Human Nature, Lost Love, and Coffee: A Conversation with Molly Parden

Molly Parden © Jacqueline Justice
A strong emotional outpour resides within Molly Parden’s upcoming EP ‘Rosemary,’ and Atwood Magazine spoke with the artist on the story behind its melodies and the circumstances surrounding its creation.

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The duality of heartbreak and of lost love is an interesting, albeit difficult, experience to go through. The pain one feels often envelops, but within the anguish lies beauty – a beauty that brings life and reminds us that what preceded these feelings was an unfettered joy. Taking the good with the bad is the human experience, and finding the beauty within heartache is simply part of the journey. Channeling these moments, these stories, however, and turning them into an onrush of sound and artistry is an incomparable feat, one Molly Parden accomplishes with grace on her upcoming EP, Rosemary.

Who Are We Kiddin’ – Molly Parden

The Nashville-based artist has been leaving fans aching for new music, providing tastes in the form of her numerous singles since 2011’s Time is Medicine and her 2019 album of covers. During these years, Parden has undergone much, both pleasant and unpleasant, but she persists nonetheless, and Rosemary is an EP of bittersweet moments and memories, one that elicits feelings of sorrow but mostly of warmth and hopeful new beginnings through an array of new soundscapes that offer insight into the new territories Parden is exploring.

Rosemary was announced with “Kitchen Table,” a song with an enrapturing sense of serenity, making its listen turn into a dream-like trance that never dulls. Following it was “Who Are We Kiddin’,” further showcasing the talent Parden possesses. Her vocals take on a larger focus, delighting the senses with their dulcet quality. Parden’s brand of musicality is nonpareil; a coalescing of multiple soundscapes that bundle into an all-encompassing allure. One would be hard-pressed not to be instantly pulled into her stories and soundscapes, and rest assured that Rosemary certainly delivers, but fans will experience this mirth on its November 13 release.

Ahead of its release, Atwood Magazine spoke with Parden on her journey since Time is Medicine, her method behind channeling the raw emotion present in her music, and the coffee that has sustained her for all of this time.

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Molly Parden © Jacqueline Justice


Atwood Magazine: For starters, wow – eight years since your last music video! What made you decide to break the streak with ‘’Kitchen Table?''

Molly Parden: Visual art has been a challenge for me, it’s even intimidating. Because there was to be no touring around the release of my forthcoming EP, I chose to accompany each single with a video, to ideally draw more attention to the songs. I’ve forced myself to rise to the challenge and make thee music videos happen. Luckily I’m in Nashville, a town brimming with creativity. Even if I wasn’t in the same town as these people, the internet would likely have helped me out greatly.

On the track itself, you certainly went in a new direction, and the result is honestly spectacular. It’s a gorgeous song, and the rest of the EP follows suit. What made you decide that this was the moment to venture into new territories with your sound?

Molly Parden: I suppose compared to my 2011 effort Time Is Medicine, this track is a new sound. With this body of work, I began to relax my vocal performances instead of strain and push my voice for more volume. Nowadays, there are no mandolins in my music and there is a lot less folksy rhythm acoustic guitar. Not all of the songs have the verse-chorus-verse-chorus-bridge-chorus structure that some of my old songs had. I’ve been pursuing this new territory for several years now, the first song from this body of work (“Sail On The Water”) was released in 2017.

Listening to music that pleased me inspired me to make my own work please me in the same way. “Sail On The Water” was inspired by being obsessed with “Weird Fishes / Arpeggi” by Radiohead and becoming familiar with Fleetwood Mac’s 1987 album Tango In The Night. I took my admiration of those two entities and attempted to fuse them into an homage of sorts. At the end of the day, each of my songs are just gentle homages to my favorite music makers. “Kitchen Table” began in my voice memos as “Dawes Song,” merely a two-chord progression with fun fingerpicking to help the chords seem like they are more than they are. Otherwise, the song took on an homage-less form, as I was only aiming to capture pure, unadulterated loneliness.

Watch: “Kitchen Table” – Molly Parden

Another track that stood out to me was ‘’Who Are We Kiddin’” with its multi-layered melody and varied onrushes of instrumentation. How did you approach crafting this track?

Molly Parden: Multi-layered melody… perhaps this is referring to the different parts that my producers Juan [Solorzano], Zach [Dyke], and I came up with, the instrument’s lines that playfully intersect. We approached this track with wishes to emulate the Motown sound with tight, bright drums, a sparkling lead guitar. Juan worked with Ben [Kaufman, strings] to eventually craft a melody that “made [Juan] feel like a Disney princess.” I think they nailed it, personally.

When it comes to the EP as a whole, I’m imagining the circumstances surrounding its creation have varied when compared to your others. How did the music creating process compare to your other works?

Molly Parden: Yes, all of the circumstances have been quite different from album to album. This EP was initially recorded as a 10-song album back in 2017, I had finally written a group of songs that I thought would work well together. However, after much deliberation, I decided to split it up into two EPs instead due to the changes that quarantine presented to the world (aka no touring). The creating process did not differ much compared to my other works; I came up with ideas, I let them simmer, I let them grow, and I presented them to my producers who molded them into fully orchestrated songs.

Something very evident with your music is a clear appreciation for the human experience and emotion. What makes the outpour of emotion so enticing to you, both as a fan and as an artist?

Molly Parden: I don’t enjoy pretending or pretense or participating in anything that ignores reality unless I’m watching animated movies (even so, Tarzan has a way of feeling totally and utterly relatable). Even when I play with my best friend (four-year-old), when we play doctor or something, I engage in and imagine very plausible situations because that’s what I’m capable of recreating. On one hand, musical artists are all walking (singing) memoirs of experience. Because humans experience all of the same things, just shaded differently, almost every song can apply to anyone, right? You can find meaning in even the most trivial, base song out there because a real human is singing it, telling the listener about its longing to be loved, to be known. I appreciate the human experience because it is the realest thing that I have.

Molly Parden © Marcus Maddox

On the topic of emotion, the story of your heartache on ''I Know You Can'' is an intense one. How easy do you find sharing such personal moments? Do you ever feel unsure emotionally if you want to share certain pieces of music?

Molly Parden: I find ease in sharing. As I said, the human experience is the realest thing that I have and, consequently, most likely the realest thing that other humans have. Over the years, as people have expressed how well they understand my songs and the circumstances presented inside of them, I am more and more inclined to continue to share my personal moments.

The melodies you create serve your lyrics well; heightening the intensity and often providing visceral experiences. What does songwriting look like for you? You’ve mentioned in the past it is like a voice memo of mumbled English that you take from there. Is it still a similar process?

Molly Parden: It still looks like that, on most days! That method has been working, so I haven’t strayed much [laughs].

On the EP’s name, Rosemary, how did you arrive at it? What makes that title encapsulate the album’s theme to you, if at all?

Molly Parden: The person that most of these songs are about would often grab a handful of rosemary and rub his hands together to envelop the scent. Whenever I see rosemary, it’s like a beacon of memories. I began to pluck sprigs of it in the wild, take them home with me and propagate them in a cup of water. Then it began to show up in my songs. I didn’t want to name a song Rosemary because I had a feeling there would be a lot of them (songs). This EP is a closing of a huge chapter in my life, the mourning of lost love.

Molly Parden © Jacqueline Justice

As an aside, you have some clear coffee favorites in Nashville, but have you explored outside of the area? Seattle has forced me to become a slight coffee snob - not including Starbucks as I’m sure you’re quite familiar with their style.

Molly Parden: My only true favorite in Nashville is Crema, my OG. Have I explored coffee outside of Nashville? Yes. For those of us interested in my coffee explorations, feel free to check out my Instagram stories titled “coffee at home,” “coffee abroad,” (not at home but in the USA) and “even abroader” (coffee outside of the USA).

The world might be bleak right now, but what excites you most about the future of your career? Any directions, or new territories, you are looking forward to exploring?

Molly Parden: The future of my career… I am so content (and really thankful) to know that music cannot be taken from me. At the end of the day, I have my memories to keep me warm [laughs] but seriously, music is a gift that I’ve been given and I get to watch it use me. I’m excited about the future because I have no f***ing idea what’s about to happen, and frankly I don’t need to know. I love being existential these days, it’s kind of fun.

Okay but musically, I want to keep riffing off of The Greats. In my book, The Greats are Feist, Radiohead, The Innocence Mission, Don Henley, MARK KNOPFLER, Solange, Chet Baker, Patsy Cline, Ethan Gruska, Matt Wright, Sons of Bill, Good Buddy, Amy Grant, and… Frank Ocean. I want to always make music that I love to listen back to and I don’t particularly care what sounds are involved.

I dream of making an R&B / pop record, and I’m venturing into that territory one song at a time. It wouldn’t feel natural for me to make a sudden overnight switch, I like for things to take time, so I’m just…letting the music guide me, if you will. For me, that does not mean trying to change my writing style or altering the way I craft chords in order to “fit” into a different genre but it looks more like asking for the bass to be a bit louder on a slow jam or inviting my jazz-inclined pianist friend to sit in on a session, keeping a solo in that is rather nonlinear. Stuff like that; small things that add up eventually.

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