After spending six years with her haunting 2011 LP, Time Is Medicine, Molly Parden is poised to let her vocal unfurl beyond her new hometown of Nashville. That’s where she occasionally works on Kid Swim — a fun electro-side project with producer Ryan Bernal and songwriter Caleb Groh — and has contributed harmonies to what Nashville blog East Of 8th counts as more than 50 records by the likes of people like Andrew Combs, Matthew Perryman Jones and Ron Pope.
But first, coffee.
Parden, who’ll turn 29 four days before she plays Crowbar in Ybor City alongside Austin songwriter David Ramirez, is a Starbucks alum, and has since graduated to an appreciation for third wave coffee spots like Crema in her hometown and Huckleberry in Denver.
“I love it, actually. I’m on a little high right now talking about it,” Parden tells CL as she makes the gorgeous three-hour drive from Redding to San Francisco in California. She was nerding out over her mug featuring a silhouette of Robert Smith (it says “THE CURE FOR MORNINGS” on it) and the merits of a good cup of coffee.
On Instagram, she stories using a Kalita to make pourovers with fruit from various roasters. It’s usually right before the tour van is getting ready to take her and Ramirez’s five-piece to another city on the longest continuous tour of Parden’s career. Even in today’s social media climate — where fans get an unnecessary level of access to artists at every stage of their careers — the videos feel like a candid peek into Parden’s daily life.
Her words, melodies and gorgeous delivery give life to narratives that mix hope with guilt and giving up, while also painting plaintive pictures of selfless, unconditional — and sometimes exhausted — love.
Up front, it seems, is the way Parden likes to move through the world.
“I guess I had no idea how insanely obsessed she is with coffee,” Ramirez, who has played before and after her act during the course of a seven-year friendship, admits to CL. He adds, however, that for the most part what you see is what you get, and that this trip around the country has not revealed any surprises.
“You could meet Molly one time, and you’ll know she’s just a good person — she is just herself.”
“It’s hard for me to write about something that I haven’t experienced,” Parden admits. She says that up until a year ago — when she turned 16 ideas into six songs — tunes were pretty slow to arrive as well. “It was more than two [songs], which is awesome.”
Parden — who jokes that going Anglican freed her from the guilt that probably led to songs like “Lord Have Mercy” and “The Gambler (Western Song)” — also told CL that free-writing exercises and a “new motivation” have accelerated the process as well.
A recent interview with Now/Its: Nashville revealed that motivation to be a phone call with Ryan Adams, who apparently reached out online to express interest in working on her next record. Demos were eventually sent, but Parden told Now/Its that she never heard back from the Whiskeytown singer. Which could still be a win for fans as the record is now in the hands of Madison, Tennessee studio of producer Juan Solorzano, who has tapped Zach Dyke from rising indie-pop outfit COIN to help further the evolution Parden showed on a 2016 EP, With Me in the Summer. That release has just four-songs on it, but its 17 minutes find Parden’s songwriting elevated on songs that read like literature (“Kentucky, I”) or the hand-wringing, private diary pages of a heartbroken poet (“Still Miss the Way,” “Weather”). A brand new single made with Solorzano and Dyke — “Sail On The Water” — is the first accusatory lyric that Parden has penned.
“I struggled to find phrases that fit my feelings,” she recently told American Songwriter. “The song was just an idea, the first line of the chorus, but had such a strong, unspoken emotion waiting to nestle into words.”
And now, all of that unspoken emotion and talent is growing stronger and louder as the two-leg, two-month tour with Ramirez barrels toward its final date in Birmingham, just three days after the Ybor City show. Parden says the trip has taught her how to work audiences and help sound guys mix her voice at the right levels, which leads to more comfort on stage.
“Maybe not life-changing, but it has been great,” she replies when lobbed a probably hyperbolic question about the trek. “I’m still learning the ropes, [but] I guess it has boosted my confidence.”
And it’s been good for Ramirez — who is touring behind We’re Not Going Anywhere, his own excellent album of rugged yet painfully anxious personal songs about loneliness. He says long tours are the only way he likes to go out when he has an opener, and that this one with Parden reminds him of tours he went on when he just had a couple of EPs.
“People would take a chance on me, take me out, it meant a lot,” says Ramirez, 34, adding that he’s just passing along the same opportunity. “You build a relationship and actually put some miles in together. I just love her work. I think she’s a joy to be around.”
And when this forthcoming album from Parden finally comes out, fans of strong songwriting and the rising tide of independent Nashville songwriters will feel that joy, too.
“You know I try to be patient and I wanna do things right/time is not my forte,” Parden sings on “Lord Have Mercy” from that 2011 full-length. “But I’ve got all my life to try and try/and one of these days I am gonna be good.”
So for now, we wait. We’ll even make the coffee — and it’s gonna be good.
Get more information on the show via local.cltampa.com. Listen to Parden's latest EP below.