For this month’s “Ramped Up,” we featured Chris Parkin, FCLC ’20.
Parkin, a sophomore transfer to Fordham from Oberlin College, is an aspiring musician from Cape Cod, Mass. He was one of the first three artists signed to Ramses Records, a record label recently founded by two Lincoln Center students, Jordan Meltzer, GSB ’20 and Paolo Estrella, GSB ’20.
On the eve of Halloween, Parkin rode a Ram Van up to Tognino Hall and played two original tracks and one cover. You can watch the full performance on our YouTube channel, The Ram.
After, the Ram interviewed Parkin to learn more about his musical journey.
Q: We’ll start with you telling us your major, your name, the basics.
A: My name is Chris Parkin, I am a senior at Lincoln Center and I’m studying general science (pre-med), but I’m also doing music in my free time.
Q: And how did you get started with music?
A: I’ve been playing music for most of my life. My parents had me start doing piano lessons when I was two or three. I picked up the violin in fifth grade. It wasn’t until I got to college after doing both of those that I started playing the guitar and singing, and I realized that I was really passionate about that. Since freshman year, I’ve been playing around a little bit and doing gigs, and it brought me to the city [from Oberlin]. I started writing some songs and recording stuff, too.
Q: What was your first gig like?
A: Ah, it was very nerve-wracking. Most gigs I’ve done on the piano, it’s like you prep two or three songs, and you’re in front of a room full of people, and it’s in a program, all very formal, but gigs… I do bar gigs and restaurant gigs, so you’re kind of going into this public space, and you have a three-hour time slot, so you have to learn like 40 songs. I remember I had this big binder because I hadn’t memorized my lyrics yet. I was flipping through it really fast. I was really nervous, just hoping I don’t forget any lyrics, hoping they like me. You get more comfortable as time goes on.
Q: Have you done most of your gigs solo?
A: Yeah, I started out solo with a loop pedal, kind of like Ed Sheeran. He’s a big inspiration of mine. When I’m here for school, I play with my cousin sometimes, she’s a great singer, she lives in Long Island. We’ll meet up, do a couple duo gigs here and there.
Q: Do you like playing with other people? Do you think you’d want to join a band in the future? Or are you just solo?
A: I think there’s definitely pros and cons to both of them. I love playing with people and jamming. With gigs, sometimes it’s a hard thing to coordinate everything and find people that are into the same sort of cover music you are, because then you have to do three hours of the same genre. It definitely lets you do different songs and connect with different people and do some cool things. I have a good friend from back home, his name is also Chris, we’ll do gigs together. We met in a songwriting class.
Q: What’s the process of writing a song like?
A: That’s a great question. There are the clichés where there isn’t one, but I think what’s great about songwriting is that you can’t really go wrong with different approaches. Sometimes, I’ll think of an idea walking down the street, and I’ll come home and hash it out on my phone. Sometimes, I’ll be sitting at my computer with my guitar playing the same couple of chords for an hour, and then something comes. Sometimes, I’ll start with a lyric that I’ve written down and go from there. It all kind of just comes together on its own. You just have to let it happen. Sometimes there’s a time crunch, where you have to force the creativity, but the great thing about songwriting is that it’s an organic thing, and it’s fun when it comes together.
Q: Can you talk a little bit about the music scene at Lincoln Center versus Rose Hill?
A: Yeah, so, being down there, I don’t know how songwriters are heard up here. At Lincoln Center, with school being so busy, there aren’t a lot of solo artists going around and advertising. There’s the a capella group, the F-sharps, which I’m a part of too. It’s part of the reason why Ramses Records was formed, to give this outlet to songwriters and let them be heard a little bit more. Get their music heard around campus. With school being so tough, and the city being such a big place, it can feel overwhelming, and that’s why I’m grateful for these guys for starting this thing out.
Q: Do you take advantage of music within the city, like outside of campus?
A: For sure, one of my favorite things to do, and where I started, is open mics. There are so many. You can go five feet and hit five different open mics at all different bars. You’re never too far away from a good club or music venue where you can see live music for free. Even just walking through Central Park, you’ll see some of the most amazing people. It’s really inspiring to be able to do that, and it gives you a chance to meet people who are similar and like writing songs for every different genre.
Q: Do you have any funny music stories?
A: One thing that’s funny is my guitar strap will often come off the bottom, and then I’ll have to stand like a flamingo. That’s happened to me probably a dozen times now.
Q: Have you ever had a gig go horribly wrong?
A: My best friend’s grandmother’s birthday party. No one was listening. I wasn’t sure why, I thought maybe I sounded bad. A couple of my family members came up after and said, “No, you sounded great.” That was the first thing that helped me realize, with live entertainment and gigs and bars, because it’s a public space, you kind of have to know you’re okay.
Q: Where do you see yourself going with music in the future?
A: I’ve spent the past year or so writing, and I’m recording stuff, so when I graduate [this Spring] I definitely plan on being in the city, or maybe being at home and building up my home base there. I plan on getting these songs recorded and released as an EP. Wherever I am, either home or here: growing my fanbase, working on my online presence and just trying to get my songs heard. Maybe get some radio play. Keep on writing. I want to grow my YouTube channel, since online is such a big facet of music today. I want to take the time to grow and keep on developing a foothold wherever I can.
Follow Chris Parkin on Facebook (his name) and Instagram (@cparkin7). You can also find him on YouTube, Spotify, iTunes and Apple Music. His debut single, “That’s Alright by Me,” is now streaming.