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Parker Millsap gets to the very soul of his music



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UNCLE LUCIUS; with Parker Millsap

When: 8:30 p.m. April 3

Where: FitzGerald’s, 6615 Roosevelt Rd., Berwyn

Tickets: $10


Updated: April 3, 2014 12:16PM

Much has been said about SXSW sensation Parker Millsap’s Pentecostal upbringing, as if the 21-year-old with the vigorous live show was somehow sent down from above to restore our collective faith in music.

Or maybe that’s just being a tad overdramatic.

“I just wake up every day hoping to pay the bills and write another good song,” the native Oklahoman says nonchalantly from Nashville, the city which essentially discovered the musical mastermind during a songwriter’s festival just two short years ago. “If things keep going well, maybe I will even get to buy myself a new guitar.”

Yet, despite his somewhat lackadaisical attitude about his newfound stardom, Millsap knows deep down that his Pentecostal upbringing is having a direct affect on the chatter currently surrounding him. In fact, the name Parker Millsap might not be falling so easily from the lips of so many industry insiders without the fact that his live show, which effectively straddles the Americana/folk/gospel genres, is quite the religious experience.

“My performance stems from growing up in Pentecostal church, there is no doubt about it,” explains Millsap, who brings his talents to the stage of FitzGerald’s in Berwyn on April 3. “When you go to church three times a week for seventeen years, you are going to be engrained with it. I grew up on physically charismatic preaching. The sermon was the performance. And without knowing it, I guess I began to learn early on about the more spiritual and emotional facets of music. You find that music can be way more than just entertainment.”

Picking up his first guitar at nine, most of Millsap’s musical identity was indeed formed within the walls of his Oklahoma home.

“I’ve been listening to good music since I came home from the hospital, basically,” chuckles Millsap, whose distinctive laugh seems to come at the end of the majority of his sentences. “We listened to a lot of Lyle Lovett. Then I started to listen to a lot of new blues like Taj Mahal. Then I went backwards from there and started listening to people like Robert Johnson. The past few days, I have been listening to Shinyribs from Austin, Texas, whose lead singer is like Prince and Tom Waits trapped into a 40-year-old, white man’s body. It’s insane. I also love Bruce Springsteen and Motown, oh how I love Motown.”

Or in other words, Millsap likes to fill his ears with artists with undeniable soul.

“Today’s music still has soul,” hesays. “It’s just that the big machine that exists these days is capable of filtering things out to cater to a wider audience.”

Does Millsap want to actually be a star? “So-called stars were demonized in the church, and my parents listened to oddball music, so I never really said that I wanted to be a star per se,” remarks Millsap, who comes to Chicago alongside collaborator and high school buddy Michael Rose on bass, and fiddle player Daniel Foulks.

The way things are going for Millsap, stardom might just be on the horizon. With a self-titled debut album filled with stop-you-in-your-tracks lyrics within songs such as the yell-inducing “Truck Stop Gospel” and themind-altering “Quite Contrary” (“I like first person narratives, where I can pretend I’m someone else and see what they experience.”), Millsap might have a tough time avoiding so-called fame.

“The last time I was in Chicago, I was just a sophomore in high school on a class trip, playing snare drum for my high school band,” he laughs. “I spent six years hitting that same drum. This time, I’m coming with no drums, partly because we only have a minivan and mostly because they make too much of a racket.”

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