Born and raised in Purcell, OK, a tiny town with a huge sky, Parker Millsap learned early on how to express gratitude through song while playing gospel in the church band. The acclaimed singer-songwriter shares “Wilderness Within You,” a beautiful rootsy duet with Gillian Welch from his eagerly awaited new album of the same name, available via Okrahoma Records on Friday, May 12.
“It was such a dream come true to work with Gillian on this song,” Millsap says. “Like a lot of the record, we recorded it live with no headphones and we nailed it in just a few takes. The whole time we talked about wildflowers and trees, it was wonderful.”
The song illustrates Millsap’s understanding of nature as something that humans are not separate from – that life is stunningly beautiful most of the time, but does contain streaks of darkness that are just as natural.
“There’s a field that’s full of violets, there’s a bruise that’s purple-brown, there’s a little bit of violence, and a lot of fertile ground.”
Wilderness Within You is Millsap’s sixth studio album and was produced with new collaborator Ryan McFadden, featuring a backing band of musicians whom Millsap had largely never met or played with until they began rolling tape. Ross McReynolds on drums, Calvin Knowles on bass, Juan Solorzano and Mark Sloan on guitar & pedal steel, Ryan Connors and Will Honaker on keys, Jake Botts on saxophone, and Daniel Foulks on fiddle. In most cases, these musicians didn’t hear the song they were about to track until minutes before the recording began.
“Ryan really took the time to comb through a mountain of material with me,” says Millsap, “and he asked me hard questions about the songs that I hadn’t yet asked myself. He’s infectiously curious. That helped us create a clarity of purpose. So this approach gave us confidence that the melodies and lyrics were solid enough to handle sonic exploration. We had a blast.”
The album was first heralded earlier in February with two standout tracks, “Running On Time” and “What You’ve Shown Me.” A calming meditation on the rhythms of life, “Running On Time” was joined by an official visual directed by Austin Leih. The third song from the record, the acoustic Krautockin “So Far Apart,” was released last month alongside another Austin Leih-directed video.
Wilderness Within You sees Parker exploring the intertwined relationship between humanity and nature and finds the Nashville, TN-based artist at his most experimental – playing with field recordings, tape loop-driven soundscapes, and musical genre – but also leans into his own signature classic folk songwriting. Taken in its entirety, the album is a natural step in Parker’s evolution which interweaves threads of his musical past and influences to gorgeous effect.
Millsap is currently doing solo acoustic shows but then will celebrate Wilderness Within You with a full-band headline run, kicking off with a special album release show at Nashville, TN’s Basement East on May 12, and then travelling into early summer. Highlights include visits to such legendary venues as West Hollywood, CA’s Troubadour (June 23) and Pioneertown, CA’s world-famous Pappy & Harriet’s (June 25), as well as a festival appearance at San Luis Obispo, CA’s Live Oak Music Festival (June 25). For complete details and ticket availability, visit www.parkermillsap.com/tour.
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