After two solid years of touring behind them, the members of Mercury Records recording artists Parachute entered the L.A. studio of producer John Fields (Switchfoot, Jonas Brothers, Jimmy Eat World, Andrew W.K. and Rooney) to record The Way It Was, the follow-up to their 2009 Top 40 debut, Losing Sleep.
“I felt our ambitions were greater and we had a much more focused sense of how we were going to accomplish that,” said lead vocalist/writer Will Anderson, who has been playing with drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophone/ keyboardist Kit French since they were high school classmates in Charlottesville, VA, seven years ago. They would later be joined by guitarist Nate McFarland., whom Will met while attending University of Virginia together. “We wanted to sound like five guys playing their instruments in a room, but on a larger canvas, and with all of our visions blending seamlessly as one.”
The Way It Was exceeds that objective. The band’s patented lush melodies are now accompanied by a production that is intricate yet sparing, with plenty of aural space for the band to explore the soaring gospel harmonies of the first single, “Something to Believe In (Jeremiah),” the Afropop Peter Gabriel/Sting world beat of “What I Know,” the wide-screen Springsteen-like cinematic epics “American Secrets” and “Philadelphia,” along with the country-flavored twang of “Kiss Me Slowly.” The latter of which Anderson co-wrote with Lady Antebellum’s Grammy-winning Record and Song of the Year duo of Charles Kelley and Dave Haywood.
“We didn’t want to clutter up the songs with extraneous tracks just to make it thicker,” says Kit, whose contributions included Fender Rhodes, Hammond B3 organ, and a more up-front presence of tenor and baritone saxophones. “We wanted to get better parts from all the instruments, instead of just piling up overdubs.”
“I tried to write guitar parts that didn’t need to be tripled and quadrupled,” added McFarland, who pointed to The Edge and early U2 for inspiration. “We wanted the guitar parts to cover a lot more sonic space, playing eighth notes with delays, parts which featured more open strings, a less-is-more attitude. All I did was follow the melody.”
The musical influences on The Way It Was were equally derived from the Death Cab for Cutie narrative of “Forever And Always” to the “Graceland meets The Killers’ Day and Age of “What I Know,” along with the classic Sam Cooke testifying of “Something to Believe In (Jeremiah).” Parachute has once again proven they are one of America’s most promising young bands, and they are just getting started.
The tunefulness of the new songs belies Anderson’s themes of betrayal, as he examines relationships that are fraying at the edge and breaking apart, with a combination of sorrow and regret, using the good memories to tentatively soldier on. “You and Me” tells the tale of a Bonnie & Clyde type on the run, “Forever and Always” is a short story set to music about a couple about to get married, only to see one of them land in the hospital, while “American Secrets” is an autobiographical study of adolescence, while “Philadelphia” is an evocative portrait of a couple on the verge of splitting apart due to an unspoken infidelity.
“My whole goal was to be a little more empathetic, to try to see things from other people’s perspective,” said Will, who wrote while in such exotic locales as St. Petersburg, Russia, and Frankfurt, Germany. “I tried to get out of my own head, which turned out to be a good exercise for me as a songwriter. A lot of the stories were just completely made up, though it did deal with things I’ve experienced myself.”
“These songs just grip me emotionally,” agrees Nate. “I’m the kind of guy who starts weeping at a sad movie, so it wasn’t hard to get inside the emotion. Several of the songs really struck close to home for me.”
With Anderson’s songwriting career starting to blossom, he has now relocated to Nashville, and has since begun to collaborate with other country songwriters, including such hit tunesmiths as Jedd Hughes (Patty Loveless, Josh Gracin) and Marv Green (Reba McEntire, Tim McGraw, George Strait).
“With a majority of bands, you’ll constantly hear folks claim that their live show is better than their record, but here, we wanted to make an album that would force us to bring our live show to the next level,” nods Will. “The main goal is to keep growing. It’s been a very healthy, gradual, organic process … one that’s not fake. We write our own material and play the instruments on-stage without any special effects. We’ve been doing this since we were 15 years old. We’re best friends. When we play on-stage, we want people to see us as a rock band in the truest sense of the word, and while it’s an increasingly rare sight these days, we’re hoping people can appreciate it.”
Parachute gives true music fans something to value & appreciate with The Way It Was … and as Will puts it, “real music played by real musicians on real instruments.”