If you’ve ever seen Kill Bill: Volume 2, Silver Linings Playbook or Dawson’s Creek, you know the music of Ambrosia Parsley. Parsley, along with her former band Shivaree, and her current collaborators, the Elegant Too, has been making music for almost two decades. Weeping Cherry, Parsley’s first album in seven years conjures ghosts of her past. It’s the kind of album you find yourself slow dancing to at a party long after everyone else has gone home or passed out. It is an album of both angst and zest. As she says in her song, “Only Just Fine,” “how could anyone ever win, let’s begin the tears…” Well, Ambrosia Parsley, if you insist.
Weeping Cherry is Parsley’s debut solo album, which was first released in France in 2013 and only now brought stateside. It’s been hailed as “a work of reflective therapy,” a time in which Parsley described her year of turmoil: grief, loss, and death of many family members and friends close to her. Fresh off her New York premiere tour, Parsley described her musical hiatus, her collaboration with E2, and the message of Weeping Cherry.
Hafizah Geter: Weeping Cherry is your first album in almost seven years; were you still actively making music at this time? What was the process of getting back into the recording studio after this hiatus?
Ambrosia Parsley: I’m a singer, so I probably couldn’t stop singing if I tried. I did though, start doing lots of other things too. I had a baby, I sang to him. We moved to the country for a while, I sang in the woods. I was a barber, I sang in the shop. I just stopped driving around in vans full of angry musicians, in the northeast, say… in February. I stopped going to places like Texas or San Diego.
Through it all, I never stopped hanging with E2. Sometimes we’d work, sometimes we’d eat or go dancing. Eventually, there was a record. It happens. You can’t just screw around in the studio without consequences, you know?
HG: How has your your music evolved from your time with Shivaree to your solo career collaborating with the Elegant Too?
AP: Well, E2’s worked on every Shivaree record there is, so that’d likely make them more qualified to answer that question then me. I’d say, as a writer, I suppose I strive for a certain elegance. I’d like to believe that my tailoring has become more refined and maybe less frilly. I’d hope that I cut an increasingly more unmistakable silhouette as the years go by. Like Hitchcock or Vivienne Westwood.
HG: What was the impetus to leave Shivaree?
AP: Everything has a lifespan and bands are no different. The joints get sore. Hearing and vision start to fade. They get sick, cranky, parts need replacing. People die. That said, everyone who played on Weeping Cherry has done time on the Shivaree rock pile. It’s just another life, a new dream, an evolution.
HG: Of Weeping Cherry, you describe it as “basically conversations with dead people” and that “album is more exorcism than exercise.” This evident in the ghostly sound that carries throughout the album. Did this album serve as a catharsis for the loss you’ve experienced?
AP: It’s my love letter to some very dear, very dead friends. If love can’t fix you up, nothing will. So, yes. It did.
HG: You’ve been in the music biz for quite awhile, during a time when technology has really changed how it’s produced as well as how it’s consumed. Have any of those factored impacted the music you make and how you reach your fan base?
AP: Oh sure. The craziest part is that music is free now. Back in my day, we actually got paid! Fucking nuts, right?!
HG: Your music has been featured in movies and TV shows such as Silver Linings Playbook, Kill Bill: Volume 2, and the iconic Dawson’s Creek. What is it like to have your music, in those moments, become part of a cultural consciousness?
AP: I feel like we’ve been really lucky there and I’m a big Tarantino fan, so that was just a thrill. I’d love to get something into an animated flick one day. I have a few songs about a pirate queen, if Tim Burton has some left over puppets I could borrow for a while …
HG: Weeping Cherry was first released in France, before being released in the U.S 18 months later. Is that a surreal experience? To have you music out in the world, but not yet out in the country you inhabit? Was there a reason you chose France?
AP: My career has largely been based in France for years, so no, that was no surprise. I was hoping it could come out here around the same time, but fuck and alas, it’s a crazy, mixed up world. Thankfully, now more then a year later, we can finally say we hope you enjoy it.
HG: What is your favorite song on Weeping Cherry and why?
AP: I’m fond of “My Hindenberg.” I like to think that Tracy Thielen (who it was written for) would’ve approved.
HG: For writers of fiction, nonfiction, poetry they work to find their “voice,” or narrative style—they way they will sound to the world. As a musician, when was it that you “found” your voice or sound, or is it an ever-evolving process?
AP: I’d like to go with “ever-evolving process” for $300, please.