Midwest folk in Marquette

Anthony Viola

Charlie Parr’s voice crackles on the phone. He has just come in from shoveling snow at his Duluth, Minn. home.

“You could sweep it as well as shovel it,” he said. “It doesn’t feel like winter without the snow.”

Despite of the lack of snow in Minnesota, he said he’s excited to come to Marquette. He played at the Ore Dock Brewing Company over the summer and looks forward to coming back.

“I love Marquette,” he said. “I’d live in Marquette if I didn’t live in Duluth.”re-CharlieParr_web color

Parr is joining Jonathan Rundman and Erik Koskinen for a concert hosted by Northern Nights. The show starts at 7 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 31 at the Kaufman Auditorium.

Parr’s life as a full-time musician is only about 11 years old, but he’s been playing since he was a kid.

So, when the opportunity came to leave his day job and pick up his National resonator guitar to play music full – time, it was a no brainer.

“It never really felt like a choice,” Parr said. “I played all the time anyway. I was playing the guitar since I was a kid and music has been the one big passions in my life.”

His music draws from the folk tradition, a culture that he said he has always felt connected to. Folk allows the freedom to participate, Parr said.

“The folk process that Pete Seeger always used to talk about allows you take deep tradition and add your thumbprint to it,” Parr said.

Parr’s thumbprint is a unique mix of blues and folk. It lives in old master tapes from the ’30s and dreams of his father’s old record collection.

Parr joins old friends for this show.

“Charlie’s a friend of mine,” Koskinen said. “I don’t even know if [the people that planned the show] knew if we knew each other or not.”

Koskinen said he has known Parr for 12 years, ever since Parr opened for him in Duluth. At the time, the two were both getting their start as full-time musicians — a profession which, according to Koskinen, is harder than any other labor job he’s had.

“There’s a lot more responsibility to it than having a job working for somebody,” Koskinen said. “But the benefits are pretty great.”

Koskinen said he has been playing music since he was a kid. His father gifted him a guitar after his parents divorced. When Koskinen moved across the country with his mother, he spent most of his time learning the new instrument. The sound he’s developed over the years has been influenced by every aspect of his life, he said. From living across the country, to the musicians whose albums he produces. The no-nonsense attitude of the U.P. — he lived in Copper Country — has also seeped into the music he makes. He hesitates to call it Americana and explains that it’s much more than that.

“It’s all based off American roots music,” he said. “Blues, country, rock’n’roll, jazz. I just like all music that’s good, so I base my music off of what I think is good.”

Jonathan Rundman, a U.P. native from Ishpeming, first played with Koskinen in the ’90s in Houghton.

“[Koskinen] is a great musician,” Rundman said. “I’m super excited to play with [Parr and Koskinen].”

Like the other two musicians on the bill, Rundman got his musical start at an early age. He started playing piano in fourth grade and tried to emulate the music he heard on the radio and on MTV. A self-proclaimed music nerd, he dreamed of playing music for a living. Since he was 18 years old he’s lived that dream.

Six albums later, he is still going strong. His most recent album, “Look Up” was released last month. The inspiration for the most recent album was to do something big, something sleek, with a high production value. The result is something different than he has ever done before, he said. The poppy sound of the new album comes from the influence of women pop stars like Taylor Swift and Teagan and Sara. However, when he is on tour, he plays acoustic sets, which lend a more folky sound to his music.

His midwestern folk rock roots lay firmly in the soil of the Upper Peninsula.

The lack of activities in the wilderness of the north led Rundman to look toward music for entertainment.

“I would come home from school,” Rundman said, “and I would just play instruments for five hours, ya know. I could be obsessed with music because I wasn’t distracted by urban life.”

Another highlight of Rundman’s early music life was coming to Marquette and seeing Jim and Ray play at Vango’s.

“It was every Thursday night,” Rundman said. “Ray’s a great guitar player. I think I learned a lot of tricks from watching those guys.”

Tickets for the show are $6 in advance or $7 at the door for students and kids, $14 or $16 for NMU employees and seniors 60+ and $19 or $21 for the general public.

All are available at any NMU EZ Ticket outlet.