From Band Life to Big Dreams: Wes Parker’s Solo Journey

by | May 21, 2024 | COMEDY, MUSIC, POP & TOP 40, POP CULTURE, ROCK & INDIE

The name Wes Parker had been appearing on my radar for many weeks, and he seemed like the new kid on the block to talk to. Parker in 2024 alone had released two new singles, the second one by the name “Annie Moore” with a video to accompany it, and then with another track not far behind, this guitar playing stranger seemed to be making a name for himself. As so often happens, like minds here at RVA Magazine were on the same wavelength, for before I had the chance to suggest an interview, I was sent out on assignment to capture a snapshot of this young talent on the rise.

Meeting at the central location of Harrison Street Cafe, I arrived early to scope out the perfect spot away from the noise. In texting me Wes Parker asked me to identify myself by what kind of shirt I was wearing, (black paisley, if perhaps you were wondering). He strode into the cafe a tall skinny man with excellent hair, ordering nothing, and plopped right down at my second floor table with a smile on his face. Crowded in a corner, laptop opened, we began in earnest as Parker filled me in on his local background.

Parker is Richmond, Virginia born and raised. Having grown up on the south side of the river on the border between North Chesterfield and Richmond proper, Parker has continued to call this city his home. Well, that is despite a brief stint up at Mary Washington. Parker found his way to the institution after high school, but quickly figured out that collegiate life wasn’t for him, saying, “I had a great time; I had maybe too much of a great time, and I wasn’t going to classes, so I wasn’t going to waste anybody’s time or money.”

Wes Parker Interview by Andrew Bonieskie_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo by Henry Archer @hankus_archer

But I am getting ahead of myself. Parker found himself looking for a hobby around the age of 10, and at this crucial time started messing around with guitars. This was no mistake or mere happenstance however, as Parker comes from a family of guitar players with a father and brothers that are avid instrumentalists. It was at the age of 12 though when he acquired his own six string for the first time; an acoustic from Guitar Works – as if he needed to represent his local credentials anymore. During an inquiry into where that guitar is now, Parker confessed, “I wish I still had that guitar. I think at some point during my hormonal youth I smashed it to bits because… that was the proper outlet? I think I just wanted to smash a guitar.”

It was not long after that Parker’s songwriting instinct began to take hold. Every artist has a first song, though it is rare that they remember it. Parker surprised me, however, by regaling me with the story of his, saying, “I was interested in songwriting from the beginning… I had this one chord song that was just an E minor, and I kept strumming an E minor. I called it ‘The Salamander Song.’” Of course, Parker’s songwriting would mature in the coming years, but it must have made an impression on the young artist to have remembered the track over a decade later.

During these years was when Parker first began working with fellow songwriter Nicholás Perea – now operating as a solo artist under the name Niko Play. The two tried their hand at a middle school band whose name has been lost to the ages, and which didn’t last, but what followed was a partnership that would endure for many years as the two eventually ended up in the successful Richmond indie rock ensemble Camp Howard. Camp Howard played prominently and actively from 2015 until 2022 (with a reunion show at the end of 2023) releasing numerous singles and two records to incredible success. Their unobtrusive yet interesting sound resonated with audiences within the city and beyond, as they toured extensively during their peak years. This success led to a broadening of horizons for the young Parker who considered a move to one of many cities, with thoughts of pursuing his career as a solo artist. Though some plans were more realized than others, Parker ended up continuing to make Richmond home, even as Camp Howard began to call it a day.

But why here? What is it about Richmond that has its hold on young artists who find themselves born here or arrive by happenstance? Besides describing Richmond as, “a warm bath,” Parker told me in his own words, “I’ve always wanted to move, I’ve made plans to move in the past. I was gonna move to Austin when Camp Howard was touring, and then I really wanted to go to Chicago… I started thinking, ‘I can see this, I’ll be a solo artist here.’ Richmond is… I always describe it to people as hard to leave. People move here from all over the place, and when they’re just getting here I’m like, ‘you’re gonna be here forever…’ I wanted to move to [Los Angeles] last year, and I was seriously about to pull the trigger on doing that, but it’s so expensive, and as an artist, right now, for the chapter I’m in, it’s such a great place to incubate.”

And here we have arrived at the present day, and the “Annie Moore,” music video that brought Parker and I together. Directed by Conor McFarland, the fun and bizarre video depicts, in my words to Parker, “a romantic relationship between him and an older woman.” He agreed with my assessment to mild amusement. However, Parker admitted, “If I had my way with the video she would have been a lot older, but we were working on quite a quick turn around, and she was wonderful.”

But it goes deeper than that right? In this song about unrequited love, what was the context? Parker’s thoughts on the videos were a tad more nuanced, saying, “It’s definitely one of the billions of songs out there that writes about somebody from “my” past – my being whoever – it’s really just a song of mourning in a way. I liked [McFarland’s] idea, because it resonated with me… something about this gap in age resonated with me in this way of, that was long ago, she’s changed a lot, and I still feel the same… and I don’t know, I also thought it would be kind of shocking. In my mind she was a lot older, so it kinda looks like I’m just kissing my friend’s mom or something.” What makes the song itself even more personal is that every instrument heard on the track is the work of Parker himself. Often done for a variety of reasons, for Parker it all really came down to necessity. Parker admitted, “I had a drummer play on it at one point, but I didn’t love some of the things that I was hearing. Not because of the drummer, but because of… my timing is not great, so I think I needed to go in and have bad timing on it.” If you need something done right, do it yourself.

A man who contains multitudes, Parker is more than just a musician. With surprisingly active Youtube and TikTok accounts (amassing almost 200,000 followers on the latter), Parker has been making short form comedy videos for a number of years now. New artists have been using the format and similar platforms to promote their music, so I was curious to hear what he thought of such avenues, saying, “you hear people say it’s a necessary evil, and I think that’s true, but I think people can get by without it, I just don’t know how.” Parker continued, “I used to make little horizontal – I thought of them as pieces of art, and I still do. But, my old videos on Instagram… we made one of these two guys who were drinking gasoline, or trying to build a homemade helicopter and it blew up. I really thought they were such pieces of art, which is why I was so resistant to Tik Tok because I was like, ‘it’s cheapening this work that I’ve done.’ And, eventually, I was just like, ‘who am I kidding. I gotta get with the program, or be an old curmudgeon…’ And who knows if we’d even be sitting here if I hadn’t done that. I do think it’s important, it just sucks. I think music marketing yourself, posting daily short form content, is just soul sucking. It sucks. But so does a job. Which sucks more? Me waiting tables for the rest of my life, or me saying, ‘screw it,’ and being a little cringy on the internet so people hear my music.”

Wes Parker Interview by Andrew Bonieskie_RVA Magazine 2024
Photo courtesy of Wes Parker

An artist for the modern age, Parker has the discipline and experience of having been in a successful touring band, now all he has to do is hone his sound as a solo artist, market it correctly, and find his audience. In today’s climate of algorithmically driven artwork, not just content, it’s just a matter of time before talented people get picked up in a wave of success. For Parker, it looks like that might be any day now.

Andrew Bonieskie

Andrew Bonieskie

But you may call me Bones. I'm the Associate Editor of RVA Mag, and a writer and musician living in Richmond, Virginia. After graduating from Virginia Commonwealth University in 2020 with a Bachelor of Arts in music and a minor in creative writing I have gone on to score feature and short films, released a book of poetry, an album of original music, and perform lead vocals with the band Pebbles Palace.

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