Desert Nostalgia: Americana Country Pop Songwriter Parker Ainsworth Drops New Single ‘The Way That It Was’

With a pop rock charm doused in desert-fueled country western soundscapes, Parker Ainsworth delivers the goods on his latest Tom Petty-esque single, “The Way That It Was.”

As a Texas native now living in Joshua Tree, Ainsworth brings the heat with that country roots-rock sound coupled with catchy repetitive choruses, perfect for hightailing it through cactus country.

After the success of his contribution to the soundtrack of the highly acclaimed film The Peanut Butter Falcon last year, he has since developed a strong body of work in his upcoming record Running For So Long. The song, “Running For So Long (House a Home)” was met with much acclaim, and already has seen an assortment of folks covering it on YouTube and sharing far and wide.

The first single from the upcoming album, “The Way That It Was,” just hit airwaves September 21st, already leaving fans eager to hear what’s to come. There’s not much information out there on Ainsworth, but his music does the talking.

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We did however have the chance to fire some questions Ainsworth’s way, and he was kind enough to fire some answers right back.

So who or what got you into writing and making music?

My earliest memories of music were riding around in the car with my mom singing along to the radio. We had some challenging times growing up as a family, but whenever my mother and I were singing together in the car, things felt better.

Do you feel growing up where you did in Texas played a big role in your path to being a musician and songwriter?

I’m not sure it played a decisive role in my choice to pursue songwriting, as I imagine I’d have gravitated toward this insanity one way or the other.

That said, growing up in Austin was hugely formative in regards to my musical tastes, the stories I’m drawn to, and what sounds interest me.

What kind of music were you raised on?

If it had soul, we listened to it in my house, so I grew up with a fairly widespread of records and radio ranging from Satie to James Brown, from Ennio Morricone to The Beatles. In the singer songwriter realm, my diet was pretty thick with Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristoferson, to name a few.

How would you describe your musical style?

Most of the material I release under my own name tends to lean toward Folk, Country or Americana with “indie” or “rock” elements that place it a bit left of center. This current batch of tunes definitely wears more of my influences on its sleeves from Tom Petty to Roy Orbison. In producing this record, I set out to keep it feeling like people playing together in a room as much as possible so there’s moments of an old school Laurel Canyon vibe at times as well.

What made you want to make the move to Joshua Tree?

I returned from Burning Man a few years ago, and felt really compelled to move out to the desert. I’d visited this area several times before but never longer than a few days. When my partner and I started looking for a place to move in together, we realized LA had just got too damn expensive, so we started looking further out. On our search, we found a wonderful home close to the national park with plenty of space for our creative pursuits, so we went for it.

Given your musical style and current residence, I’m compelled to ask if you are a Gram Parsons fan.

I wouldn’t say I’m a fan, but I definitely respect the hell out of his catalogue and think the guy was an absolute Legend in life and death.

What’s your songwriting process like?

It really does depend. Some songs take minutes, others take years. More often than not music does come first, but I have written a great deal of lyrics without music in mind as well. I guess the most basic part of the process is emotion- having an idea of what the narrative feels like. Who’s in it, is it me? If not, how do they think? Where are they going? In this way, it’s always a process of discovering emotions.

So I see where you had a song contribution on the movie Peanut Butter Falcon, which I actually just watched. What was that like, and how much were you involved in its placement?

Such a beautiful film. To be real, the opportunity just arose out of friendship.

LA can be one of the loneliest places in the world, and when I met Tyler and Mike ten years ago, I felt like I’d met family. Over the years we’ve played music together, wrote songs together, listened to one another when life was hard, and supported one another along the way. I’d been cheering those guys onward as they labored on the film for about six years when they first said that they were having trouble finding a swan song. Of course, I told them I’d love the chance to take a swing at it and several months later, they called me around 8:30pm, and I got that chance. I drove over that night with my acoustic, and several hours later we had a song. The way it all shook out inspired me to slow down and connect more often, ’cause in the end, I don’t think it’s about hustling some master plan anymore. I believe the greatest doorways for growth open organically out of mutual respect. In this way, the acquisition of opportunity seems to be more of an offering than a pursuit. 

Your new single “The Way That It Was” just dropped September 21st. What’s the inspiration and influence behind this track?

I co-wrote this song with a fellow named Rob Mayes, a multi-talented dude who’s actually one of the first people I met upon moving to LA. It had been many years since we last spoke and he hit me up to write together. After catching up, we started playing with some chords, and this feeling of letting go of the past to embrace what’s to come. At the time, neither of us could have imagined how this feeling would seem so pervasive a year later.

Can fans expect to see it on an upcoming EP or LP?

Absolutely. This is the first of eight songs that will eventually be gathered into a single release. The album’s name is Running For So Long, named after the song from the soundtrack, and every song is about running towards or away from things in life. All except the last song, which is the antithesis of that.

Do you feel the pandemic has hurt or helped your creative process?

Both? Initially I had planned to start releasing these songs in late June, but had to take a few months to process everything. I work with several other artists in a touring capacity, and when I lost all my work for the foreseeable future back in March, it kind of took my breath away. I didn’t write much or feel compelled to put anything out for a while actually. I’m grateful I took that time to dive in and see where my heart’s at, as we live in a society that doesn’t seem to take much stock in matters of that sort. I’m now not only releasing these eight songs, but demoing ten more and writing up a storm with my friend Jessie Payo.

If you could have a drink and/or a smoke with one of your living idols, who might it be?

Reggie Watts.

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