“So much of my inspiration comes from location and where I am physically.”
Some bands just get you. I know, I know: They don’t know you, per se, but somehow they touch you with their words and music, voices and instruments. They provide a soundtrack to your life like no other. No matter what kind of day you’re having, you can put on their albums and feel instantly happier: soothed and energized, all at once.
For me, Parachute’s in that handful of bands who get me. They don’t know it, but they’ve been there for me when those closest to me haven’t. Let’s face it: No matter how much you love them, people will, at some point, let you down. Parachute, however, will not.
Parachute is Will Anderson and Kit French and Johnny Stubblefield. The three came together in high school, went through a couple variations in college, and then became the band they are now. They started as a three-piece, and after a couple albums with five members, have stripped back down to their essence. One thing has remained constant, though, from their 2009 debut Losing Sleep to their fourth release, this year’s Wide Awake: They’re terrific.
After a couple headlining legs this spring in support of the new album, Parachute is hitting the road again, this time as part of a five-band bill headlined by NEEDTOBREATHE and also featuring the inimitable Mat Kearney. Will Anderson took a few minutes in between a trip to Walgreen’s and an Uber ride in Lubbock, Texas, to tell me about finding inspiration—and finding yourself.
Your new album is called Wide Awake, which is something of a recurring theme in your lyrics. What does “waking up” mean to you?
Just sort of feeling like yourself, more than you’ve ever felt, or feeling like you’re in the right place at the right time. Life coming together in a way that was a little more natural to me than trying to be something I wasn’t. For me, that’s what that song was about, just that feeling of, “Hey, I’m here, & this is where I’m supposed to be.” It’s a gradual process; I don’t think there’s one specific time. So I got to a place as a songwriter, and as a person and a musician, I’m just kind of realizing that being yourself, as clichéd as it sounds, is much more fulfilling than trying to be someone you’re not.
You also have a couple songs about running away, or getting away. How do you know when it’s time to leave, and where you need to go?
I think for me I’m always kind of restless if I’m in one too much for too long. I love traveling; I think that’s really where the songs stem from for me. Also just being in the same place for too long always feels a little stale. I like the people I’m with, but for me, so much of my inspiration comes from location and where I am physically. It’s always nice to get away every now and then, and to get somewhere different for a little more perspective.
So do you move a lot or just travel?
No. I mean, I live in Nashville and my girlfriend’s up in New York, so I go up there a lot; I have a place up there. It’s not necessarily like life moving, but just literally, physically. Even if it’s just driving an hour away for a couple days; that helps me reset in a way that it really helps the process.
You write a lot of love songs. How do you keep them fresh and avoid sounding trite?
I think I realize the more honest I get about it, the less it sounds so. Our fans can see through songs that are not genuine, and they can really tell if it’s you sitting in your room, or sitting in a coffee shop, really drilling down and making sure you’re saying what you’re feeling. The more I can be real about that, the less it sounds trite. I know it’s weird, but it’s true. People know when I’ve written songs with fill-in-the-blank lyrics, like writing with other people and diluting what you’re feeling. The ones they connect to are the ones where I sat down and really, really made an effort to express exactly what the feeling is. I just find the more authentic it is, the more authentic it seems to other people. That’s the most obvious thing, but it’s true: The more I put into it, the more fans can connect with it.
I just thought of this while you were talking: Mat Kearney is huge at that, and you’re on tour with him right now.
He’s a real honest guy; what he’s saying is definitely real. We’ve always been a huge fan of Mat, and the more I get to know him, the more I realize he’s just a very real person in a great way, like very authentic and very honest about everything he’s thinking. It’s almost jarring in a way, because he just puts it out there. He’s amazing; it’s really cool.
I’ve heard it said that being in a band is like being in a marriage. Also, statistically, 54% of people who marry in high school get divorced. How is it that the three of you continue to write and play music one-plus decade later?
I just think we’ve learned each other well enough at this point to understand how to work together. We’re three very different people. You spend so much time together—I’ve spent more time with Kit and Johnny than I’ve spent with anybody in my life, physically speaking. I think it’s natural that we just learned how to get along, taking into account everybody’s needs, and then when we’re creating together, understanding everybody’s role in the process. It all kind of comes together at the end. As long as everybody shares the same goal, you can figure out a way to work it out. We’ve probably been on the same page unspokenly our whole career, so it’s really nice not having to fight about those kinds of things. It’s just a matter of finding the right balance to work it out.
What makes a successful show for you?
Just a good crowd and connecting with them. I’ve realized the more they have a good time, the more I find myself having a good time. My ego likes big crowd sizes, but I’ve learned that, in the end, as long as my job is done—which is to entertain them—I have a great time. I think I’ve found that the shows that I tend to think are bad shows or not the greatest shows are the ones where I don’t do my job, which is to entertain them well and to make sure they’re having a good time. And the less selfish I am about that, the more I find I’m having a good time.
I’m still waiting on a Red Rocks show. When do you think you’ll make that dream of mine—and yours, probably—happen?
That’d be awesome someday. We got to play once with O.A.R., and that was a dream come true; those guys were so kind to let us on that show. It’s funny, because some bands see the opening slot as, “Oh, this is our shot at Red Rocks and we’re opening,” and it really made us want to play there headlining. It’s always been one of those venues I know every band wants to play. We’ve been lucky enough to do it once, and hopefully we’ll get to do it again.
When this tour is done, how many shows will you have played in 2016?
I have no idea. Um…definitely over 100, probably closer to 150. 150, we’ll say.
Here in Denver in April, we got the story of you peeing off the high dive, naked, as a kid. My reviewer in St. Louis didn’t get that; I’d like to think we Coloradans are unique. True?
Yeah; that’s a different memory. If I’ve been to a place before, then I tend to tell a story about that place; that was my classic Denver story.
I know Wide Awake just dropped, but are you thinking ahead to the next album yet?
Yeah, I’m always writing. I was writing the day Wide Awake dropped. It’s a process; we’ve definitely got a lot of songs. We always do it faster than the label; we’re always ready to go. | Laura Hamlett
Parachute hits St. Louis’s Chaifetz Arena October 29. Full tour dates with NEEDTOBREATHE and Mat Kearney are below.
10.22 | Verizon Theatre, Grand Prairie TX
10.23 | Skyline Theater at the Long Center, Austin
10.25 | Criterion Theater, Oklahoma City
10.27 | Roy Wilkins Auditorium, St. Paul MN
10.28 | Veterans Memorial Coliseum at Alliant Energy Center, Madison WI
10.29 | Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis
10.30 | Aragon Ballroom, Chicago
11.02 | Beacon Theatre, New York
11.04 | Agganis Arena, Boston
11.05 | Electric Factory, Philadelphia
11.06 | Big Sandy Superstore Arena, Huntington WV
11.07 | DeltaPlex, Grand Rapids MI
11.09 | Rupp Arena at Lexington Center, Lexington KY
11.10 | Soldiers & Sailors Memorial Auditorium, Chattanooga TN
11.11 | Bon Secours Wellness Arena, Greenville SC
11.12 | Liberty University Vines Center, Lynchburg VA