Butch Parnell Opens Up About "The Fall": "We All Want to Be Loved and Sometimes It Works and Sometimes It Doesn’t"
Alt-Americana singer/songwriter Dave Parnell (currently under the moniker of Butch Parnell) knows that it takes hard work, dedication and sacrifice to keep your head above water as a self-sustaining musician. Since picking up a guitar at about twelve years old, Parnell has been writing, recording and performing in some capacity, whether it was with his previous project, Runaway Dorothy or Butch Parnell. His love for music and willingness to do whatever it takes to play for those who will listen is obvious, from going into debt touring with Runaway Dorothy to constantly releasing new music that'll allow him to hit the road with his current project.
Earlier this month, Parnell released his fourth EP, The Fall, which is filled to the brim with soulful, emotionally-driven, and slightly twangy tunes that'll certainly appeal to listeners. Stories weave in an out of these six tracks, making for a very personal yet relatable release.
With 2017 coming to a close, Parnell is looking toward the future and excited to get back out on the road in support of his new music. Read more about Parnell, The Fall and his plans for the rest of the year below.
Interview by Dom Vigil
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself for any readers who might not be familiar?
My name is David Parnell. I was born outside the tiny town of Red Springs, NC (population 3.000). I was hooked on music instantly as a kid and started playing guitar when I was twelve. I am pretty sure even before I had taken even one guitar lesson I was writing songs. It’s just always been something I love to do. I am pretty horrible at communication. I don’t talk a lot and songs have definitely been my way of expressing myself. Somehow it’s easier to tell your story if there is a guitar between you and the listener.
Before writing and recording as Butch Parnell, you were releasing music under the name Runaway Dorothy. Both names honor you father and mother, respectively - what inspired the change of name a couple of years ago?
I was playing with a band a few years back and even though I started the name Runaway Dorothy it had become synonymous with all 5 members. I was still writing all the tunes, but it was more than just me with a random backing band. They were/are RD as much as I was/am. Making the name change gave me a fresh start musically as I didn’t have to adhere to what RD had become know for. I could release an EP of just solo acoustic songs if I wanted that were more folk leaning or I can release a more straight ahead rock and roll record (wink, wink).
Since 2015, you’ve released a few EPs under Butch Parnell, including your newest release, The Fall this month. How do you feel you’ve grown since starting Runaway Dorothy or even the name change?
I think I have grown as a songwriter. I have really been working these last few years to be able to tell stories more effectively. And what I mean by that is you could have the best story in the world, but if you aren’t speaking a language your listener understands then the message is completely lost. I’ve been studying great songs and seeing how they are able to convey these timeless themes and emotions within the confines of say 3 minutes and thirty seconds. It’s something I will spend the rest of my life trying to improve on.
With a few releases under your belt as Butch Parnell over the past few years, what goals did you have in mind for The Fall?
The music business is a funny world these days. I would say my goals for the album kinda break down like this. First, I wanted to write the album and record it as fast as I could. Why? To get the critic out of the way. I didn’t want to give myself time to hate what I was doing. And then eventually come back around and enjoy it. Write it. Record it. Release it. Move on. Second, I want it to find a home with listeners who will enjoy it. I know not everyone is gonna like it. Most people may not like it. And that is okay. If it finds the 10 percent of folks who enjoy honest storytelling then it’s a success. Lastly, I want it to allow me to play it live. Because touring is so expensive there has to be a demand for me to go somewhere to play. When I was with RD we would play anywhere. And we racked up a huge debt for doing so. With Butch I have to be smarter if I want to be able to continue to make music. So I would like The Fall to create opportunities for me to travel to play this music as well as my other music
Were there any challenges you faced when working on these songs?
With every new release I do I run into challenges. The first few releases I did under the name Butch were challenging because I was just learning (and still am) how to produce/record/mix everything myself. It’s a lot of hats to have to wear, but it was a necessity as I didn’t have the budget to do otherwise. But I would say the biggest challenge on this album was knowing when to stop. I am a huge perfectionist and can and will do a million takes of something if necessary. I wanted this album to feel like it was done by a real person. By someone telling a real story. As a listener I LOVE hearing little ‘mistakes’ on albums. It lets you know that it’s okay to not be perfect and sometimes it’s even better than the intended result. As a producer I want it as clean and accessible as possible. So it was about finding that balance.
One of the first songs you released from the EP was “Hurry.” What inspired this track?
This song is was written for a friend actually. We were gonna start an band similar to The Gorillaz and this was supposed to be our lead single. It was a much different arrangement, but the song was still there. I think I still have the original demo somewhere. Anyway it was written in an attempt to free my friend from a nasty situation. Let me see if I can explain better. My friend was in a bad situation and needed money. I was an idiot romantic thinking I could write a song that would take over the world and help her leave her bad situation. We never formed the band and we never used the song. But when I was putting these EP together I thought it might fit in well with the other tracks and so I added it. Oh, and by the way the friend eventually freed herself and is doing amazing.
What would you like listeners to be able to take away from the EP?
I am fine with anyone coming away with anything from this. If you like it, great. If you hate it, that’s okay. The story is a bit of a paradigm where I am betting everyone can find an instance of themselves living in these songs. We all want to be loved and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We shouldn’t shy away from the failures. We need to tell those stories too. We learn and we move on.
With The Fall out now, do you have any plans to hit the road any time soon? What’s next for Butch Parnell?
I am always looking ahead. And so I am working on the next release which should be out by spring of 2018. If The Fall does well I hope it leads to me playing lots of great shows all over (I am all about traveling to play music). Otherwise, I am just gonna keep on writing and releasing new songs as often as I can.
Do you have any other big plans or goals for 2017 or the beginning of 2018?
Well, I am working on Thanksgiving right now. Somehow I have 25 people coming over and it might get a little out of hand. So I need to survive that first. But other than that we have a few more surprises coming before the end of the year. And hopefully 2018 means hitting the road and meeting some great people.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with us! Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thank you for taking a moment to chat with me. It really means a lot. I guess the only thing I would add is to ask everyone to come follow me on Spotify (https://open.spotify.com/artist/5kNehLUbUskf63umIxvNzR). It won’t cost you a cent, but it helps me a ton. Booking agents only care about Spotify numbers these days so it will help me hit the road and play more shows. Other than that I would say just have a safe and joyful holiday season.