Aaron Parker became a sought out performer starting at an early age. When he was four, the church choir director invited him up to sing accompaniment while his mother played piano. “I went up there and sang Jesus Loves Me,” recalls Parker. “After that, every month I was up there singing, because when a little church finds somebody who can hold a note, they definitely plug you in as much as possible.”
Outside of church, curiosity lead Parker to country music. “The first CD I ever stole from my dad was Alan Jackson’s Greatest Hits. I was just enamored by them. That really got me started into country music,” he says. He soon began to follow the lead of one of country’s finest crooners by singing his songs whenever he had the chance. In second grade, he even tried to serenade one of the girls in his class with an Alan Jackson tune. Though a sweet sentiment, his mother had to put the kibosh on the performance, because he selected a tune with a cuss word in it.
Ever the entertainer, Aaron began dabbling in rock music as a 10th grader, drawn to the high-energy atmosphere of the genre’s live shows. “I had a crazy point that I was into rock ’n’ roll big time in my mid-teens,” he says. His love for the genre inspired him to join a five piece rock band, and gave him his first taste of life on the road. Stuffed in a Toyota Tundra truck, he and his bandmates traveled all around the Southeast playing cover songs for frat parties at large universities, including Alabama and Auburn.
Though rock was the band’s primary focus, Parker still managed to keep in touch with his country roots during his four year run with the band. “I had two country songs they let me sing in the band,” he says. “They let me sing ‘Hicktown’ by Jason Aldean and ‘Pickin’ Wildflowers’ by Keith Anderson, which are two kind of rock songs.”
His interest in the electric-guitar driven side of country music grew as he watched performers like Garth Brooks, Tim McGraw and Kenny Chesney open the genre to a new set of listeners. “They had a huge effect on me as far as the entertainment factor and the song,” he explains. “It wasn’t just about the south anymore and those people who kinda grew up in a rural area.” He appreciated how their music focused on “sharing more about what humans go through on a day-to-day basis.”
With the rise of rock influence in country music, Parker was well positioned to jump right into Nashville’s music scene. However, his awareness of the city’s incredible talent pool made him hesitant to cash all of his chips in, and begin pursuing a career in country music. A college roommate, who saw Parker’s potential, refused to let him shy away from his dream, though. “He rolled up to my house with a U-Haul and literally put my bed in the back,” Parker laughs. With that, Parker’s journey as a solo country artist began.
In his five years since making the big move, Parker’s worked hard to find his groove as a songwriter. “When I first came to town, I was always trying to write a masterpiece. I was trying to write, ‘The Dance’ by Garth Brooks.” Instead, his goal now is to “stay simple, yet profound” in the writing room. He’s found that his strength in songwriting lies in his ability to generate the big picture for the song. “I really try to bring an idea, a concept, and somewhat of a melody, and I’ll have it laid out and a couple of lyrics here and there,” he says of his writing style. “There’s so many people in Nashville who, I call ‘em song Jedis, are born to write songs. They really help pull out of me what I want to say, and form it in a way that is fun to sing and gets the message across in a potent way.”
Parker’s able to see his hard work in the writing room pay off each year at CMA Festival, as he continues to play on more prominently featured stages with every year. “I’m so excited,” Parker says of the upcoming fest. “It’s so fun to see where we came from and where we are now. It’s a journey I love.”
Catch Parker at CMA Fest this week lighting up the Hard Rock Cafe stage at 12:45pm on Sunday, June 14th. In the meantime, enjoy some of his tunes on Soundcloud.