Sprinkles on Top with Jason Parker

If pop music is the bread and butter of the masses, then Jason Parker’s songs add the bright sprinkles on top. I was lucky to be thrashed at pool (blame my workplace sobriety) by Jason as we talked about his latest single ‘Crash’ from his upcoming EP Fairy Bread. The queer singer just signed with Bigpop Records and is starting to live out his ultimate popstar fantasies (having opened for Paige and headlined at BIG FAN). We also chatted about his journey from paving the rainbow brick road for the queer community with his Little Gay In artist showcase, to going all in with sinking some holes in the music scene.

Jason is bringing honest, vulnerable and memorable dance pop to our radio waves and clubs with his song ‘Crash’ (written with Maude Minnie Morris) and its music video directed by Daisy Thor-Poet. He sings the verses with such soft control in his initial ignorance of romantic issues, before the dramatic hook slams us like the intense body shock and confusion that can follow an unexpected breakup. Such an experience left Jason feeling like “a dead man walking”.

Despite such pain, I swear a permanent sparkle lives in Jason’s eyes. The Waipukurau artist donned a mum-made neon green knitted sweater (as seen in the ‘Crash’ music video) paired with some deep pink Crocs, freshly cut hair and a tall, gay energy that warmed the pool table.

SC: What makes a good fairy bread? Is there an ideal process for putting one together?

JP: The cheapest white bread you can find, the cheapest margarine, and some good quality hundreds and thousands. It’s definitely gotta be low budget, and that’s the most delicious fairy bread.

SC: How does your camp fashion influence you, and vice versa?

JP: My camp fashion is kind of a way for me to feel in control of my own self. it’s a way I can express myself really easily, for people to get to know me without me having to say anything. And I grew up on a farm, so it was quite different but I’ve always dressed like this.

My mum knits all of these jumpers for me. Yeah, so for Fairy Bread she’s knitted one in every colour for every song so ‘Crash ’is green and then the next song will be pink. The next is going to be called “All Of You’, it’ll be out soon.

SC: What was it like working with Hybrid Rose’s latest album HyperKunt on ‘Gorgeous’?

JP: Really awesome. We both were in Wellington at the time. I’ve been a fan of Hybrid Rose for a long time and when I released my song ‘This is My Year’ she actually messaged me saying, “Wow, congratulations.” I was listening to her [music] while I was waiting for 12 o’clock for ‘This is My Year’ to be out. Then we got chatting online and I sent her the demo that I had of that song. She works so quickly that she just sent back an idea and said, “What do you think of this?” A really good experience and we’ve done live shows together. She was in the first version of Little Gay In.

SC: What drew you to signing with Bigpop? How did their kaupapa and services resonate with you?

JP: I started working with Maude [Minnie Morris] at the start of last year and Maude is a producer down at Bigpop. I was just going in there like every week basically, so I got to know Maude really well and the rest of the team: Joost, Chris and Zoë. It just felt like the natural progression, like I’d been there so much and they’d seen me create this from the ground up with Maude. It felt right for them to help release it for me. And I feel so lucky to have run into such kind people.

SC: You’ve written an opinion piece on how the rainbow community doesn’t seem to show up enough at smaller, local gigs despite loving music. Have you felt any improvements since then? What do you think could maybe get more of us out there?

JP: That’s really where Little Gay In came from, it was that whole idea of trying to create a space that was directly for queer people by queer people. Aimed at bridging that gap and maybe if they go out to a gig that is aimed at queer people they will realise, “This is something that is actually fun for me. It’s a really safe, nice environment.” Then, from there they’ll branch out to see other gigs at other venues that aren’t necessarily queer.

SC: Have you noticed it’s the same audience or a growing audience?  

JP: Yeah, same audience and a growing audience too and also, people who I don’t think would normally go out to a gig. I feel like Little Gay In is a good starter, a good taste test. It’s always a really uplifting vibe.

SC: How was your experience filming the ‘Crash’ music video in Osaka? (He and director Daisy won Best Music Video at the New Zealand Youth Film Awards for Jason’s track ‘This Is My Year.’)

JP: Osaka was amazing, I reunited with my friend Daisy to film the video and we took the train lines up and down Osaka. The people were really excited by the filming too. Probably one of the best experiences of my whole life. I got so confused and frazzled about how to get on and where to sit on the Shinkansen but a kind local helped by calling over the train officer and then shared her tea and cookies with me.

SC: How are you finding trying to navigate breaking into the pop scene in Aotearoa? 

JP: I’m coming up to my third year since putting out music, or since making the decision that this is something that I wanna put a lot of effort into. It’s been very welcoming, it’s been a lot of hard work. The hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done. I’ve found a lot of people just want to help and they want you to do well but there are a lot of challenges in the NZ music scene with getting noticed, venues, events. I’ve put on a lot of events myself because I’ve noticed that it was hard to get festival lineups. Kind of Catch-22 vibes, you have to be a certain level to get to a certain level. So it’s been a lot of trial and error. I’m glad that I’ve had to learn a lot to get here.

“It’s been very welcoming, it’s been a lot of hard work. The hardest, most rewarding thing I’ve ever done.”

SC: You’ve said that your previous EP How To Be Lonely was about “myself, my exes and my Mum”. How would you describe your upcoming project?

JP: Fairy Bread is a love and lost story. Taking something plain and making it better, with sprinkles. Letting myself feel confident enough to give myself over to love, be in love, and also when that was over, re-finding myself as a single person and all the bits you can lose when you’re in love.

SC: How To Be Lonely was successfully crowdfunded. How has been securing funding for Fairy Bread? 

JP: I crowdfunded for How To Be Lonely which helped produce a couple of songs and make a music video. I got funding from NZ On Air for ‘Crash’ so that’s so helpful. This time I really wanted to focus a bit more; I wanted to have all the songs ready to go before I released anything, but I got funding from NZ On Air for ‘Crash’ so that was so helpful. One, it just makes you feel like you’re seen in an industry that I really respect and love. Two, it allows you creative freedom because you’re not constantly thinking, “How many hours do I have to work to pay for anything?” Obviously, I’ve got the help of Bigpop this time, which takes the pressure off myself and also is my first experience working with a team of people who are just there for me.

SC: And for your mental health as well, right? They just really care about your work and your emotions.

JP: Very much so, it’s been really beautiful. This time it’s a real team effort.

SC: You feel like you can just lay back on their shoulders and do it together. By the way, I love your fairy bread earrings!

JP: My mum actually sent it to me in the mail. She is my biggest fan, without my mum I wouldn’t be doing this right now. She has been so supportive and I just feel really lucky to have someone that believes in me. It’s kind of hard to tell your whānau that you want to pursue the arts in a serious way because my family are farmers—not that they’re supportive of me—it’s just so far out of the norm for how we make money. Having my mum be so invested from the [first] day…”This is what I wanna do, I really wanna give it a shot.”  

SC: Ever since X Factor as well!  

JP: Oh yeah! [laughs] She has. She’s my biggest fan, now and always. I feel blessed.

SC: How did you feel about the K Road rainbow crossing being painted over recently, anything you want to say to our fellow community?

JP: It made me feel sad for people who think it’s okay to do that and I felt empowered to speak on it for a community where stuff like this only brings us closer together. Queer people, we are kind and supportive and we can’t be erased by just white paint. We’re always going to be here and come back stronger so “Do not bring it on” but we’re used to this. This is not new for us. I think it highlights that there’s still a long way to go for the rainbow community in terms of acceptance…Until we’re all equal, we’re not there. It’s sad that it takes something so drastic . . . but I love K Road you know [laughs].

SC: In honour of Kimbra praising your performance on NZ Popstars, and in the spirit of ‘Crash’, what do you think of reconnecting with somebody that you used to know?

JP: [Laughing] I don’t think there’ll be any reconnecting. I don’t know, queer people are so good at being friends with their exes but I haven’t experienced that yet. The songs are really for me to express my feelings, not to try and piss anyone off or create a new connection. They’re just my way of working through heartbreak or love, so I’m open to reconnecting with somebody that I used to know.

SC: Will your pop culture podcast Kick Ons with Stephanie Moore potentially see a revival?

JP: We did our last episode last month, we’d been going for almost four years . . . The door is open but currently, both Steph and I are putting a lot of effort into other things. We started the podcast when we were both lost creatively. That creativity we had lost has been fulfilled. I met so many people who were really inspiring, who were doing what I wanted to be doing. The more I talked and interviewed with these people the more I was like, “If they can do it, I can do it too.” It was so necessary at the time but it came to an obvious conclusion. It really opened up my mind to what was actually possible.

Doing music and being a pop star seems like such a crazy thought to have. I never thought that that could be for me. I used to go to gigs and watch people and be like, “Far out, I just wanna do that so so so bad, but I can’t”. But then I was listening to all these people with how they were doing it and their successes and failures and I realised “Oh, I could do it,” You just have to believe in yourself. So I’m very grateful for the podcast and for Steph as well. Maybe one day . . .

Jason Parker’s latest single and music video for ‘Crash’ is out now via the independent (and super lovely) label Bigpop Records.

Featured photos supplied.


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