Musical Exposure Is
Part of the Journey

Passenger Profile: Randy Parsons

By Kenny Kerner
taxi member success parsons
Listen to 'Sweet Motion' by Randy Parsons & Friends:

This TAXI member went to three of the most prestigious colleges in America and has credentials that most of us are still dreaming about. Yet, when it came time to network and get his music out there for real, Randy Parsons chose to join TAXI. Check out his story:

Do you come from a musical family? Do your parents, brothers, sisters, etc., play an instrument?

My grandfather played violin professionally in an orchestra. My father sang in church choir when he was young. My brother played bass guitar and sang—sometimes in the same band as me. My parents loved music and listened to it constantly—everything from Jazz, and Broadway, to our records.

You grew up during the biggest musical revolution in history—the 1960s. How did that amazing diversity of great music influence you and who were your favorite artists of the times?

I grew up in the Connecticut suburbs and had access to New York City (and NY City came out to us as well). I remember seeing Cream, The Doors, Jefferson Airplane, James Taylor, Laura Nyro, Richie Havens, the Mothers of Invention, and even the Beatles at Shea Stadium during the late '60s in and around New York City. We also went to the Fillmore East to see bands (Procol Harem, Jethro Tull, Moody Blues, Ten Years After). I think, aside from the Beatles, I was most taken with the singer songwriters of the times: James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, Paul Simon, John Sebastian, and later Jackson Browne.

You studied violin and piano but eventually decided on guitar. Why?

I think guitar is the instrument I was able to make the most progress on. My mother set up violin lessons for me when I was 6 or so, and I played for a year. I never really got good at the reading music part, and played mostly by ear and memory. Then I had a neighbor from Europe who played a Dan Electro guitar and had these recordings and sheet music of instrumental guitar music, like "Apache," "Moon River," stuff the Ventures would play. I loved the sound of the instrument and the portability of it, and it was such a happening instrument for young people at that time. I took piano out of love and respect for the instrument and hoped I could become a player. It was a good experience, but I never got very fluent on it. Electric guitar, acoustic guitar, and to a lesser extent, bass guitar, are the centers of my instrument universe.

How and why did you finally gravitate toward steel string acoustic guitar as your instrument of choice today?

I've always liked the simple beauty of an acoustic steel string guitar. I also like 12 string, nylon, and electric guitars, but work mainly on the acoustic steel string. I think James Taylor was a major inspiration in that way. I remember seeing him in 1969 at the Capitol Theatre in Portchester, New York. He played an acoustic steel string guitar and sang for about an hour and a half by himself to an audience of about 3,500. I was very impressed by the seemingly simple beauty of his writing, his playing, and his singing. (I know that his music is actually quite complex, but it seemed sort of effortless that evening.)

You studied at Julliard, NYU, and New School. How has this education helped you and do you recommend a serious musical education for all musicians?

I gravitated to New York City in my late teens and early 20s and I wanted to explore the city, the music, and the education that was available there. I found out that Juilliard had an extension division where you could take classes. I had heard about Juilliard when I listened to Blood, Sweat and Tears with Al Kooper and they had that big, sophisticated New York Jazz band sound.

I noticed that some of the players on that album (Child is Father to Man) attended Juilliard and I wanted to be able to write, arrange, and play like them! I ended up taking about four classes there in music history, composition, and surveys of modern music and then moved on. As a student there, you could also attend the seminars and concerts, and that alone was worth the price of admission. The level of musicianship at Juilliard, among young and old alike, is beyond belief, a very high bar... not the right place for a songwriter, guitar player like me...

Meanwhile, I was working on my college degree at NYU and took a survey of Jazz course there, Then I found out I could get course credit for taking Jazz guitar lessons, so I did.

The music program at the New School now is very good and has incorporated the Mannes College of Music. Back then, Paul Simon's brother had started something called the Guitar Study Center, which I attended. It was the closest thing to the Berklee School of Music I could find in New York.

I think all of the musical exposure is good. It's part of the journey of discovering yourself and what your music is. Ultimately, one has to find their own niche... where are you most comfortable, what do you like... don't beat yourself up to be something you're not... there is this whole universe of excellent players and writers in all these genres... I enjoy hearing many of them, and incorporate elements I like into compositions.

To date, what was your biggest career thrill?

These three things come to mind: Playing bass for songwriter Hugh Prestwood at several gigs, including opening once for Crystal Gayle. Winning the Boston Folk Festival Songwriting contest ("Morning Sky") and performing the song at the festival. And having a song placed in the ABC Family series, Falcon Beach.

With all of the songwriting honors you've achieved, why did you become a member of TAXI?

TAXI was recommended to me in the late '90s by a keyboard player and composer in New York who I respected very much. I think when you're trying to make it, you have to try lots of things to find your way. I liked Michael Laskow's pitch in the literature, it seemed honest, smart, and funny. And I liked the idea of being heard and getting feedback. TAXI provides two great services, both of which involve getting heard: 1) Getting heard by the screeners, 2) getting heard by consumers of music.

How has TAXI helped with your career?

TAXI gave me a way to continue to work where I live. It provides an alternative way to participate in the industry. It's like a combination correspondence music school and agent. I was able to continually participate in submitting things and getting feedback from a plugged in company and group of people. It reinforced in me that you have to keep at it... develop yourself. TAXI also showed me how large, varied and constant the music consuming industry is.

Have you attended a Road Rally and if so, how was it?

I've attended two Road Rallies. Both times I was exposed to interesting and diverse people and music, both at the podium and in the audience. I consider it part of the journey of finding out where you fit in, where you belong, or don't belong. It is a good reality check, but a good hearted one. Not unlike coming from a small town and going to a large university. You have to find out who you are and where you belong.

What's in store for you for the remainder of this year?

I've rented a studio space for writing and recording. I want to make enough from the music to keep this creative space more than one year! I will try for more placements in film and TV and hopefully write stuff that enables me to work with great players, singers, engineers, and other creative people. Sometimes, I think I do this mainly to have the opportunity to work with creative people I admire.

Julliard, New School, New York University and... TAXI. Proof positive that regardless of the level of your musical education, it's still who you know to a large degree. Thankfully, Randy knows TAXI!

See How TAXI Works

"I must recommend it to anyone I think is serious about songwriting."
— Dwight Nichols,
TAXI Member

"I just want a shot, and I feel that TAXI has given that to me."
— Roger Yeardley,
TAXI Member

"Thanks for your constant support of my work — I'm running out of compliments for you guys!"
— James Day,
TAXI Member

"The calibre of everything about TAXI and the Road Rallies contiues to climb. I hope it never stops!"
— Roy Flower,
TAXI Member

"I was cynical at first, but my wife convinced me to join and I'm very impressed."
— L.A. Van Fleet,
TAXI Member

"In this competitive field you need all the help you can get and with TAXI, you've got a friend in the music business."
— Richard Scotti,
TAXI Member

"I had the drive, and the passion. I just needed help, and you keep supplying it."
— Justin K.,
TAXI Member

"I signed a two-song deal with a major Music Library for film and TV."
— Bob Kroeger,
TAXI Member