Events

Parachute

Friday

Apr 21, 2017 – 8:00 PM

1353 H Street NE
Washington, DC 20002 Map

  • Parachute
  • Kris Allen

More Info

with Kris Allen
Back when they were in high school, Parachute's Will Anderson (vocals, guitar), Johnny Stubblefield (drums), and Christopher "Kit" French (saxophone, keyboards) spent nearly every afternoon in Anderson's basement, dreaming up songs showing a deep affinity for classic pop, heart-felt rock, and tuneful blue-eyed soul. Now, after a decade of touring internationally and turning out smash singles like "She is Love" (#1 at iTunes) and "Can't Help" (the first single from the band's 2013 album Overnight, which debuted at #15 on the Billboard Top 200 chart), Parachute are set to deliver a new album that reclaims the spirit that first sparked their love of music. "Making this record felt just like that one hour after school when we were kids," says Anderson of Wide Awake, the band's fourth full-length album. "It was like we were all 15 again and just starting to discover that excitement of creating songs together."With a sound that's impassioned but sunny, fresh but timelessly organic, Wide Awake centers on songs both gracefully arranged and brimming with the boundless energy of Parachute's live show. Newly pared down from a five-piece to a trio, the Charlottesville, Virginia-bred band forged that sound in part by shaking off all creative inhibitions. "We felt like we had no limitations to chase this sound that the three of us have wanted to build for so long," says Anderson. "It was as if we were woken up from some sort of slumber, revitalized and rejuvenated with this new awareness of who we are as a band." Reuniting with John Fields (the producer behind 2011's The Way It Was and their 2009 debut Losing Sleep), Parachute were also guided by the purest of instincts in the studio. "We knew a song was working when we were all dancing and having a blast with it," says Anderson. "And if something didn't feel good, we just let it go."Though that commitment to intuition is beyond palpable on Wide Awake, the album was also born from two and a half years of dedicated writing and exploration. "I don't know if I've ever written more for an album, or worked so much on any specific song." says Anderson, who came up with nearly 100 songs during that time. "It was just very important to me that we got each song exactly to where it needed to be."With every track on Wide Awake, Parachute matches their sublime melodies with a refined sense of songcraft. Showing a complex sensitivity shaped in part by lifelong love of artists like Paul Simon and Billy Joel, Anderson also infuses the album with both carefree warmth and emotional depth. The album's epic opener "Without You," for instance, captures what Anderson calls "the feeling of meeting someone and knowing that it's going to happen," and harnesses that lovestruck feeling with the help of gorgeous gospel harmonies and soulful horns. The gently devastating "Jennie" wraps its cascading rhythms and wistful vocals around a story of broken opportunity and love lost. "Sometimes you catch a glimpse of they way things could be but end up taking a detour," Anderson says, "only to realize you've lost your chance and can't ever get it back."Shifting from joy to heartache and back again Wide Awake, offers everything from the stomping, fired-up swagger of "Crave" to the sorrowful piano ballad "What Breaks My Heart" to the hushed acoustic reverie of "When You Move." And in certain moments Parachute brilliantly embodies both bright and dark, such as on the swinging and summery anthem "Lonely with Me" (as in: "Baby if you're gonna be lonely/Be lonely with me") and on the moody but pop-infused "Love Me Anyway," an ode to "knowing you're inevitably going to mess up, but having somebody who's willing to forgive you and move on," according to Anderson.In bringing Wide Awake to life, Parachute made a point of "dialing back our thought process and just doing whatever we could to best serve the songs," as Anderson explains. To fulfill that ambition, the trio returned to the same sense of wonder they felt upon launching their first musical project back in 2002. Starting out while they were still in high school, the band quickly began landing gigs locally and soon gained a following at the nearby University of Virginia. As their inaugural release under the name Parachute, Losing Sleep debuted at #2 on the Billboard Digital Albums Chart and climbed to #40 on the Billboard Top 200 chart. Over the next few years, alongwith releasing The Way It Was and Overnight (which shot to the #3 spot on iTunes), Parachute toured with such artists as Kelly Clarkson and Gavin DeGraw, in addition to three sold out headlining tours. "One of the biggest highlights over the years is definitely playing all these venues that we dreamed about growing up," says Anderson. "Anytime we play a show like that, it's just mind-blowing for us."While Parachute's indelibly melodic sound packs more than enough power to electrify an arenafilled crowd, each song on Wide Awake comes from much more intimate origins. "Most of my writing process for this album was very solitary." says Anderson. "I've written with other people in the past, but it was fun to go back to the way I used to write when I was a teenager." And when combined with Parachute's renewed passion as a band, that approach ultimately allowed for an honesty and heartfeltness that makes Wide Awake their most thrilling authentic album yet.
$25.00
Parachute: “With you I still have hope/That this could be my year.” “The New Year”

Mixing full–throttle rock with dollops of blue–eyed soul, vintage R&B and melodic pop radio anthems in–the–making, Parachute has arrived.

The band’s debut Mercury/Island Def Jam Music Group album takes off from the individual members’ shared histories, from “She Is Love,” the ballad torch song and first single, with its Van Morrison–like scatting by lead singer/songwriter/guitarist and piano player Will Anderson, to Nate McFarland’s chiming, The Edge–styled chunks of guitar laced through “Back Again,” “Under Control,” “Ghost,” “Words Meet Heartbeats” and “All That I Am.”

Will has been playing with drummer Johnny Stubblefield, bassist Alex Hargrave and saxophone/keyboardist Kit French since they were high school classmates in Charlottesville almost five years ago. Will met Nate while attending University of Virginia together, and the guitarist joined the band two years ago.

“I remember seeing them at Starr Hill, which is the big venue in town, and they came on to the ‘Mortal Kombat’ theme,” he remembers. “I never would’ve imagined myself playing with them, let alone becoming a member of the band.”

“It’s really gone downhill since then,” teases Will.

With a diverse selection of influences ranging from old–school legends like Stevie Wonder, Elton John, Paul Simon and Journey to newer acts like U2, Coldplay, Weezer, Ben Folds, Maroon 5, John Mayer, Jay–Z, Kanye West, The Fray, and The Arcade Fire, the group began to attract a rabid local following under the name Sparky’s Flaw.

“It’s a cool music scene,” says Will about Charlottesville. “There are so many different types of bands. There’s just such an incredibly eclectic group of people there.”

“While we were still in high school, we used to see a lot of different groups at local venues that inspired us to want to play,” adds Johnny.

That range is reflected in the songs on the band’s debut album, largely produced by Grammy winner John Shanks (Bon Jovi, Liz Phair, Sheryl Crow, Jane’s Addiction, Stevie Nicks). With songs like “Back Again,” one of several tracks fueled by Anderson’s chill–inducing falsetto, and the revved–up “The New Year,” interspersed with more introspective numbers like the single “She Is Love” which was used as part of a national TV advertising campaign for Nivea.

With an eye towards creating music for the radio, Parachute is unapologetic about aiming for popular appeal.

“If no one’s going to listen, why even play?” asks Will. “For us, melody is king.”

Anderson’s songs are unabashedly emotional affairs that try to work out the difference between romantic ideals and the frustration of reality (“Words Meet Heartbeats”), dealing with love lost (“For Liz (She)”), longing (“Under Control”), regret (“Mess I Made”), guilt (“Blame It on Me”) and obsession (the creepy “Every Breath You Take” stalking of “Ghost”), questioning what went wrong (“All That I Am”) and trying to put the pieces together for the future (“The New Year”).

“I tend to write about things I know, that are happening to me,” says Will. “If it’s not really true to us, it doesn’t make sense. We try to make music that people can relate to, that they’re going to want to hear. We question things, try to get to the bottom of it all.”

“Will’s always been good at writing radio–friendly pop songs,” adds Johnny, a self–proclaimed “pocket drummer” who adds his own industrial solo to “All That I Am,” citing DMB’s Carter Beauford, The Police’s Stewart Copeland, The Roots’ Questlove and session veteran Matt Chamberlain as his personal favorites.

“We want to create music people like” nods guitarist Nate, who counts U2’s The Edge and Coldplay’s Jonny Buckland among his own influences. “I’m a very compositional guitarist. I try to make every note count in the service of the song, with a bunch of suspendeds and seventh notes to give it a little edge. We call it Tele–rock because I play the Telecaster a lot.”

For those who question the group’s motives in licensing a song for commercial use, Will comments, “It’s simply a new paradigm,” he insists. “Everybody’s doing what they can to get their music out there. We considered it an opportunity. We’re not going to give our songs to just anybody. Nivea approached us with the spot, showed it to us, and we felt it was tasteful.”

As part of the campaign, the band played before more than one million people New Year’s Eve at Times Square in bone–chilling sub–zero temperatures at the Nivea Countdown Stage on 46th Street.

“I could barely hold on to my drumsticks,” laughs Johnny. “The guys were struggling with their fingertips, but it was so worth it.”

“By the end, I looked down and had three strings left on my guitar,” says Will. “My fingers were bloody, but I was happy as happy can be. That night, we realized exactly why we do this in the first place.”

“We’re doing a lot of new things we’ve never done before,” enthuses Kit, the band’s sax player and keyboardist. “Every day we’re checking new boxes. Yesterday, we did this amazing photo shoot, with a production so elaborate I had to keep pinching myself.”

In fact, the band prides itself on its live show, having toured with the likes of Jon McLaughlin, O.A.R., Switchfoot, Duffy, and Matt Nathanson. Parachute’s fan base is starting to swell on their Facebook and MySpace pages, while the distance they’ve traveled, how far they’ve come and still have to go, is beginning to register.

“I feel really blessed being around these guys,” says bassist Alex. “It all started out loading our equipment in the back of two pick–up trucks, playing to family and friends. This has definitely been a very surreal and humbling experience for all of us. We’ve had a lot of help along the way, and we appreciate everyone for what they’ve done for us.”

“We have our goals and they’re pretty lofty,” chimes in Will. “We’re an ambitious bunch. It’s a lot of fun to get to do this full–time now, but we’re always fighting to get to the next rung, grab the golden ring on the merry–go–round. When we were in high school, we just wanted to play better venues. Attending college, we tried to attract label interest. And now, we’re at the next step, building a national fan base. The joy for us is in winning people over with our music by getting in front of them any way possible. And have them spread the word to their friends.”

In fact, the only down note has been their old friend Sparky’s disappointment, when the band decided it needed a more mature name to reflect their own growth as musicians.

“Unfortunately, he used to pick up girls by telling them he had a band named after him,” reveals Will. “I had to break the news to him when we decided to change it to Parachute.”

“The name just clicked,” says Will. “I think it fits our style of music. It’s like my only hope is sitting right there on my back.”

Make no mistake about it. Parachute is headed for a happy landing.

Kris Allen: When he was seven years old, Kris listened to a cassette of Michael Jackson’s “Dangerous” and his life changed forever. “I’d be alone in my room and I would sing and dance and try different hats on. I’d stand in front of the mirror and try to moonwalk, but it just didn’t work. One night my dad walked in and caught me. I stopped in my tracks but he thought it was hilarious.”

Despite that embarrassing moment, Kris’ parents, Neil and Kimberly, were always supportive of their son’s interest in music and never once suggested that he consider any other career than the one he was most interested in. Neil was a musician himself – he played guitar and sang lead vocals for a rock band called Maxxzoid. He also had a record collection and Kris enjoyed listening to his dad’s albums, especially artists like Garth Brooks, Journey, Queen and Foreigner.

When Kris was born on June 21, 1985, his dad gave up his music career and went to work at a car dealership to support his family. Kris’ talent was apparent as early as the fourth grade, when he learned to play the viola and joined the school orchestra. “I tried to be cool and play baseball. Playing viola is not the coolest thing in the world. I kept going but stopped right before college.”

By that time, Kris had already picked up another instrument. “At 13, I was a chubby little kid trying to play the guitar. My brother Daniel would go swimming all summer so I was home alone and no one knew what I was doing all day.”

Kris never took a lesson, so his guitar-playing was entirely self-taught. By the time he enrolled in college, he knew he wanted to play music professionally. “When I was a freshman I realized I needed to start writing songs.” During his sophomore year, he played his first gig at a local bar. “It was in downtown Conway and the place was filled because it was the bar’s opening night. It was also their closing night. I don’t think it was our fault, because everyone said we played well. That night is when I got the encouragement to keep going.”

Kris played gigs in nearby Little Rock and Fayetteville and recorded a CD when he left college in the middle of his junior year. He continued to play gigs at night while working as a salesperson at Hibbert Sporting Goods during the day.

Though not an avid television viewer – Kris and his wife Katy don’t own a TV – Kris did see the Season 6 episodes of “American Idol” when his friend Sean Michel won praise from the judges during his audition. “It was great to see someone from Arkansas make it to Hollywood.” Living with his parents during season 7, Kris became hooked on “Idol.” In July 2008, Kris’ brother Daniel decided to audition in Louisville, Kentucky, and asked Kris and a friend to go with him. “I didn’t have anything else to do so I was down with that,” says Kris. “We arrived and there were 12,000 people standing there and we were the last ones to sign up. It was intimidating.”

Kris and Daniel survived the first round of judging but only Kris made it into see Simon, Paula, Randy and Kara. Randy was the first to say yes, followed by Simon, then Paula and Kara. Kris and Katy were married that same month and after the honeymoon flew to Hollywood. “I was just hoping to get a little TV time so someone would recognize me and I could start a music career,” says Kris.

Kris made it from Hollywood week to the top 36 to the top 12 and survived elimination week after week, heading into the finale with Adam Lambert. When Ryan Seacrest read the name of the winner, after a long pause he said. “Kris Allen.”

Kris’ path to victory included memorable performances of Bill Withers’ “Ain’t No Sunshine,” Michael Jackson’s “Man in the Mirror” and Kanye West’s “Heartless.” Kris was praised by the judges for his original arrangements of such well-known songs. “What I do is completely forget about the original version and ask myself how I can play the song when it comes to phrasing, chord structure and emotion. I hear what it’s going to sound like in my head and run with it. Hopefully it’s a way that no one has ever thought of doing it before.”

Since the finale, Kris has had multiple songs appear on the Billboard charts. “That was crazy!” he exclaims. “Four months before that we were all unknown. That first moment I knew I had five songs on the Billboard chart was very cool.” At the same time, his finale song “No Boundaries” was No. 1 on the iTunes chart. Kris found out when a friend sent him a text message. “I had no idea. That was crazy, too!”

Now Kris is getting ready to travel all over the United States on the “American Idols Live” summer tour. He’s writing songs and preparing to record his debut album for 19 Recordings/Jive.

It’s been an incredible journey for the 24-year-old who came very close to giving up on having a music career. “I was going to return to college and get a decent job so my wife and I could have a comfortable life together, which would have been fine. But things worked out a different way, and I’m really happy!”

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