Many memorable, high energy performances rolled out at Willie Nelson’s annual Luck Reunion, held at his Texas ranch in March. Margo Price played an incendiary half-hour set in Nelson’s 49 capacity chapel. The Nelson family closed the event with a spirited show.
And then there was Parker Millsap. The animated Oklahoma native delivered an intense set, which touched on all four of his albums.
“I always have a blast playing Willie’s ranch and also at South By Southwest,” Millsap said by phone from his Nashville home. “It’s a good time, but I would rather be out there playing my full set — which is what I’ll be doing when I get to Iowa. I’m going to let it all hang out when I get to town.”
That will be Saturday night (6/2), when he hits the Iowa Arts Festival Main Stage on the Pentacrest in downtown Iowa City.
Millsap, 25, is touring behind “Other Arrangements,” a clever title considering that his latest album is his most muscular album to date.
“I like that the title can mean more than one thing,” Millsap said. “I like that it’s vague and can evoke other images. As soon as I came up with the song, it hit me that it was perfect for the album title since this is a different album for me. I loved playing a guitar that kinda growled.”
“Other Arrangements” still has some Americana cuts. But, soulful roots rock reigns.
“That’s where I’m at right now,” Millsap said. “We toured as an acoustic trio for a while but we have a fuller sound now, and it’s reflected on this record.”
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The charismatic vocalist-guitarist grew up listening to roots rockers like Ry Cooder, while coming of age in his small town of Purcell, Okla. He absorbed blues and soul artists such as Taj Mahal, along with gospel tunes, while missing out on pop music.
“I know how unusual that is for a kid, but that’s what happened,” Millsap said. “I don’t think I would have liked polished pop. I like it gritty. I learned how to play music in church. We had a congregation of about 150 and there was the guitar, bass and drums and the organ. I learned a lot just being in the church playing these spiritual songs and I would listen to the blues with my parents at home.”
Live is the way to experience the energetic Millsap, who typically gyrates all over the stage.
“Playing out is my favorite thing to do,” he said. “I’m just glad I found my calling. The great thing about growing up in a rural area is that there was plenty of time for me to practice playing guitar. I loved growing up in Oklahoma.”
Millsap is ecstatic as a Music City resident.
“I’m perfectly at home here in Nashville. I learned a lot about my craft in Oklahoma, but I’m so inspired in Nashville. This is the place to be when I’m not on the road, but I’ll be out there for the next couple of months doing my thing.”
It’s a collaborative effort with bassist Michael Rose and drummer Paddy Ryan.
“We’re a team,” he said. “We work hard together. It’s about making the best music possible. You wouldn’t believe how many times I rewrote and rearranged songs. But I’m all about doing it right. The same goes for Michael and Paddy. Everything we do is done to the best of our abilities.”