By Jim Schutze
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Once upon a recent time, musicians weren't able to offer up their art for the sake of commercialization—not, at least, without suffering the burn of the scarlet "sell-out" label.
Now, though, with bands seeking new avenues in which to keep their artful hopes alive, the practical decision to craft a product for mass consumption—while still tightly grasping to an individual, artistic vision—has become a challenge as much as a pragmatic goal that might help the artist ensure sustainability.
Patrick Park, a singer-songwriter who has called Los Angeles home for years, has lived his creative life toiling in the sonically pleasing, melodic terrain that so many prime-time television shows adore.
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But being associated with such outlets was never a top goal of his, mind you. Park, whose music was featured during the crowning scene of former teen-heartthrob series The O.C., doesn't share the bitterness of some of his indie colleagues who have gained notoriety from prime-time.
"It's strange for me to be so closely associated with a show like The O.C.," Park admits. "Especially since I've still never actually watched it. I'm thankful, though, that people have started listening to my music as a result of that show."
Such an even-keeled and logical perspective likely comes from the time that Park spent on the roster of a major-label power, Hollywood Records. Home to a predominantly pop-propelled stable of artists, Hollywood ended up being ill-fitted for Park and his approach to music, even if there were good things to come from the deal, eventually.
"They certainly did something," Park says with reason. "I have a career, so I can't begrudge them too much, but it was a really strange fit from the beginning. Now, they really make no bones about being a pop label, whereas back then, they were trying to do some different stuff. But ultimately, they're just a pop label."
Park's perspective regarding the positives that have come from his major label and teen-soap exposure makes sense as he continues to speak of his art in a logical fashion—like when he meticulously describes why his love songs, the standard subject for singer-songwriters who dabble in acoustic folk arrangements, are different from the cute, happy odes that often emanate from the guitars and voices of other troubadours.
"I do write about love in its various guises," he says, "but when I do, I feel like it's more realistic. It's tinged with bitterness, as well as sweetness. It's not the ideal love that most people think about."
It's this sense of reality—a sense that typically isn't discussed during safe, benign exchanges—that gives Park's tunes a stroke of distinction. Such is the case with his latest album, the glossy but still organically true Come What Will, his tenth release.
"I try to explore what reality is," he says. "Are things crappy now? If so, is that on a large scale or on a smaller, more personal scale?"
This search for authenticity in various situations requires Park to mine the emotional core of what really needs to be said. Hope is fine, Park says. But, for him, that's but one part of the larger truth: "Being optimistic or idealistic," he says, "a lot of times, has a sense of blindness, as if things are always going to be fine, no matter what. Sure, I think things will typically end up being fine, but I think it's important to recognize the situation as it truly is."
To sum up his point, Park asks a simple, but often conveniently unasked, question—one that helps him adapt to life's curves. It's a question that aids his pursuit of artistic truth in the face of practical, real life-demands—both in love and in music.
"How can you fix something," he asks, "if you don't identify what is wrong?"