by Amberleigh Jack

Jed Parsons: Hey, Thanks For Listening

by Amberleigh Jack

Jed Parsons: Hey, Thanks For Listening

The title above is taken (a bit lazily perhaps), from the cover of Jed Parsons ’ shiny and polished debut album ‘Midnight Feast’ – the message you get when you lift out the CD. A nice touch in the presentation of an album full of nice musical touches, from an artist known for his niceness. Amberleigh Jack caught up with the Christchurch singer/songwriter ahead of his Auckland album release gig in July.

Jed Parsons is charming as hell. He’s warm and friendly – while exuding the kind of confidence you’d expect from a 25-year old musician whose star is on the rise. It’s the first thing I notice as we sit down, some hours ahead of the Auckland release gig for his debut album ‘Midnight Feast’. The second thing are his socks. Bright red and white stripes – standing out even more under faded Adidas trainers and dark pants. The charm, I imagine, comes naturally. The socks, he tells me, are new.

“I’ve started getting more outrageous with my socks,” he laughs, moving some long, unkempt hair from his face. “It’s an unconscious thing, but they’re definitely getting more outrageous!”

I compliment them. He smiles. That charming, friendly grin. The Christchurch-based indie-pop musician will no doubt be getting more than a few compliments in the coming months – with his first solo album recording ‘Midnight Feast’ enjoying a favourable pre-release response.

A multi-instrumentalist (providing vocals, guitar, drums, percussion and synth on ‘Midnight Feast’), he’s graced local and international stages both with bands, duos and as a solo artist. Despite having played a multitude of live shows and festivals – releasing your art in album form is an entirely different beast according to Parsons. With the 10 tracks basically a culmination of his music-making to date, the release process is proving a nerve-wracking experience.

“It actually really freaks me out,” he admits. “I think when you spend so long doing something – especially art – it’s very much a part of you. So if people hate it, or they’re nasty about it, it feels like a really personal attack.”

Criticism may be something he’ll need to learn to deal with, but so far the album, a mix of eccentric indie-rock and tightly shaped mellow ballads, has gone down well with friends, fans and critics. That’s come as a relief to Parsons.

“When you’re so close to a project you lose all sense of whether it’s any good or not,” he laughs.

The album credits would beg to tell a more confident story, with a cluster of quality local musicians involved. Ed Zuccollo plays keyboards of various vintage, Matt Andrews helps with drums and percussion, Moses Robbins is on bass (supplemented in places by Aaron Stewart on upright), Cameron Robertson provides trumpet, Naomi Hnat cello and Lisa Tomlins adds her fine vocals on five of the tracks.

All songs were written by Parsons and he shares the production credits with Lee Prebble who recorded and mixed it. Parsons cites Prebble’s wealth of experience and the relaxed atmosphere in his Wellington Surgery Studios, as a huge plus, especially in retrospect – and something he believes comes across in the sound of the recording.

“I’ve definitely done performances in uptight spaces before, and I can hear that energy in the recording. So it was really important.”

Still largely looking after his own career path, he’s had great support outside the studio as well. He’s found an ideal manager/mentor in his cousin, the successful South Island folk artist Mel Parsons. There’s pride in his voice when he talks about Mel’s own success and that sheer hard work has been a large part of the reasons she’s “… smashing it.”

“It’s like any industry,” he says. “You either work hard or you don’t.”

So the notion of having to put the effort in isn’t lost on him, nor does the value of family support. He’s already pretty much a veteran of the local touring circuit and having grown up in a family with, “…very creative bones,” Parsons says he was lucky to have full support from his parents to follow his passion.

“I imagine a lot of people with very business-oriented parents – they’d try to force them down a ‘real job’ route. But mine never did.”

Parsons feels at home on the stage. A good thing, as that’s pretty much the plan for the foreseeable future, touring the album and hopefully getting on the summer festival circuit. We’re chatting before he gets set to play an intimate album release show in a dimly-lit Karangahape Rd venue, Neck Of The Woods. It’s a style of show he has a soft spot for, giving the ability to really feed off the crowd’s energy.

“I like my audience to have fun, because I get bored when I go to shows,” he laughs.

‘Midnight Feast’ was a long time coming for Jed Parsons. Not only did the result need to be something he was truly happy with sound-wise, but the process was a journey of self-discovery. Now, he tells me, he knows exactly who he is as an artist and he’s managed to define exactly what his sound is. So album number two will be less of a journey, then?

“I’ll just write another 10 songs,” he laughs – that charming, friendly laugh. As simple as that.