Before settling in Tucson, Freddy Parish never let his hat lay for long. Hailing from Sonoma, the country/folk artist has hit the singer-songwriter grindstone throughout the United States. Arriving in Southern Arizona around seven years back, the troubadour has since found a new base of operations and a new city to call home. Since, he has begun making a name for himself as a bonafide roots artist, playing as part of Freddy Parish & the Old Town String Band before pursuing his latest countrified project. Seasoned by his travels and the hard knocks spent between them, Parish’s brand of country/folk recalls traditional roots inspired by the likes of George Jones and Woody Guthrie.
Now, Parish is releasing his first EP in over three years—and his first single billed simply as “Freddy Parish”. Whereas previous releases have lived within an acoustic string band setting, A Cold July features a bevy of accomplished musicians performing alongside Parish to create a full-bodied country music atmosphere. Replete with dobro and steel guitar, fiddle, banjo, piano, acoustic and electric guitar, upright and electric bass, and beyond, Parish has formed an impressive studio band of notables to carry his songs to new heights. Among them are other noteworthy Arizona names, like Mamma Coal and Matt Rolland.
“Back Anywhere” is Parish’s debut cut from A Cold July. The tune gives us a taste of the EP’s lush production—for all of its cooks in the kitchen, never once does it overwhelm us. Rather, each musician contributes an essential part towards bringing Parish’s work to life. A yearning reflection of times gone by, “Back Anywhere” is a reminder for Parish always to move forward—that he can’t go “back anywhere”. His gentle, twanging croon, carefully caressing its longing chorus, makes it.
In anticipation of A Cold July’s 1 July release, Parish joined PopMatters in an interview regarding the release.
Let’s look back on this past year and a half, and how it relates to this release.
I recorded this right before the pandemic hit, in the winter just before. Mixing it and getting it out got postponed, though. We recorded it up in Phoenix with a producer named Dominic Armstrong. The studio that we recorded it in has since moved up to Nashville.
It was fun—I just wasn’t sure if I had the money that it took to finish it when I realized that I was out of work for a while, wondering if people even had the time to care about listening to music over this last year.
It was rough not knowing. It felt like my career was just really getting started. It became unclear whether it was possible to fully commit to the music—well, it was never clear, but it became even scarier. I’ve had those anxieties through the whole year, and there was a lot of personal stuff that was tough, too, but things are finally looking up a little bit. So now, I think it’s the right time to release the EP.
How does A Cold July differ from previous releases?
Previous albums were focused around my string band—just the four of us, with banjo, guitar, fiddle, and bass doing traditional folk music. This album is all my songs, and it’s more traditional country. I played drums, with Thøger Tetens Lund on electric bass, Jon Rauhouse on pedal steel, Alassane Diara playing Wurlitzer and piano—all a little bit less of the old-time string band vibe.
I really started the string band thing because those three guys were the super accomplished musicians that I met in town—Matt Rolland being an amazing bluegrass and folk fiddler, and so on. It’ll be interesting to break more into the country scene in Tucson. We have country bands on the east side playing venues like the Maverick, intent on getting audiences to dance, like the two-step, as opposed to a listening experience. I’m a fan of both and would love to get connected with that crowd, though.
A Cold July is a five-track EP. What connects these five songs?
I hadn’t recorded anything in a long time. Some of these songs are pretty old. I’d just taken some of my favorite songs that I’d taken from over the past seven or eight years since I’d first moved to Tucson. They have certain lyrical themes that unite them, but each song is also musically diverse with a different vibe. The instrumentation allows it to be cohesive.
There’s a song on the EP called “Downstream” that’s always been meant to be more of a rock’n’roll kind of song. Since I’m always playing acoustic and often solo, I never really got to realize it to its full potential until now. It’s been fun bringing them into where I’ve always imagined them to be, other than just doing my best acoustic guitar version of them.
Having fiddle and pedal steel and clawhammer banjo all playing together—all sounds that I just love. This is the first time that we’ve ever really brought my music into this place.
Let’s talk about “Back Anywhere”, in particular.
It’s a song I wrote not too long after I moved to Tucson. I had relocated here and was more or less on my own. I was recently out of a long-term relationship—I was engaged, actually.
The idea of it is fairly self-explanatory, as far as the hook goes: “You can never go back anywhere.” I’m not sure if I was telling myself that, but I was thinking about the finality of things and time moving on whether you like it or not.
I really got into existentialist philosophers like Camus when I was a very young man and this sort of peeks into some of those philosophies. There are other country songs, too, that have these themes of regret and wanting to go back and do things differently. So, this song is a retort, saying all you can do is move forward.
I feel like I’m going through similar changes now, always trying to grow up. It’s taken me a long time. [laughs]
What was recording “Back Anywhere” like?
I still wish that we could record everything live, all together, and I’d like to do this next time. This time, I recorded the acoustic guitar and vocals first and had that as a basis. Then, I played drums to myself, and the guys came in and played over that. I created the base tracks myself, and then we layered stems on top of that. It turned out well.
I have a good rapport with these musicians and want to create something more natural and real next time, but this was the best way to go about it with what we had. Every time I have ever recorded something, there’s always something I’ve wanted to do in hindsight. Artistic aspirations. [laughs] But, that’s for next time. This turned out well.
Where do you hope to see yourself over the next year?
Musically speaking, I would like to start playing less often but more tangible concerts—fewer restaurants and bars and songwriters rounds. I had started to before the pandemic, playing at the Fox or Rialto for national acts coming through, and that was great. I’d like to get back to bigger concerts and touring and get into a studio with a full band all in one room for the next album. I’d like to find all of the right people for that. I’d like to keep progressing.