DFW Music News

Parker Twomey Stays Cool As His Star Rises

Parker Twomey is a favorite musician among his fellow musicians.
Parker Twomey is a favorite musician among his fellow musicians. Mike Brooks
Deep into the month of July, Dallas is in the midst of a heat wave that won’t go away. The grass is brown, the creeks are dry and the asphalt melting. Shirts stick to the backs of the patrons at the White Rock Coffee shop who are escaping the hellscape that lies outside. Only one customer seems unaffected, a lanky young man in faded blue jeans and a clean white T-shirt. His name is Parker Twomey.

Twomey is an emerging talent in the music scene. Riding the high of a first album release, his  effervescence seems to rub off in conversation. Talking to Twomey feels like putting your feet up and popping a cold soda on the back porch. His stories have an intriguing combination of youthful curiosity mixed with multiple years as a touring musician.

He still has vivid memories of his first solo gig, at age 10 during church. Twomey's father Matt, a musician in his own right, has been a constant source of support. At church that day, Matt passed his son a handwritten note along with his well-worn Martin guitar and pointed toward the stage.

“I knew immediately I’ll be doing this forever,” Twomey says.

The torch had been passed, and before long Twomey's dad was backing his teenage son’s bands.  Twomey still has the '90s-era Martin.

Outside, the noonday sun continues to scorch the city, recalling Union Army General Philip Sheridan's quip that if owned hell and Texas, he'd live in hell and rent out Texas. But what old Yankee Phil didn't know is that Dallas would host one of the most effective incubators of young artistic talent in the country, the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, making all summer hell worth it to parents raising a talented teenager.

Twomey stops and searches for the right words to describe the magic that takes place behind the institution's brick walls.

“It’s not about competition, it’s just being around all that creativity," he says. "It just fuels something in yourself. It's stimulating. I don’t know if it’s the school or the community, but I came out of there feeling like I could do anything. It's probably something a lot of students at Booker T. have in common, that belief in themselves. I think it's contagious.

“And it’s not just the music teachers. My English teacher [Scott Davison] introduced me to Henry David Thoreau’s On Walden Pond, and it reprogrammed my whole philosophy and outlook on life.”

Besides being a pretty darn good guitar picker, Twomey can play a little piano, and when pressed, he might show off his harmonica chops as well. While singing in church and going to a good high school helped form him, those two things alone probably won’t get you on stage with a major honky-tonker such as Paul Cauthen, aka the Big Velvet. Playing piano did, and still does. Twomey will be on tour with Cauthen through the remainder of 2022.

While he was still at Booker T., Twomey says he started picking up work at the Modern Electric Sound Recorders studio. Nothing musical at first, just learning the basics of recording, like cleaning things up and winding cables the right way. Like Booker T. Washington, Modern Electric has its own history of cultivating Dallas talent. Leon Bridges has used the studio and the Texas Gentlemen come in and out like a local version of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. As school was winding down, and Twomey's role at the studio was expanding, Cauthen was looking for a keys player for his upcoming tour, and Twomey was just the ticket.

Twomey’s own album All This Life, released mid-July, is precise and reflective in its lyrics and instrumentation. Producers Beau Bedford and Matt Pence helped fill out the sound to get to Twomey’s ultimate vision, but underneath the skin of the record is still the heart of a singer-songwriter. Like the earliest work of Paul Simon, Twomey's songs would be right at home at a folk music festival.

“I think I’m naturally a reflective kind of person,” he says.

Building the full sound for his album with additional players was based on trust and compatibility. It all starts with Twomey's vision of the music, with some allowances for exploration based on that mutual trust.

"My English teacher [Scott Davison] introduced me to Henry David Thoreau’s On Walden Pond and it reprogrammed my whole philosophy and outlook on life.” – Parker Twomey

tweet this

Playing with a larger-than-life personality like Cauthen gives Twomey a chance to spread his wings and try some stuff musically that’s a little more raucous. And he loves it.

“Paul is like a big brother to me,” he says. “Our personalities are so different, but maybe that’s why we work so well together. I see him do things that I want to incorporate in my own shows and put my own spin on them. And then there are other things he does that I just know wouldn’t work for me.”

Like always, Twomey is watching, absorbing and reflecting, looking to see what he can learn about bringing that honesty to his own music without imitating, but as Parker Twomey.

“I won’t write anything if it doesn’t feel authentic to me,” he says.

As the tour goes along, Cauthen is letting Twomey expand his role by mixing in some of Twomey’s own songs into his sets or getting him to open for some of the shows. Asked about touring in support of his own album, he just smiles and changes the subject.

But Twomey is happy to land on topics as wide ranging as Stonehenge and castle hunting in the U.K., astrology and a music seminar in Sweden. Outside, a couple debates the role of global warming in spontaneous combustion. Twomey is still the only one without visible sweat. He’s right where he wants to be —  observing, taking it all in, and storing the good bits for his next piece of music. 
KEEP THE DALLAS OBSERVER FREE... Since we started the Dallas Observer, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Dallas, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Mike Brooks