Visalia Native Rudy Parris Makes His Own Music
Aug 25, 2015 10:38PM ● Published by Brandi Barnett
His Own RulesSeptember 2015
By Jordan Venema
Rudy Parris has a long relationship with music, which he explains by way of a story. “My mom said that when I was 3 years old, we went to a wedding. I’d stand by the band and she said she didn’t have to worry about me because I wouldn’t move,” Parris reflects. “Ever since I can remember, I’ve been mesmerized by the power of music.”
That musical relationship, which precedes Parris’ memory, has taken him to places about which most people can only dream: the musical stage in front of a live audience on national television. But whether it’s the national stage or some hole in a wall, it’s probably all the same to Parris. “I am who I am,” he says. “People are looking for something real, from the heart.”
What they want is something “they can chew on,” something that can’t be produced as made-for-television. Parris has the experience to say it. In 2012, he performed on the third season of the popular television show “The Voice” as a member of Team Blake (Shelton).
Ask Parris and he’ll admit: “The Voice” is reality TV, whose success has a lot to do with the appeal of the underdog, “when the older guy makes it through, when the not-so-good-looking guy makes it through. People are starving for something from the heart.” That’s why Parris believes people are watching YouTube, “people singing out of their homes.”
“The Voice” didn’t change Parris, though; it just gave him a mouthpiece to perform. “I made a lot of fans, and I got exposed to a lot of people,” he says. “It would take a lifetime or two or three to get exposed to that many people.” That exposure, says Parris, has been a blessing.
Parris also gained experience through “The Voice,” training to handle interviews and the pressure of television. But Parris had appeal before he ever sang before a camera: an appeal that couldn’t be produced. His sound was something authentic, paradoxically both local and timeless, something hard to put your finger on but familiar.
“I grew up in the country my whole life. I grew up on a ranch. My dad is from Oklahoma, and he listened to Merle Haggard,” says Parris. “I’m not just some transplant. I’ve lived through a lot of this stuff.”
While rock band Kiss was the first to inspire him to pick up a guitar, it was country that had him holding on. “It’s in my blood. My family isn’t from Mexico; they’re from New Mexico. They came during the grapes of wrath, just like all those other Okies,” explains Parris. “My grandparents came at the same time, but the only difference was our skin color.”
It just so happens that Parris’ roots are also planted near country’s musical mecca – not Nashville, but Bakersfield. Back in the middle of the 20th century, Bakersfield was developing its own sound, and out of its honkytonk bars came rock and roll and country legends Buck Owens and Merle Haggard. “Those are Rudy’s deepest roots,” says Parris’ manager, Jacob Barber. “But a lot of people don’t know that.”
Parris got his kicks playing at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. “I did a 10-year stint there,” he says, “and it exposed me to a lot of major iconic country singers like Brad Paisley, Keith Urban and Dwight Yoakam.”
In fact, Barber calls the Crystal Palace Parris’ nursery. Parris, he says, has that Bakersfield Sound. According to Parris, “no one has done anything big out of Bakersfield since Buck Owens’ time,” a time when Nashville shared the charts with California. “Bakersfield put out something that was so different,” says Parris. While Nashville was focusing on a more produced, orchestrated sound, Bakersfield’s honkytonk bars produce “something you could chew on, something raw and soulful,” says Parris.
Since Parris’ time on “The Voice”, he’s signed to a record label, focused on writing music, and later this fall, will release his own album. “My record doesn’t exactly have to sound like Buck Owens or Merle Haggard; it’s the attitude that brings out the Bakersfield Sound.”
Says Barber, Parris’ album “has the genuine soul and story-telling culture of [the Bakersfield Sound] but mixed with heavy riffs. There’s a rock side to it.”
In the same way that Bakersfield offered an alternative to Nashville, Parris offers an alternative to the over-produced, icon-driven industry sometimes perpetuated by reality TV shows, which is why Parris can say, “I am who I am.”
“I stand by this record as something very solid, very unique,” he adds. “I guarantee you there’s nothing out there like this.”
One of the new album’s tracks, “Making My Way,” shows Parris’ diversity through its contributors. “It’s a song about Rudy making his own course through life,” says Barber. On the track, joining Parris along his way, is drummer Chad Smith of the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Hank Williams III, Little Joe, and even recorded spoken word by actor Michael Madsen.
While Parris is out to make his own way, he is glad not to have to do it far from home. “I’ve been very blessed that I didn’t have to live anywhere else. I’ve lived in Visalia my whole life, and I got on ‘The Voice.’ I lived in Visalia and I got a record deal. I didn’t have to move to Nashville,” says Parris. “See, the thing about Nashville is when you move there, you have to play by their rules.”
From the way Parris is making his way, it’s clear he plans only to play by his own.
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