Parker Louis is musician, but if you ask him to explain what that means it might take a minute. Born Parker Muntz, the 28-year-old spent much of his early years up on the shores of Lake Erie trying to encompass what moves him sonically. In those days, he spent many a trip to his local record store with friends randomly purchasing LPs that intrigued him. Whether via the hype he had heard from others or simply the album’s cover, it’s how he found Miles Davis’ legendary 1959 album Kind of Blue and discovered his love for jazz and soul.
Davis, John Coltrane and Stevie Wonder assumed the easy listening side of his musical makeup, while Nirvana created Louis’ lust for wanting to play music himself. During his high school years, Parker began as a guitarist playing in what he describes as “basement bands” until he moved to Columbus for college, and a whole new sound got his attention.
“Right when I moved here, a few friends showed me D’Angelo, in particular, [his sophomore album] Voodoo,” Louis described recently in his attic studio, in-between the Akai MPK 225 controller on his right and Rhodes Mark 1 keyboard to his left just a few feet away. “Just how he approaches music and the detail he puts into it, he’s incredible.” While it was nearly eight years after the acclaimed R&B singer released the LP, it still sounded fresh to Louis, who still uses inspiration from D’Angelo’s ambient guitar-based funk and soulful vocal palate in his own music.
Fast forward to actually assembling a musical career, Parker Louis has been through a lot during the past six years. It’s been assisting others though that has assumed much of his professional music tenure. A jack of all trades in the studio, he’s a producer with his own talents as a guitarist, keyboardist, and drummer and has an ear with the humility to seek out others who may take the live instrumentation aspect of his soulful records to an even higher level. He can also lay down his own vocals, which are a nice assist to all music he’s been a part of.
In 2012, Louis co-founded the funk quintet Forest & The Evergreens, which cut the then simply guitarist’s teeth when it came to live recording, touring and learning to fit in and play with different instruments and personalities. For five years, the group became one of Columbus’ preeminent in their genre and provided Louis invaluable experience. Things changed though in September of last year, when Forest announced they’d be going on a hiatus. For Parker Louis, it was one of the hardest things he’s had to navigate within the labyrinth of his musical career, and at the time, devastating.
“When you’re immersed in all that for so long and all of a sudden we’re going to take a hiatus, this isn’t working, let’s step away, it’s kind of disheartening,” he recalled. “All this stuff I did for five years, where did that go? All that effort, all that time—is it wasted? I had all these songs though and I know playing music is important to me so I didn’t want to stop doing that.”
Parker Louis admits that the initial halt had him questioning what was next. Luckily, it didn’t take long for him to pivot to making music again. “That void of not being a part of a major project, you kind of just stare at the floor for a week,” he says. “I tried to keep that span of time short. I called people right away—all the folks that are in my band now. Instead of losing that time and wallowing in the end of this band I was in, I made it a point to say, ‘Fuck it, jump into the next thing.’”
That pivot included The Upside Down, a collaborative project with singer-songwriter T.Wong featuring production exclusively from Louis. He also produced for Doc Robinson, an alternative/indie band outfit who have experienced much industry success in their own right. Furthermore, it’s meant the budding of Parker Louis’ own solo career – one that has already produced a debut EP and a follow-up that was just released.
All Good Things Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 are almost mirrored in style, and that’s done purposely. In the newly-dropped Pt. 2, a meld of those jazz, soul and funk greats Parker Louis grew up on lend their inspiration heavily on the record. It’s a splash of Miles here, a dab of Bobby Caldwell there and a spread of live instrumentation unique to those familiar with Louis’ previous recordings. Featuring Aaron White on the keys, Willie Barthel III on drums, and cover artwork from illustrator Vada Azeem, Pt. 2 provides a solid follow-up with both records being an impressive launching pad to his new career as multifaceted solo musician.
“Being a solo artist I have a lot more freedom to take my time with like what goes first, who’s on the record and what happens in the studio, and it’s easier to do it like that, I think and I’ve had a really good experience so far,” Louis says. “Sonically, back-to-back, [All Good Things Pt. 1 and Pt. 2] definitely sound like one piece – the same vibe, the same clientele – and in that way it’s cohesive, which I wanted it to be. I had the part one and part two thing in mind when we started recording in January.”
It’s the perfect lead up to two big-time shows Parker Louis has coming up. On November 15 and 16, in Cincinnati and Columbus respectively, he and his band will be opening up for O.A.R.—a highly-successful, Ohio-based rock quintet with which Louis is all-too familiar.
“It’s always been a dream to play with those guys,” Louis says. “[Saxophonist Jerry DePizzo]’s always been good to me. Any questions I’ve had about the industry or recording, he’s always been my go-to industry guy to ask.
“I’m grateful to have the opportunity to perform with them. We’re going to go out there and try and smash it.”
Parker and the band open for OAR at Express Live on 11.16. For music and more information, visit parkerlouismusic.com.