by Sarah A. Peterson
And to think it all started with KISS.
Rudy Parris has come a long way since his childhood days of fourth grade violin and idolizing the legendary rock band. The Visalia native, a Season Three contestant on NBC’s The Voice, has just signed a record deal with Warrior Records/UMGD and will record his debut album at the historic Capitol Records Studios in Hollywood later this year.
“It’s been quite a journey,” says Parris. “I grew up listening to KISS and Led Zeppelin, and learned how to play guitar at age twelve, but when I was 18, I heard Merle Haggard sing and it changed my life. I thought, I have to learn how to sing.”
He cites George Strait, Ricky Skaggs and Alabama as early influences when starting out in the early ‘80s country scene, but Parris soon gravitated toward the rough honky-tonk of the Bakersfield sound pioneered by the likes of Haggard and Buck Owens. “Merle was the poet of the common man, and Buck taught me to just be myself.”
Parris played alongside Owens for eight years in residency at Bakersfield’s Crystal Palace. He opened for Haggard, James Brown, Jerry Lee Lewis and Bo Diddley along the way, and his brother Abel has been there with him every step of the way. “My brother is an amazing musician,” Parris says, “a world-class drummer. There’s just this vibe when we perform together onstage.”
However, in 2006 he walked away from country to forge his own path. “A lot of today’s country is ridiculous,” he says, “and the lyrical content very juvenile, but I’m not trying to be part of a scene. I try to put intelligence into what I write.”
And then there was The Voice. “A friend of mine in the business told me to give it a shot,” says Parris, “so I registered online. Two days later, I got a call from someone who’d seen me on YouTube and scored me a VIP audition in Burbank.”
Several months later, Parris made his way down to Hollywood for a blind audition with Blake Shelton and Cee Lo Green at the start of Season Three. “I got the last available spot on Team Blake,” he says, “and being on the show was an awesome experience. I made a lot of great friends.”
While he was eventually eliminated, Parris was the first contestant ever to be invited back for three more episodes after leaving the show. “I sang KISS for the finale, and that really made my night.”
The proud father and grandfather describes his sound as a modern mix. “It’s a stew of all kinds of musical styles,” Parris says, “’70s rock with a strong dash of country.” And needless to say, bringing 30 years of music experience to the table, he is looking forward to recording his debut album at Capitol Records.
Rudy Parris is finally getting his due.
Check out more local band & musician profiles in KRL’s music section.