From Oklahoma to the Big Stage, Millsap’s Passion for Music Started as a Teen

Mar 8, 2019

Parker Millsap, the 26-year-old singer, songwriter, guitarist and band leader will give a special solo performance in Bowling Green on March 16th as part of the Lost River Sessions LIVE concert series.

A couple weeks ago, Parker sat down with WKU Public Radio to talk about his formative years in small town Oklahoma as well as his current life of touring and songwriting. In particular, the tunes from his latest album Other Arrangements.

“I loved all of the different connotations that Other Arrangements has. You know, you can re-arrange your furniture, or your life or a song — you can re-arrange a song,” said Millsap.

Oklahoma Roots

Other Arrangements with its rollicking title track was released just under a year ago, the third full-length album from Millsap, who got into music as a teen as a way to keep himself entertained.  

“Being in Oklahoma kind of gave me an opportunity to be a songwriter because I didn’t have a lot to do, like if you don’t play sports, you have a lot of free time because there aren’t a ton of extracurricular activities,” said Millsap. “I mean I was in band and stuff in high school, but I just had a lot of free time to sit in my room and play guitar and write. So when I got to high school, I became aware that there was a local singer-songwriter scene in Oklahoma and that was really validating.”

And then there was Mike Rose, who was a couple years ahead of Parker in school. The two shared a passion for music.

“Somehow he found out that I played blues guitar and he was a blues bassist and he sent me a message on MySpace and he said ‘hey, do you know that song White Room, by Cream?’ And I was like, ‘yeah, I know that song, come over’.” My parents had helped me turn our garage into a jam room studio thing. So he came over and we’ve been playing together since that day.”

That connection made at that high school in Oklahoma has lasted – and the two, along with their other bandmates have played on Austin City Limits, Live from Here on late night TV on Conan O’Brien’s TBS show.

“The TV things are weird because it’s cold and it doesn’t feel like a regular show,” said Millsap. “You go in and there’s massage chairs and stuff, but then you have 10 minutes to get out there and get a line check and then you disappear. And then they say ‘okay, you’re on now’ and then they pull you back off. It’s kind of a trip.”

Another highlight for Millsap was his appearance on stage in 2016 singing a duet with Elton John.

Songwriting Inspiration 

The last few months he’s been writing songs, a process which can sometimes draw on inspiration from others in his life – like the woman who would become his fiancée, who gave him the idea for the song “Let a Little Light In”.  

“The house we used to live in was down in a valley and it wasn’t super bright in there, but if you have the blinds closed it was super dark and I would just hang out in there and not turn any lights on and be playing the guitar and looking at the computer,” said Millsap. “My girlfriend would come home and say ‘what are you doing? Open a window, turn a light on!”

Playing Solo

When Millsap takes the stage March 16th, he’ll be all by himself as he embarks on a solo tour.

“I love interacting with other musicians – that’s been a driving force behind why I do this is I love playing with other people,” said Millsap. “But most of the songs start with me and a guitar. So it makes sense to go do the solo show and it makes me completely re-think the arrangements because by the time it gets from the guitar to the band to the recording studio to playing it live for a few months, the arrangements have changed and it’s very different from where it first started.”

 “It’s a really fun challenge,” he said.

An Evening with Parker Millsap, March 16th at the Capitol Arts in Bowling Green. The first 100 WKU students on that night get in free, thanks to one of LRS’ sponsors – Mike Simpson.