to big name celebrities, to plenty of singer/songwriters just trying to get a hit song in the small, but busy city–I served them all and had great conversations.

Many of those conversations were with Southern Alabama boy, Aaron Parker.  With mischief in his eyes, a crooked grin, sweet Southern accent and laid back McConaughey-esque nature, Aaron is quite a charmer.  He’s not one of those good-looking guys who flirts with all of the girls just because he knows he can.  He is someone who came into Starbucks, would order his double espresso and sit at the bar to take a break from the hustle of writing and recording songs and playing shows on the road.

Aaron Parker is someone who is easy to talk to and enjoys genuine conversation.  We spent time talking about career goals–his as a country singer, mine as a novelist, and just about everything else in our lives.  He would tell me about his amazing girlfriend (now turned wife), Faithe, who also came into Starbucks when she wasn’t busy being a boss in her own career at Marbaloo Marketing.

I never really got to listen to Aaron’s music, mostly because he hadn’t released anything yet, but my friend, songwriter and then barista, Steph Jones, had played a rough cut of a song they had written together.  I wasn’t surprised it was awesome.  I seem to attract wildly talented folks into my realm, and I am grateful to be inspired by each and every one of them.

Since our days at Starbucks, Aaron has released not one, but two EPs!  With a style that’s both throwback and fresh, Aaron’s music is exactly the type of country I enjoy, and I had to tell him.  Without a barista-customer relationship any longer, I decided our paths needed to cross elsewhere, like in a phone interview so I can share Aaron Parker and his music with all of you!

Check out Aaron Parker’s music video for “I’d Go Right Now”
http://cache.vevo.com/assets/html/embed.html?video=QMGR31542554

Sandy Lo: I was listening to your first EP earlier and I love it. That’s actually the type of music that got me into country music back in the early 2000s.

Aaron Parker: That’s awesome. Yeah, I was really influenced by that era—I still am. You know, the heart and the lyric and the thought process of how that music was formed. It wanted to be timeless and that was the outlook of it from the beginning.

Sandy Lo: Yeah! You’ve been touring a lot and I know you feel out of place when you’re not touring. [Laughs] How has your stage show evolved over the years?

Aaron Parker: Well, you know I’ve always been on stage since I was real young. I wasn’t like a Mickey Mouse Club kid or anything, but I was definitely always doing some type of theater in my local town or singing. So being onstage has always been something that was comfortable for me, personally. But I always try to push the boundaries for myself by staying uncomfortable onstage and not allowing myself to become comfortable was my goal the last whole year. So it has evolved in that I added new band members. We got a lot of new production coming in that’s going to be cool for 2016. It’s definitely a country music show, but it’s a rock show. It takes a lot from the early 2000s country music that you saw in the arena stadiums, and we’re just doing that in the clubs.

Sandy Lo: Really cool. With some of the newer country that’s out, it’s kind of that party country/crossover stuff. How do you feel about it?

Aaron Parker: I respect a lot of the guys for their work ethic and what they’re doing. That’s the cool thing about music. It really is whatever your interpretation of it is and I hear a lot about from different fans—because you know, I do wear a hat, so I’m automatically plugged into the traditional outlook, which I think is good. I really am honored when someone reminisces to a traditional spot with me and what I do, or even in my look—even if they haven’t heard the music. That is the country, like you said, you grew up on and I grew up on.

What I do know is that I kind of had to take a step back from it, and what I truly love as far as country music goes, and I’m sure all those guys love it as well. And I thought, “you know I bet Johnny Cash was probably talking trash about Tim McGraw.” [Laughs] “I bet Willie Nelson was probably talking trash about Joe Diffey or something.” It’s funny because all of the guys I love, which is Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney and Garth Brooks, and all of these guys from the late ‘90s and early 2000s… I mean, I know someone had to be like, “That’s not country music, that’s just not country music.” You know, that Waylan-era of guys.

I just think it’s cool. Music is evolving. Music is doing what music does. The cool thing about it is, you know Adele is always going to come back to save us. [Laughs] I’m stoked about that because no matter what we do, she’s going to be there. I’m just here to make great music; to do my version of country music and hopefully the people like it. I think there are a lot of people out there whose lives haven’t changed, even if their music has. The dads that were going to the steal mill when I was growing up, a lot of times their sons go to work at the steal mill, too, or go to lay sheet rock, or working on cars like my dad. A lot of times their sons don’t leave town and they’re still living the same lives as their parents, in the small towns at least. Their day-to-day song hasn’t changed. I mean, I know everyone wants to go out there and get drunk. I do love my share of tequila, but I think there is a place for those heartfelt songs and well-written lyrics.

Sandy Lo: Now, you’re someone who has left their hometown and I don’t think you’re doing what your dad did, [Laughs], how do you relate to your audience?

Aaron Parker: I have to go there. I have to go there whenever I go in the writing room. I have to forget what I want to hear today. Sometimes I think as writers, as artists, we get too caught up in our own story. You have to remember that the audience is not there to hear about your trek to Nashville. They don’t really care about you getting in your truck with your bed in the back and your guitar. I mean a lot of people I sing for don’t play guitar. A lot of people I sing for, like we talked about, still live in the same small town that they grew up in. That is the mass amount of people. We, Sandy, us nomads—you traveling the world and me leaving town—we are the minority. Understanding that and understanding real life; taking myself out of my daily regimen and in the studio and photo shoots and doing shows and really go back to the bare essentials, which is looking forward to Friday night. In my hometown, that is what it’s about. You can still talk about Mom, and church, and loving one woman, and going out Friday night and getting a little tipsy. It’s all the same, nothing has changed.

Sandy Lo: Very true, and I’m sure getting married and becoming a dad has helped.

Aaron Parker: Sure, it’s a lot more balanced—well, it’s practicing balance. You’re a lot more cognitive that you need balance in your life, shall we say when you become a dad. It’s definitely given me another level of inspiration.

Sandy Lo: What can we expect from you in 2016?

Aaron Parker: A lot of touring. Probably another EP. I found that putting out more music has helped me immensely in the writing room because it cleans my slate. I’m not holding onto any—and you as a writer can probably understand this—you’re not holding onto a lot of potential. You’re actually putting it out into the world and letting the public listen and letting them judge it. Love it, like it, hate it—you’re putting it out there and letting it play. That and a lot of touring is what I’m looking forward to.

Sandy Lo: Sounds good! I look forward to it as well and following what you’ve been up to outside our Starbucks conversations.

Aaron Parker: [Laughs] That became an every day occurrence! My wife and I looked at our Starbucks bill one time and it made us cringe. We were like, ‘do you know how much Starbucks makes on us each year? It’s insane!’

Sandy Lo: Yeah, and you didn’t even get a full drink. You got double espressos!

Aaron Parker: I know. What was it like $2.79? That over 365 days, I was like ‘my gosh’! We could do a lot of things with this money, but I really enjoyed you and Steph Jones! It’s really cool to see… you know, Steph is doing great in L.A.

Sandy Lo: She’s doing really good! And you guys wrote songs together.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, yeah. She wrote “Heaven On Wheels” with me.

Sandy Lo: I went into 21st the other day and there were like two people there I used to work with and some customers I recognized, so the vibe’s changed a bit.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, we actually moved so we have a different regimen.

Sandy Lo: Yup, I hardly go to Starbucks now.

Aaron Parker: Ah, I got me one of the Aeropress coffee machines. I feel like it takes forever, but it doesn’t take like French Press long. But it takes enough time where I’m like ‘I just want someone else to make it and then give it to me.’

Sandy Lo: [Laughs] Well, that’s it for the interview. Definitely going to try and make a show soon.

Aaron Parker: Yeah, I’d love to see ya. It’s been too long.

Find out more about Aaron Parker: www.aaronparkermusic.com and listen to his music on Spotify!

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