Brady Parks of The National Parks takes us through his band’s inspiring new album ‘8th Wonder,’ a cinematic soundtrack to adventure full of radiant, sunny folk-pop sound and raw, heart-on-sleeve passion.
for fans of The Lumineers, The Head and The Heart, The Killers
Stream: “Angels” – The National Parks
We were swaying in the firelight to the sound of coyote calls, our silhouettes like giants dancing on Zion Canyon walls…
The National Parks’ fifth album opens in the midst of a real-life magic moment – the kind we dream of having when we’re young; the kind we memorialize in our homes through trinkets and tchotchke, art and photography; the kind we hope to tell our kids about when we’re old and gray. “The way this life is passing by, I don’t wanna close my eyes,” Brady Parks sings, with stars in his eyes and love in his lungs. “I see it like it’s in a frame, a Kodak moment everyday with you.” It’s a picture-perfect freeze-frame magnifying an intimate connection into a larger-than-life reverie, and a stunning introduction to a record full of warmth and, well, wonder.
A cinematic soundtrack to adventure, The National Parks’ 8th Wonder is an inspiring and enchanting companion for all of life’s experiences: The highs, the lows, the loves, the losses, the wins, the winding roads, and everything in-between. Full of radiant, sunny folk-pop sound and raw, heart-on-sleeve passion, it’s a resounding reminder that magic is happening every day, all around us; you just have to open yourself up to it and let the light shine in.
We were swaying in the firelight to the sound of coyote calls
Our silhouettes like giants dancing on Zion canyon walls
We climbed up where the angels land
You looked right at home then you took my hand
I thought hey,
Imma tell our kids about this someday
When I’m with you I see the world in a new way
Above the clouds like we’re floating in space
Imma tell our kids about this someday
We were swimming under moonlight
Have you ever seen it shine like that
My heart is running down your river
Just let it go, it’s never coming back, yeah
You make me speechless and at the same time
I got so much to say, hey,
Imma tell our kids about this someday
– “Angel,” The National Parks
Released March 3, 2023, 8th Wonder is the captivating fifth album from Provo, Utah’s The National Parks, and a special landmark for the quartet comprised of Brady Parks [guitar, vocals], Megan Parks [violin], Sydney Macfarlane [keys, vocals], and Cam Brannelly [drums]. Arriving just as the folk-pop band turns ten (they played their first public performance on March 15, 2013), 8th Wonder finds The National Parks celebrating life to its fullest potential through songs brimming with uplifting energy. It’s the musical manifestation of an earnest smile, a knowing glance, and a great big bear hug all combined into one dazzling, dynamic eleven-track collection. Emotional, immersive, and magnificent, 8th Wonder soaks up the magic of everyday life, channeling it into illuminating music that acts as the match spark in the dark.
The National Parks’ music has long been a source of empowerment, hope, and strength, but never has the band concentrated this much heart into one record.
For frontman Brady Parks, the overarching theme of this album “is getting out of our heads, getting into nature, and experiencing the world around us with the people who matter the most.” He considers it the most authentic, true-to-themselves album the band has ever created, which was one of their goals from the outset.
“At the beginning of 2022 the four of us had a meeting to talk about our goals with a new album and where we wanted to go creatively with it,” Parks tells Atwood Magazine. “It was one of those “ah-ha” moments where we realized we wanted to make the most authentic ‘TNP’ album we could create. We talked about how we wanted to lean into who we are as a band more than we ever had. We love nature, living life to the fullest and we wanted to make an album that reflected all of that. This album is designed to be the perfect road trip companion for the long drives and a soundtrack to all of the memories being made along the way.”
“Every one of us has experiences and memories with our loved ones that are tied so closely with nature and the world around us,” he explains. “I think that is a concept that is near and dear to our hearts and brand as a band. I think this album captures our growth as a band while also staying true to who we are at the core. We all love experiencing nature and the outdoors and we wanted to create an album that could accompany listeners on their own adventures. I think it evolved in the sense that as I got into the writing process I was also going through a time of so much change and beauty and growth, and so I think that helped me hone in on different aspects and ideas for songs that went along with the overarching vision.”
From where I’m standing I can’t take my eyes off of this
Like the Grand Canyon or the peak of Everest
Volcanic heart, waterfalling apart
I can’t explain it, a sight to see
A breathtaking mystery ohhh
Your love is like rollin thunder
You rattle my bones and make me shake
My love you’re the 8th wonder
It’s no wonder I can’t look away
The album’s release wasn’t necessarily intended to coincide with the band’s ten-year mark, but their convergence isn’t too much of a surprise to Parks, who strongly sees this album at the culmination of their story so far.
“Those early days were so wild and so fun, just trying to figure everything out,” he reminisces. “I think getting out on the road when we were a young band helped us grow in so many ways, and we’ve definitely evolved as a band since that time. I think playing shows has influenced the music we make, and also just as individuals we’ve all changed so much from marriage, to kids, etc… So I think as we’ve grown up our sound has matured and we’ve really discovered who we are and what we want to create.”
“We’ve learned over and over again how powerful music is, and how it can be a tool to understand this life, work through problems, and be uplifted in it all,” Parks says on the topic of lessons learned. “We’ve also learned that not everyone has the same path in music. We’ve had to navigate the industry and the kind of people we want to surround ourselves with. That’s been a journey in and of itself but when you trust your gut and surround yourself with people you love and trust everything works better.”
Music hasn’t just been a consistent inspiration; it’s also at the heart of The National Parks’ staying power.
“I think we are just so passionate about connecting with people through our music,” Parks reflects. “We are addicted to creating and challenging ourselves. It’s the best feeling in the world to have a vision and watch it come to life and see how it resonates with people and how it fits into the world around us.”
Thus, as The National Parks celebrate their one-decade milestone – an undeniable achievement in this climate – they also celebrate their most defining record to date. The name 8th Wonder captures the spirit of the album, according to Parks. “It’s an epic name and I think leaves the door open for interpretation from listeners as to who/what is the 8th Wonder in their lives,” he smiles.
I’m feeling all these shockwaves through my inner core
Seeing all these things that I’ve never seen before
And all of my steady ground seems to disappear
when you come around
It’s a mystery they should make
a History Channel documentary about this
I didn’t know I could feel this way
I think you’re shifting all my tectonic plates
My world was like the plains and then you came
And it changed into a beautiful mountain range
I didn’t know I could feel this way
I didn’t know I didn’t know I didn’t know
As for the songs themselves, 8th Wonder is filled with little wonders – from the exhilarating album opener “Angel,” the soaring, love-soaked title track “8th Wonder,” and the anthemic single “History Channel,” to the delicate, softly-stunning acoustic confessional “Garden,” the aching and smoldering “Hurt Goes,” and the beautifully intimate “Desert Creatures,” each of The National Parks’ new songs hits home and hits hard.
“Recording this album was a dream,” Parks beams. “Working with our friend and amazing producer Scott Wiley, the 8th Wonder sessions were filled with so much creativity and flowing ideas. I think ‘Angels’ and ‘Great Sky’ are two of my personal favorites from this album. ‘Angels’ brings that larger than life feeling that we wanted to create and ‘Great Sky’ captures the introspective moments of life. They are so different but to me capture the heart of the album.”
“I also had so much fun writing the lyrics to this album,” he adds, sharing some of his favorites lines:
“One day I will leave my bones behind and fly up to that great sky and if I go where the angels sing, the first question that I’ll ask is God can you tell me everything?” – Great Sky
“I didn’t know I could feel this way. I think you’re shifting all my tectonic plates. My world was like the plains and then you came and it changed into a beautiful mountain range.” – History Channel
“Maybe i’m far-sighted, can’t see the forest through the trees wonder where is it hiding” – Sunshine
“Far beyond the hazy reach of any neon, lit up by a galaxy of stars” – Desert Creatures
“We are mirage seekers” – Desert Creatures
“Sometimes her dreams are like fallen trees, you could make a forest out of these” – Hurt Goes
“There’s no oceans in the desert but it didn’t feel that way” – Trouble
Whether you’re packing the camper van and headed on an actual road trip, or simply making your way through the winding roads of life, 8th Wonder is an epic and intimate journey, and one worth embarking on time and time again. The National Parks’ latest album is easily their best yet – which isn’t to say anything negative of their past work; like a fine wine, the Utah quartet are aging elegantly and gracefully, continually coming into their own and forever becoming better versions of themselves.
“We hope that listeners take away a sense of adventure from this album,” Parks shares. “We hope it’s a companion for them on their road trips and the soundtrack to all of their experiences along the way. We hope listeners know that we all feel stuck inside our minds and sometimes the best thing to do is just to get outside.”
Experience the full record via our below stream, and peek inside The National Parks’ 8th Wonder with Atwood Magazine as Brady Parks goes track-by-track through the music and lyrics of the band’s fifth album!
Stream: ‘8th Wonder’ – The National Parks
:: Inside 8th Wonder ::
In a lot of ways, “Angels” was a song that sparked the rest of the album both thematically and sonically. I really wanted to capture the feeling of adventure, love, road trips, and living a life you would want to tell your kids about someday. Definitely inspired by the red rocks and beauty of Zion National Park and hiking Angels Landing.
I wrote 8th Wonder in a day during a 2 week span where I was caught up in some crazy songwriting fever dream and writing a song a day. I sat down with a drum loop and an old worn out nylon string guitar that I bought at a garage sale and just started strumming. The chorus came first with the idea of the line “you’re the 8th wonder.” I ran with that idea when writing the verses and hid all the 7 natural wonders of the world throughout the song.
Let’s Go Outside
Before I started writing this album we sat down as a band to talk about where we wanted to go creatively and we kinda had this “ah-ha” moment. We wanted this album to be reflective of who we are as a band and what we love to do. Being outside in nature is huge for all of us and this song reflects that. It’s about how nature is a form of therapy for us and is something that really helps us get outside of our own heads. It’s a powerful thing.
When I was writing songs for this album I wrote a song called “summer of memories” that actually didn’t make the cut. Even though we didn’t keep it for the album, a line in it actually inspired “Great Sky.” It said “late night star gazes and questioning the meaning of this life.” It made me reflect on an experience I had when I was camping with my dad when I was a kid and how we were sleeping under the stars, looking up and talking about how it goes on forever. I remember trying to wrap my head around the idea that space goes on forever, so does eternity, and so does life.
This is a song about change and how your life can go from looking and feeling like the plains to a becoming beautiful mountain range. For me this happened when Megan and I had our baby boy. It’s about the unknown and the adventure of it all as well as just feeling so awestruck by Megan.
Sometimes there are songs that I start writing that I don’t finish right away for one reason or another. Garden was a song that immediately felt special when I started writing and I think that I was scared that I wouldn’t do it justice. I put it on the back burner for over a year and came back to it when I was ready. Sometimes allowing yourself that space can bring a lot of clarity and direction. It’s one of my favorite songs on the album and it’s about how life has its seasons of ease and its seasons of difficulty but all of it can be beautiful and necessary to grow and become who we are.
I started writing Sunshine when we were on tour in the spring. The world was coming back to life after the winter and I would sit on the bus and write lyrics for this song and then play around with it at soundcheck during the days. It’s about living in the moment and bottling up everything good. This song has some of my favorite production moments on the album with the way the drums and acoustic guitars work together, Syds angelic vocals and the shreddy violin solo. I love the way it all came together.
This was the last song I wrote for the album and was one of my favorites to write because I had such a clear visual in my mind the whole time – the desert at night. It’s about living a nomadic life and stepping away from the glow of the neon cities and dancing under the lights of the stars to the music of the world around us.
We wanted this album to reflect life with all of its high highs and low lows. This is a song about the low lows. It’s about loss and feeling alone in grief. The beautiful part of it all is that when you start to realize that other people have experienced those things too, you feel a sense of togetherness and the ability to be lifted up by that. It’s about not giving up and seeing the beauty through the pain. You’re not alone.
Trouble is an accurate name for this song because it was definitely controversial for a while within the band. When we recorded it, me and Cam were so stoked with how it came together but Syd and Meg didn’t love it like we did. We just couldn’t understand each other’s points of view either haha. So we sat on it for a long time and decided to come back to it and make some tweaks and now I’m happy to say that everyone is really excited about how it came together. It’s one of our hardest hitting songs ever and we already can’t wait to play it live.
Rodeo was one of the earliest songs I wrote for this album and it was the perfect song to end the album with. It’s about that person you feel at home with no matter where you are and I think that theme ties the album together. We had a lot of fun with the production of this song and decided to incorporate a long breakdown in the bridge that explodes to the end of the song.
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© Noah Tidmore
:: Stream The National Parks ::