Photo by Mark Cluney

“Why on earth would I do that?” recalls Molly Parden of her initial reaction to the suggestion that she write songs several years ago. “There are already so many songs out there! So typical of the middle child—‘Why would anything I do matter?’” she laughs. Parden, who grew up with six sisters and two brothers, says music was never really something that brought the family together, though it was always playing in the house. “I grew up going to church, so we listened to a lot of worship music, never Johnny Cash or The Beatles, or Elvis. I never knew they were out there. I thought music was Britney Spears or N’Sync, and it never sounded appealing to me,” she says with a chuckle. “It’s fun now to finally come around to older music that’s new to me. I just discovered The Gin Blossoms. People are like, ‘Oh, I bet you’ve heard this song before,’ and I’m like, ‘I promise I haven’t.’”

While her gateway was childhood violin lessons, a teenage tomboy phase changed her trajectory. “A lot of boys played guitar, so I wanted to do that too, and I really liked it,” she says. “I thought I was so cool because I could play John Mayer songs.” When she finally heeded the songwriting suggestion, a new world opened to Parden. “I wrote a poem and put a melody to it. It truly was an accident, I didn’t know I could do it. I would try to get my younger sister to sing harmonies with me, but she would always end up on the melody. I think my sisters just preferred to listen. Sometimes I felt very alone. Mostly it felt awesome because I was like, ‘Finally! Something to set me apart!’” she adds with a laugh. “When I was about 20 or 21, I’d written maybe three good songs, and I had just discovered Mindy Smith. I just loved her voice and how she made her words sound so fragile. I wanted to sound like her. That’s honestly what I’m trying to do, be Mindy Smith-lite. I really learned from how she is so emotional when she sings. She’s one of my biggest influences.”

In 2013, the Georgia native relocated to the the Music City and worked as a studio vocalist, contributing her uniquely captivating harmonies to over 50 records—for artists like Andrew Combs, Sam Outlaw, Matthew Perryman Jones, Peter Bradley Adams, Ron Pope, and many more—in just a few years. On tour with folkster David Ramirez until mid-December (which brings her home for a show at Mercy Lounge on December 8th), Parden is gearing up to release a full-length album of her own, a follow-up to her 2011 debut. “I got together with Juan Solorzano to record, he’s my favorite guitar player. He has a studio in his house in Madison, Tennessee, and we started tracking,” she explains. “It’s been my most pleasant studio experience. I really trust Juan’s instincts, and I knew that whatever direction he wanted to take my music in would be good. I can’t really say that about a lot of people. At first I was frustrated by the process, I’d gotten so used to going into the studio to sing on songs that were pretty much done, my job was to just add to the lead vocals with supporting harmonies. When I went into record this time, I was like ‘Why doesn’t this sound already done?’” she laughs. “I was like, ‘This is gonna take a while.’”

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