Everything Is Free with Greg Parker
May 2006

I realize that devotees of independent music prefer to follow artists who have achieved, at best, modest success, and are only known and appreciated within the independent music community. Taking this into account, I have patterned my column for PlugInMusic.com accordingly, painting myself as a trifling miser who is lucky if ten people attend one of his out-of-town shows.

Knowing that this site is first and foremost an indie rock site, and as a roots rock/country artist I am providing an alternative viewpoint, I also realized that a very select few of my new readers would recognize my name, and I could get away with portraying myself in this inauspicious manner, and perhaps in the process endear myself to you, dear reader.

But my conscience, however small it may be, has plagued me over the last several weeks, and I feel I must use this installment to make a bold confession, no matter how many new fans and readers I may lose in the process. I am not a trifling miser. In fact, I am one of the burgeoning moguls in the music industry today.

Let me restate that. I am one of the burgeoning moguls in all of industry today.

In June 2003 I had been in Nashville for a full year. In that time I was overwhelmed with recording and publishing offers from over 20 different companies. Tony Brown, the man who brought Steve Earle to MCA in the 1980s and is now at Universal South, even camped out, contract in hand, on the doorstep of my Fairfax Avenue duplex for an infernal week in the dead of August. He gave up when I told him I was out of the cat food I had been feeding him out of charity, and I couldn’t be bothered anymore to come outside every couple of hours to dump ice water on him.

After reviewing the best offers and conferring with my legal team, we decided that our best option would be to start our own label and publishing company, where we could keep all the royalties for ourselves. We immediately formed Greg Parker International (GPI) as the company that would oversee all my affairs--recording, song publishing, publicity, booking, merchandising, and anything else that could earn us a buck.

We immediately hired two employees, paying them from the proceeds of the sold-out shows I was playing throughout the region. James Ruskin, who flunked out of Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music due to his inability to differentiate between lecture hour and happy hour, handled our booking and publicity. Molly McPherson, another recent college dropout from the University of Tennessee in my hometown of Knoxville, presided over accounting and investments.

In spite of constant drinking and never surfacing at the “office” (my Fairfax bedroom) before noon, James and Molly will go down as the two pioneers who helped build the Greg Parker empire.

Our next move was to start Whitewall Records. On March 2, 2004, we released the Greg Parker On The Break EP. Given the amount of industry buzz I had generated around town, and the well-attended shows I had played throughout the South, I expected the record to sell a few thousand copies, but probably not more than that. After all, it was only supposed to be a launching pad to a full-length within six to eight months. We had a surprisingly good debut though, moving 7,000 units in the first month, and we used that money to shoot a video for “Get In Line Caroline,” the first single.

We gathered a hundred of Nashville’s finest females together and blocked off Hillsboro Village, my stomping grounds, on a sunny Sunday afternoon. During the first verse I’m singing to a stunning brunette with glowing ivory skin and a smile that made my heart float out of my chest. She played the part of Caroline, though her name was actually Claire. We would begin a torrid three-month affair shortly thereafter, and though we eventually ran out of steam, those three months were, as the song says, “so divine, so sublime.”

Anyway, in the video, when I sang the line “Caller nine, caller nine,” to start the second verse, I was supposed to toss a cell phone up in the air. Unfortunately, during the second take it landed on the head of one of our rented ladies, rendering her unconscious and of no use for the project. We had to settle out of court, but we were able to arrive at a figure that was mutually agreeable ($55.28 and a $25 ice cream certificate--the knock left her a little daffy).

The last verse was the culminating shot--all the pretties lined up on the 21st Avenue sidewalk, and me walking along beside them as they clamored for my attention. I took the arm of the one at the front of the line, a delicious redhead in a blue polka-dot dress, and the closing shot showed the two of us getting in my ’56 Caddy for some joyriding.

We sent the video off to all the major outlets, and it was immediately in regular rotation on CMT and GAC, and even getting a little bit of play on MTV2. Country radio began to play “Caroline” and it shot up the charts, peaking at number two (only outdone by Big & Rich’s masterful “Save a Horse, Ride a Cowboy”). Critics hailed me as country music’s return to form and the next Dwight Yoakam. On The Break sold 150,000 copies in May. Claire couldn’t get enough of me. I was on my way.

Molly was a horrible drunk though and I used some of the money to put her in a sanitarium for a few days so she could dry out. The funds were rolling in and I needed her sober to divert everything to the proper channels. James was putting together some great road dates--two months headlining, two months opening for Lyle Lovett, and three weeks opening for the White Stripes (?!?) in Europe (I realize that many of you got bored with them after White Blood Cells, but I still dig ‘em).

The Lyle dates were wonderful and he was a true gent, but the dates with Jack and Meg stand out in my recollection. Not just for the shows and response, which were overwhelmingly positive, but also for Jack and Meg themselves. My goal for those three weeks was to get them to come off the whole brother/sister thing.

“So Jack, when are you all going to come off the whole brother/sister thing?”

“Can you keep a secret?”

“Absolutely. You have my strictest confidence.”

“She’s actually my mom.”

I laughed hysterically at this quip, but he was serious, or at least pretended to be. For the next three weeks, he addressed Meg only as Mom, at least while I was around, and everyone in their entourage acted as if this was nothing new. I asked Jack if he called Renee “Mom” too, but he didn’t look amused.

“So do you?”

“Sometimes.”

“When?”

“None of your business!” We had a blast in Europe and I came to admire Jack’s ability to keep a practical joke going (it is a practical joke, right?). I’ve seen them a couple of times since the tour and he still calls Meg “Mom.” She never cracks a smile either. Unbelievable.

The other road dates in 2004 were also wildly successful. By the end of the year we had sold over 1.1 million units of On The Break and made $1.3 million in concert revenues. Because we self-released everything, we kept all the money from sales and royalties for ourselves. By the time 2005 rolled around, GPI had a staff of 10 employees and a real office on 20th Avenue. Molly’s investments had paid off big time—we were in the black by about $15 million, and she had big ideas for what to do with our profit.

“Hey Greg, we need to diversify our interests.”

“Oh yeah? What do you have in mind?”

“Middle Tennessee is becoming the second Detroit. We’ve already got the Saturn plant, and there’s talk that Nissan’s moving here. There’s going to be a need for component parts. Cars have a lot of rubber components, and my father has connections in the rubber industry. Let’s open a little rubber factory that manufactures components for the auto makers.”

“Sounds great. Make it happen kiddo.”

We opened a small plant in Spring Hill, three miles from the Saturn plant. We took a pre-existing space, installed everything we needed, hired a modest work-force of 30, and opened in April 2005. The Tennessean, the Nashville daily, marveled at our quick work and ingenuity in a cover story. Tony Brown called and said I was the smartest, wiliest bastard he never signed. (I responded by immediately speeding over to his office and dumping ice water on him.)

Molly is a genius. Within three months we secured contracts with Saturn, Ford and GM, and we got Nissan soon after they announced their move to the area. Work began last September on a much larger facility 10 miles to the west. When we move there later this year, we will have over 400 employees working around the clock. Our parts might be in your automobile. For instance, if you bought a 2006 PT Cruiser or Taurus, the steering wheel, change holders, and armrests all came from our factory.

Last August we took over the 15th floor of the L & C building in downtown Nashville. Molly made another fortuitous visit to my office in November.

“Greg, do you realize how much money we’re losing by not going public?”

“No. I just write the songs and sing ‘em. Tell me.”

“A lot. We’re big enough to do it now, and we should.”

“OK, but I’m staying in control. Don’t sell the whole thing out from under me. Just forty-nine percent.”

“I won’t, sir.”

“When did you start calling me sir?”

“When we made our first hundred million.”

“WHAT?!?!?!? When did that happen!??!”

“Last month.”

“Have I promoted you yet?”

“No.”

“Why didn’t you ask for a promotion?”

“I was drunk, and then I was busy. Why haven’t you offered me one?”

“Same reasons probably. How about Chief Financial Officer? I’ve been meaning to find one, so you’re it.”

“Awesome.”

“Yeah. Now get on the phone to Wall Street.”

We first appeared on the New York Stock Exchange on December 12, 2005. Our stock price started at $15 a share, but went up to $25 within the first week. When we bought Standard Candy Company, the local manufacturer of the famous Goo Goo Cluster confection, we gained a couple of dollars, and when we bought Cracker Barrel and fitted all the stores with wireless internet for the slumming high-tech traveler, we cracked $40. We are currently at $52 and expect even larger gains when we unveil our revolutionary new search engine, goparker.com, in November 2006.

Business boomed in 2005 and the first few months of 2006, but I’ve just appointed a remarkable CEO who will take GPI to new heights. Relieved of many of my high-pressure duties, I have begun work on a full-length CD (with limited-edition vinyl!) to be released later this year. Another six-month tour is in the works, but this time, I’ll be the headliner.

So this is the life I lead, and there’s nothing modest or inauspicious about it. My only complaint is that I don’t have enough time for all the beautiful women who flood my mailroom with eloquent letters and enticing pictures. I’m in a blonde phase at the moment, and discriminating in this manner seems to be the best time management tool I’ve thought of yet. But there are so many blondes out there, so I may switch to redheads soon. Stay tuned.

I hope that, instead of envying me for my success, you will appreciate my humble beginnings and what I’ve been able to accomplish, and this will inspire you to soar to great heights yourself, for the blondes and redheads are much smarter and prettier when you’re worth millions. Indie rock doesn’t have to mean a life of economic and romantic poverty you know.