Sooner than most, Parker Millsap has learned to trust the process. Now four albums in at the ripe age of 24, the Oklahoma-born singer-songwriter has earned the chance to live his life as a professional musician. His work has been hailed by global audiences and industry alike while taking him to esteemed stages around the world. His three prior full-length releases—2012’s Palisade, 2014’s self-titled LP, and 2016’s The Very Last Day—showcased a primal mastery of acoustic folk rock, with their flourish for revelation and fiery dynamics, all recorded with extreme precision, purpose, and efficiency. But as he began work last year on his new album, Other Arrangements, Millsap opted for a change, allowing himself the time and space to let the work evolve in a new and distinct light.
“I was learning to trust my instincts and to not second-guess myself, and let the process take me there,” Millsap says. “I had to remind myself that I’m allowed to have a good time, and not to be so serious all the time. My fiddle player, Dan, always says, ‘It’s not about the destination, it’s the journey,’ and it’s true. I’ve done this enough times that I can make this work, I can make it good. Trust the process and your instincts, and learn to trust the universe. So, this is the first record I feel entirely comfortable putting out into the world. We were just trying to catch a bit of the magic of guys in a room figuring it all out in the moment.”
The result is his most accessible collection of songs to date, as Other Arrangements is filled with tunes whose inspiration trades divinity for ubiquity—and some you can even dance to. To hear Millsap tell it, this pop sensibility is no accident. “For me, this record is about trying to write pop songs,” he says. “When I say ‘pop’ I mean how a Beatles record was pop music: the songs provide a variety of musical and emotional information; there are funny, sad, and happy moments; multiple tempos; ballads; rock and roll songs. It’s a radio playlist for 45 minutes, trying to hit a bunch of touchstones. Like I usually tell strangers who ask, I play rock and roll music but I have a fiddle player, too. That seems to get to the point.”
It’s a quiet confidence, an air of authority limited to only the most studied artists, a commanding irreverence woven with a thread of vulnerability. There’s something inexplicably authentic about Oklahoma’s Travis Linville, and it’s carried him from dive bars and classrooms to The Tonight Show and esteemed theaters and festivals across the globe.
Linville is legendary regionally for his work in the now-defunct Burtschi Brothers and for his behind-the-scenes influence—including producing John Fullbright’s first album and teaching guitar lessons to a then nine-year-old Parker Millsap. The Oklahoma Gazette rightly called him a “godfather of modern Oklahoma folk” and noted that his success opened doors for a state teeming with talent: a mentor and contemporary for other Oklahoma acts like Fullbright, Millsap, Turnpike Troubadours and John Moreland.