"My music is about setting moods," says Philly-based singer/composer/guitarist Joseph Parsons. "When I start a live show, I have no idea what's going to happen, where the mood is going to take me. Half of the time I feel hypnotized or as if I'm in a trance."
Parsons' abundant positive attributes-his full tenor, his driving rhythm guitar, his evocative lyrics-are in full effect on his four studio recordings; but the Joseph Parsons you'll hear on wax isn't the Joseph Parsons you'll hear in concert. "There's a big difference between recording and playing live; they're completely different art forms. At a show, I'll play the same songs I've recorded, but they'll sound miles apart from the record. I used to try and replicate the records, but I realized you can't really be honest with a song when you try to copy yourself."
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Parsons is justifiably pleased with his ever-evolving studio chops. "What I like about my recent records is how the production has become more reflective. I've created contradictory undercurrents-like putting a bunch of dark elements underneath a so-called happy tune-to give the song friction or irony, and make it a deeper experience."
Regarding the road, Joseph takes a Zen attitude. "Touring, for me, is about simplicities. When I'm at home, I get involved with business and social acrobatics. On tour, I don't have to worry about that-I just think about that night's show. It's the simple life, a bit of a fantasy world, but I love it."
As he records for the Germany-based label Blue Rose Records, Parsons spends a good deal of time touring Europe, an experience he finds far different than performing for U.S. crowds. "I feel more vulnerable playing in America. Because of the language differences, the European listeners miss some of those nuances, which help me feel less vulnerable. And then I can get deeper into the songs, and I think I end up giving a better performance."
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Joseph is currently involved in a pair of exciting collaborative side projects, both of which will have records in the racks by Summer, 2002: Hardpan (Parsons, Chris Burroughs, Terry Lee Hale & Todd Thibaud), whose debut will be released in Europe by Blue Rose Records; and 4 Way Street (Parsons, Ben Arnold, Jim Boggia & Scott Bricklin), whose debut will be released in the U.S. on Sliced Bread Records.
Parsons' future solo recording plans are diverse and inventive. "I find myself writing in a style I've been calling 'ambient pop.' I'm working on a record that's Pro Tools-y and production oriented; for that, I brought my laptop system to Europe and Russia in the summer of 2001, and recorded with some of my friends I visited. I'm also putting together a barebones rock 'n' roll record, power trio stuff. That's the 'fun' record I'm working on."
Whether in the studio or on the road, Joseph Parsons can't help but be moved by the moment. "The quality of my performance is often dictated by the mood-which is both a curse and a blessing." But from the listener's end, it's a blessing.
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