Molly Parmenter Full of Surprises at The Island Merchant
By: James Thomas, August 24, 2012
“I don’t like a lot of distraction in my songs,” says singer/songwriter Molly Parmenter. “I want my music to be very straightforward.”
Parmenter is a fixture at the Island Merchant in Hyannis. Most nights of the week she is a bartender par excellence—but on Wednesday nights, the Centerville resident takes the stage to perform a slate of emotionally-exposed originals and little-performed covers.
“For me, music is mostly about saying the things you otherwise would not be able to say,” she says. “When you open yourself up to being truthful about who you are and how you feel it allows you to connect with people.”
Hear for yourself...
Molly Parmenter plays an acoustic set every Wednesday at 8:30 PMThe Island Merchant 302 Main Street Hyannis
If you’ve gotten to know Parmenter as the quiet girl behind the bar, you might be surprised by the cutting honesty of her music. She writes with genuine candor about her experiences and the straightforward manner in which she tackles the tough stuff cuts right to the quick.
Another surprising discovery about your mild-mannered bartender is that she’s an excellent guitarist with a strumming style all her own. Parmenter combines elements from across the musical spectrum into a diverse acoustic style.
Percussive elements are a particularly strong suit in her playing; she gets full orchestration from the instrument by adding subtle slaps with her bottom hand. But the most striking feature of Parmenter’s music is her wonderfully atypical chord progressions; her vocal leads are pure intuition.
Under the influence
Rooting out where it’s all coming from is a sophisticated question.
“My biggest influences are singer/songwriters like myself. Songwriting has always been the most important aspect,” she says. “I don’t consciously try to sound like any particular genre or style, but I believe that you will sound like what you love without even trying.”
Parmenter’s influences may include usual suspects like Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, and Joni Mitchell, but it’s evident that her heroes run the gamut into soul singers like Otis Redding, Marvin Gaye and Aretha Franklin, too.
In fact, one of Parmenter’s mainstay covers is Aretha’s Do Right Woman/Do Right Man. Although she brings acoustic sensibility to the tune, it’s still dripping in the Queen of Soul’s signature brand of femininity.
“I’ve always been drawn to women in music. My earliest musical obsessions started with women of the indie-folk scene. I branched out from there,” she says.
Speaking of her roots, Parmenter’s earliest teacher was her father, an accomplished guitarist. She hit the coffeehouse circuit at age 16 and stayed active for about five years. Then she just walked away.
“I was not playing at all,” she remembers. “To be honest, I hadn’t written a song or even picked up my guitar in years. I just fell out of it. I don’t know why.”
Then Parmenter took the bartending job at the Merchant. “Working there and being surrounded by live music so often made me realize how much I missed writing and sharing my music with people,” she says.
Fortunately, she had gotten the bartending gig through an old coffee house connection with Island Merchant owners Joe and Bev Dunn. When Parmenter floated the idea of a comeback, they gladly suggested Wednesday nights.
“Music is absolutely my passion in life, and once I started playing and singing again I realized that this is what I should be doing.”