INTERVIEW: Lee Roy Parnell

As with many of the hit song artists, they eventually end up running a business on Music Row and we do not see them performing as much. Lee Roy Parnell has managed to do both. Parnell made the segue into the music publishing world by co-partnering in Dean Parnell Music; in addition to being a music publisher, he is currently producing and writing with some of the most influential songwriters and recording artists nationwide. In the last few months, he has put together a show called “Lee Roy Parnell and Friends”, bringing some of the music industry’s most talented and accredited artists and top notch musicians on stage with him.

Lee Roy Parnell recorded eight studio albums, and has charted more than twenty singles on the Billboard charts. His highest-charting hits are "What Kind of Fool Do You Think I Am" (1992), "Tender Moment" (1993), and "A Little Bit of You" (1995), all of which peaked at #2. He co-wrote two Top 40 country hits for other artists: "Too Much" by Pirates of the Mississippi and "That's My Story" by Collin Raye; collaborated with Steve Wariner along with Diamond Rio on a cover of Merle Haggard's "Workin' Man's Blues and the talented Parnell played slide guitar on Mary Chapin Carpenter's late-1994 Number One hit "Shut Up and Kiss Me".

I recently visited with Lee Roy after one of his shows. I had an opportunity to catch up with him and find out more about what he has been up too and what more we can expect from him.

Bev: Your show at The Basement was amazing, I could feel the adrenalin rush from my seat and see it in your eyes. Tell me how these shows feel compared to bigger venues.

Lee Roy: It is surprising that it has done what it has. I have learned some very valuable lessons from this. Once again, if you take “self” out of it and just serve, you will be surprised what people will do. People are used to someone doing something for personal gain all the time and that is not the case here. I didn’t realize it would be what it has turned into now. I just thought it would be a way for us to stretch out a little, especially when we are in non-touring months.

I was looking for a way to have some fellowship, even if it was just me and God and the guys, but people began to show up. From the very beginning, I said let’s not do this like a regular gig; because it is not. I wanted to pull in people that we have a lot of respect for, famous or not famous, whatever. I always tell them don’t they don’t have to play their hits. If it is an Allman Brothers song, or a Merle Haggard song or a band song it’s ok. This has kind of taken on a life of its own and I have been amazed. I am glad I had the foresight to video and record every show so far. I don’t take a paycheck, never have. The feature entertainers don’t take a paycheck. They come in because it is something that they can do with no pressure. I see it as a chance for them to have fun, they love to play and the response has been crazy! I have had guests who are songwriters that I have known forever, some that I have just met, and people like Keith Urban. He stopped by the rehearsal one day.

Bev: Speaking of rehearsal, how do you rehearse for such an impromptu show?

Lee Roy: The band and I rehearse so we are prepared for the songs the guests choose; so that whatever they choose to do we will back them up well. I am a band leader more than anything else. I have never felt like I was a star, I never got caught in that stuff, I don’t find it interesting, it bores me to death. Leading a band is very interesting to me.

Bev: How many of these LRP and Friends shows have you done now?

Lee Roy: We started in September, 2009. It has been surprising what has transpired out of all this, it has been great. I have noticed that there are four or five other shows going on around town similar to ours. When you do something good, others are going to start picking up on it.

Bev: What do you enjoy most about doing the shows in a small venue with your friends? What has been the most enjoyable thing so far?

Lee Roy: Working with people that I respect, care about and love. It has been great. I am going to cap it though, just have not decided what month. We have gotten to the point that we have outgrown it, which is good. You are pulling in more people than you can fit through the doors.

Bev: Are you going to move it to a larger venue? The last few times it has been to capacity.

Lee Roy: People are experiencing something that they may never see again. They are getting to see a lot of top notch entertainment in an intimate setting. That sums it up.

Bev: Are you still working with your publishing company too?

Lee Roy: Yes, I still have my publishing company because I figured that when I turned 50 I needed to get a real job. It has been an interesting addition to my life. I will stick with it because it is important to control your own songs.

Bev: The transition from an artist who is on the road all the time to a desk job is not always an easy one, what has been the most rewarding thing to come of this?

Lee Roy: What I found is a lot of labels started sending younger writers to me. Sometimes they need help and I am good at getting in their head and getting the thoughts and ideas out.

Bev: Are you working with anyone that has anything out right now?

Lee Roy: No, but we are about to have something. Dave Pahanish has been working with me. I have been producing songs that he and I write together. A lot of times you do that and you do it for a label and they will say “Yeah, that’s great; we love it and now let’s change it”. It has been fun and I have learned a lot. Once again, there is seasoning involved. When I first came to town, I had a lot of people that taught me. You learn there is more to it than what you think.

Bev: Will we see anything new from you, maybe another new album?

Lee Roy: Yes, definitely. That is the one thing that I will do. I thought I was done as far as that was concerned, but I wasn’t, I was just tired and needed a break. You never lose that fire if you are doing it for the right reasons. As you go along, you figure things out for yourself.

Bev: Looking back on everything, what is the one thing you are most proud of that you have accomplished to this point in your life and career?

Lee Roy: My granddaughter; my son, my daughter and my granddaughter.

Bev: Are any of your kids following your footsteps in the music industry?

Lee Roy: No, absolutely not.

Bev: Is that because Dad said they couldn’t or don’t they have any interest in it?

Lee Roy: I just told them what I tell everyone. If you don’t have to do it .. don’t. It takes so much if you are really doing it right. I could just about kill you.

Bev: Looking back, what would you do different if you were starting out today?

Lee Roy: Nothing. It wouldn’t be the same. Maybe I wouldn’t have moved to New York right off the ranch in West Texas when I was 18. I figured that was the most radical thing I could do. I got a job the first week I was there playing at the Lone Star CafĂ© in 1975 or 1976. On Sunday nights, there were usually people there that had played Friday and Saturday nights in New York City that hung over for another day and needed to play. I never really thought of it until now, but it is really a lot like what we are doing at The Basement.

Bev: Who were or are some of your influences and artists you look up too?

Lee Roy: There are people that I am just ravenously in love with. I am a big Merle Haggard fan; if you dig into Haggard at all, you will realize he’s the best poet that we have. There are a lot of jazz elements and blues elements; and we share that commonality that Bob Wills had. I loved Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Sr. and I love Hank Jr., but Hank Sr. was really an architect of Rock and Roll. He was so superior to all the rest of his people that were around him as far as a lyricist-nobody could touch him.

Bev: What is the one piece of advice you would give to the up and coming artists?

Lee Roy: It may sound like a pat answer, but people need to have something unique about them. They need to check themselves out and make sure they are not doing it because they want to be a star. I would tell them to not let anyone get in there and tell them who they are and who they’re not. They need to know who they are and stick to their guns. Unfortunately, very few do. It is just so important to stick with who you are.

Bev: Lee Roy, you always have been and always will be on the list of my favorites and I look forward to seeing you again soon. Thank you so much for the visit.

Lee Roy: Thank you and I will see you again soon. Thanks for doing this.

For more information on Lee Roy Parnell visit or

For more photos of the most recent Lee Roy Parnell and Friends show visit

Transcribed by Pam Stadel

1 comment:

jill kennen said...

What a great interview! I've been a Lee Roy fan from the first time I heard his music and learned so much about him by reading this. Thanks!