On episode 81 of the Americana Music Show, Alex Culbreth and Karen Jonas are the Parlor Soldiers and they talk about the origin of their band name, how they manage to combine folk and alt.country into something that works, how they are able to write such gritty, detailed songs, their advice for aspiring singer/songwriters, and their Johnny Cash / June Carter song.
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The Americana Music Show is copyright 2012 by Taproot Media. The music and interviews in this episode are used with permission of the artists. The Taproot Theme music is called “Meltdown Man” by Derek K. Miller of Penmachine.com.
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Alex Culbreth and Karen Jonas are the Parlor Soldiers and they join Calvin for a telephone interview.
Alex Culbreth notes that the folk influence in the Parlor Soldiers mostly comes through Karen and the gritty alt.country influence comes through Alex. Karen says Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, and Paul Simon as her musical influences, but since she has met Alex she’s enjoyed exploring the alt.country influences.
Calvin asks the Parlor Soldiers if they could open for any band they wanted who would it be. Alex Culbreth says they are into Ryan Adams, Justin Townes Earl, and Hayes Carll these days. Alex also says that they are looking forward to opening some gigs for Chris Knight and says that Knight’s CD, Enough Rope, was a big influence on his music.
Karen Jonas set up the Parlor Sodiers song,“Mess.” She says it’s about a girl who who runs into some bar mishaps and is trying to get noticed by a guy and she gets noticed for all the wrong reasons. She said this is one of the first songs she’s written that’s not autobiographical.
Calvin asks Karen and Alex about how they got to the point where they can write such detailed songs. Alex Culbreth talks about trying to say a lot in as few words as possible and how Charles Bukowski advice to writers rings true for him. Karen Jonas believes that detailed writing is something that can be learned and intentional. She talks about getting away from “emotional language” and translate emotion with a story. Karen also says that it’s important to collaborate with other artists and to not feel like your art is their specific thing and they can’t share it. But Karen has said that the Parlor Soldiers has taught her the value of working with other artists.
Alex Culbreth sets up “Shallow Grave.” He says it started out with the guitar riff and the first line “Pretty Mary Jo with a bloody broken nose, left her clothes out on the line.” From there he wrote a rough draft and sent it to Karen and she wrote the bridge for it. Alex says Karen didn’t like the song at first because she thought it was too gory.
[plays "Shallow Grave']
Alex Culbreth talks about the band name, The Parlor Soldiers. They are based in Fredericksburg, Virginia which was the location of many significant Civil War battles. And the term “parlor soldier” was a slang term of the times indicating someone who’s a poseur, someone who looks good in uniform in the parlor but isn’t really a soldier.
Karen Jonas talks about supportive music scene in Fredericksburg and their upcoming gig a the historic Kenmore Inn with the Green Boys and Brooklyn’s The Spirit Family Reunion.
Karen sets up “Crazy”. A sort of Johnny Cash / June Carter style tune that they wrote together. Karen says at first she didn’t like it but as they played it at live gigs she began to like it more and more.
Alex talks about their web site and some of their upcoming shows, including one in October in Winston-Salem.