Charlie Parr brings blues to Utah, gives new meaning to old things

Charlie Parr poses for a photo. — Courtesy of Michael J. Media
Charlie Parr poses for a photo. Parr will be performing at Garage on Beck on April 1. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Media.

Charlie Parr poses for a photo. Parr will be performing at Garage on Beck on April 1. Photo courtesy of Michael J. Media.

When Charlie Parr discovered his father’s record collection, he fell in love with the folksy rhythm of the blues guitar. Five decades later, music still affects Parr’s life.

Now he is making his way to Utah for an April 1 show at Garage on Beck, where he will keep up the style of intermingling life and music.

The way Parr lives his life parallels the way he performs. He believes in the importance of living in the moment and not dwelling on past experiences or future possibilities.

“It’s a constant realization that [music] is transient,” Parr said. “People are there at the show, they might not be there tomorrow night. That’s how much time you have to show what you do.”

Instead of planning out shows, Parr matches his tracks with the feelings of the audience. Sometimes he plays renditions of Charlie Patton tunes, and other times he strums guitar riffs from his recent folk album “Hollandale.” Parr feels this adds a deep connection between the performer and listeners. And just like moments of time, Parr’s concerts are never repeated.

Going beyond the selection of set lists, the musician allows his experiences to mold the sound of his music. As a self-taught musician, Parr created a distinct style he learned from his father’s country music selection.

“I developed a lot of bad habits, guitar-wise, that you would never learn from a teacher,” Parr said. “In a lot of ways, all those bad habits coalesce into a style of playing that has been good for me.”

By learning to play at a young age, Parr unintentionally created a sound he can no longer replicate. Now in his older years, Parr has arthritis. At first, he felt this health problem would limit his playing ability, but he has learned to work around it and believes it has improved his guitar skills.

“Initially it was discouraging. The way I hold the guitar is different, but now I am able to get more precision and tone out of my guitar picking,” Parr said. “I lost the ability to add embellishments and notes, but I gained clarity.”

Having taught himself to play the guitar on two separate occasions, Parr sees a trend of living his life full circle and giving old things new meaning. This places past instances in the present. Parr recently reinvented a song he wrote 10 years ago.

“Jefferson Street Express” recounts Parr’s first glimpse at the life of a musician. On tour, he stopped in random towns, played in coffee houses and slept in cars. At some point, Parr wrote of being lost on a Regent Street. Now, he lives on a street sharing that same name.

“Now, when I am sitting there dwelling on an idea and I think: Am I writing a song or my future?” Parr said.

From telling the future to planning it, Parr is excited to bring his philosophy of meshing life and music to Utah.

As part of this planning, Parr will share the stage with violinist Betse Ellis. He is excited to show off her talents, and in true Parr fashion, he and Ellis will jam in a free-form session. Because Parr usually goes solo, he believes this adds a new chapter to his life and music career.

“I have morphed into a lot of different phases and am in a new one right now,” Parr said.

f.moody@chronicle.utah.edu


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