In the spotlight

In the spotlight – Sugar Parks

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Marisa Parks, better known as Sugar Parks, is a Los Angeles (USA) based singer/songwriter. She’s originally from a small town in Southern California called Newbury Park. She always loved music and would sing and play around on a keyboard, but her family couldn’t afford lessons.

She went up to San Francisco for college, studied Psychology and took a guitar class as an elective. After graduation she moved to Los Angeles. Misfortune in love led her to writing songs. Shortly thereafter, she met musician and producer David Mitch Parks at a local karaoke dive bar in L.A. The two artists started making music together and got married the following year.

Strange World’ by Sugar Parks was one of the few songs that held on to the #1 spot in our charts for a couple of weeks. Recently Sugar Parks released a new single ‘Slow Rolling Train’. Time to catch up with Marisa Parks.

I read that a few years back one of your songs was featured in a film, ‘Lazarus: Apocalypse’. You even performed the song as a singer in the film. How did that come about?

“My husband and I were at a restaurant with our friend, Thomas J. Churchill, who is a writer/director. He told us he was writing a 1950s Zombie film. Maybe a week prior, I had a song just come to me in the shower. I just heard someone singing it in my head. This is the only time this has happened to me so far. The song had a very old school, bluesy vibe and I thought it could fit in the 1950s. I told Thomas about it and sang it to him in the restaurant parking lot. He ended up making a teaser trailer for the film in order to get funding and had me record my song to it with my husband, Mitch, playing bass. That teaser trailer got re-posted by a popular horror movie YouTube channel and all of sudden had over 200,000 views with so many comments asking about the song.”

“This was actually my first experience with my music out in public, so this was a major motivator for me to pursue recording and performing music. The movie ended up gaining funding and Thomas put me in it as a lounge singer singing that teaser trailer song in a bar scene. That song was ‘Baby’s Got a Hold on Me’. When that song was in the teaser trailer and film it was just bass and vocals. Mitch didn’t want to release the track like that. We tried to record it multiple times, but couldn’t capture the je ne sais quoi it had. Finally, we settled on a version that Mitch produced on our Ruminations EP.”

“This is the actual trailer that features me. The movie got picked up by another distributor, so now it’s called ‘The Day of the Living Dead’.”

Your song ‘Slow Rolling Train’ was also featured in another film by Thomas J. Churchill called ‘Big Freaking Rat‘.

“I’m also in one scene as Zoe and play part of the song at a campfire. I actually haven’t seen the film yet cuz it’s on DOD and VOD and I don’t have those.”

What’s your song ‘Slow Rolling Train’ about?

“My song ‘Slow Rolling Train’ is about a time in my life where I didn’t seem to be getting anywhere. I was grappling with addiction, brokenness, and mental health issues, which led to poor decisions and a desire to grow and get better. I saw peers rising up and advancing all around me and I just saw myself as this slow-moving human.”

What’s your favourite memory of making Slow Rolling Train?

“My favourite memory is writing that first verse, it was a real experience and I love the way it unfolded lyrically, describing the experience perfectly. I hope it’s okay I do two, because I also loved when Mitch made a train sound on the guitar, I thought it was so cool.”

To what extent do you draw influence from areas outside music?

“I would say to at least a 50% extent. I am influenced and motivated to write music by things that hurt or concern me that I have no answers to or control over. Writing the songs is like therapy and gives me a place to put all that pain, frustration, confusion, and rumination. I’m basically influenced by internal drama.”

You also doodle and paint. Do you make your own artwork? Have you ever written music inspired by a piece of art? 

“Yes, I’ve made all my own artwork. I haven’t made music inspired by a piece of art. That’s a cool idea. I did however make a song inspired by a Lifetime movie, ‘Jodi Arias: Dirty Little Secret’, which is about this lady who murdered her ex-boyfriend in real life. The song is called ‘Jezebel‘ and I gave it to a band called Swamp Music Players. They made the song very 80s, had me sing on it, and released it earlier this year.”  

What is your creative process like?

“Usually my creative process is like, ouch I’m in pain, hurt, angry, sad, stuck, ugh what do I do with this, it won’t leave me alone, aaaarrrghhh *grabs pen & notebook* *bangs on keyboard* or *strums on guitar* *gets out feelings* *feels better* *records voice memo* *shows song to Mitch*”

What are you most proud of to date?

“What I’m most proud of to date is ‘Strange World‘ because so many people seem to enjoy it. It was a song I wrote many years ago, but never did anything with. I dusted it off this time last year and sang it to Mitch while we were taking a walk. I was like “remember that song, I miss that song, it was kinda cool”. We got home from our walk and Mitch started to produce it. I love hearing people like it. It’s like we made a child people like, so I’m proud of it for being so likable.”

Your song ‘Strange World’ also had an amazing video. Did you enjoy making it?

“Thank you so much!! That means a lot!! We really enjoyed making it. Mitch and I were stuck at home with the “Stay at Home” order, both of us were out of work, and it gave us a creative project. I was really excited to have a video with special effects that was inspired by Plato’s Allegory of the Cave. It was a vision I had, so bringing that to life was very fulfilling. I was also ecstatic to include finding God in my video because it was such a vital part of my journey to freedom. It was cool to be able to come up with a creative way to share that.” 

Can we expect more music videos in the future?

“I hope so, I have an idea for a music video for ‘Crazy for Love’, but with COVID-19 cases going up again and more lockdown here in Los Angeles, I’m not sure when that will be.” 

Who are your biggest musical influences?

“My biggest musical influences are Fiona Apple, Bill Withers, The Black Keys, Etta James, and Amy Winehouse.”

What’s your favourite song?

“This is a hard question, I have so many favorites, I keep listening to each one trying to figure out #1, I think I’ll have to go with ‘Heard it through the Grapevine‘ by Marvin Gaye.” 

Are there any artists you would particularly like to collaborate with?

“The Black Keys, I love their style!” 

Regarding musical styles and genres, is there anything different that you would like to explore?

“My husband was in metal bands when he was younger and would like to do a harder rock song, so I’m open to exploring that with him. He keeps playing these hard rock, metal type songs on YouTube for me to entice me and I don’t like a single one, but I’m willing to try.  I’ve also been interested in Judy Garland lately. I’d love to do a 1940s style ballad like she sang.”

If you could start over what would you do differently?

“I would have stuck with my BA in photojournalism and maybe minored in music and acting – these were my electives that I really enjoyed – instead of getting intimidated by the program and changing it to Psychology. I also wouldn’t have gone for my Master’s Degree in Counseling and would have a ton less student loans.”

Happiness is?

“Laughing with loved ones especially til you cry and your abs hurt.”

What’s your favourite song in the Cool 20?

“Another list of great songs that make it hard to choose, but I’m gonna have to go with Sophie and Alex Dorsten’s ‘Baby Doll‘. Sophie’s voice is mind-blowing, so beautiful. I love listening to her sing. “

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Written by: leancool20

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