When Lake Highlands resident Parker Twomey performs on the Dallas Arboretum stage as part of their Friday night Garden Gigs series July 28th, it will be a new experience. Oh, not the part about performing live in front of hundreds of people. The Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing Arts junior has performed at the Kessler, the Winspear Opera House and House of Blues – just to name a few.
Twomey, a singer/songwriter also frequently seen playing in Dallas nightclubs and coffee shops, will be making a rare outdoor appearance. And he can’t wait.
Twomey (pronounced “too-mee”) and I sat down for a burger at Shady’s to chat about how he’s preparing for the gig and what it’s like to have such a large following at the ripe-old-age of 16. We were only interrupted once by a cute girl who came over to say how much she loved his new song.
That cute girl is clearly a big fan. Does being young and handsome make it easier to become a success in the music business?
It’s hard for people to take me seriously, actually. I wish I was older. People’s first thought is Justin Bieber, but I’m going for the alt-country, Americana thing. I don’t think people expect that from a 16-year-old.
How do you describe your music?
How old were you when you first remember listening to music?
When I was 7 or 8, I stole my dad’s iPod. I would sneak into the closet and listen to Red Hot Chili Peppers and Rush. Then, when I got a little older, I found Elliott Smith and Centro-matic, and [lead singer] Will Johnson became one of my biggest influences, in music and just as a human. Those are two musicians that pushed my love for music in a whole new direction.
Do your friends ask for music suggestions?
At Booker T, we all learn from each other. Before Booker T, I would have never listened to music like jazz or classical, and I think that has inspired my music.
How did you learn to play guitar?
When I turned 11, my dad bought me a guitar and taught me a few chords. I didn’t really know how to play, but I knew a few chords. We had just started going to Munger Place Church, and Brian, the youth leader, asked if anyone knew how to play guitar. I said I did, and he said, ‘great, you are on next Sunday.’ I went home and made myself learn, and every Sunday I would be pushed to learn the songs being played that week. When I turned 12, Brian left Dallas and the youth band needed a singer, so I started doing that. Then, Kate Miner, the leader of the church’s main praise band, pulled me up on the big stage. I started playing with older musicians – singing, playing guitar and piano, doing the whole music thing. If I hadn’t said I knew how to play guitar, I don’t think I would have felt the pressure to do it.
So was that fib a bold move or a stupid one?
Bold. I have a lot of drive. Music is the only thing I can see myself doing in the future.
You write all your own songs. How do they come to you?
Now I try to write a little each day. In the past, I wrote when inspiration came to me. It’s like the ‘10,000 hours rule’ – the more you do it, the better you get. I enjoy writing now that summer’s here and I have more time. I spend all day writing songs.
Your song Hospital Waiting Room, for instance. Where did that come from?
We converted our garage into a music studio, and I have huge pieces of paper tacked on the wall. I write words or phrases there that pop into my head, and I use them for songs. My sister, Brooklyn, had just been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. While the song isn’t about her, just seeing her go there and seeing people there inspired me. I sit down and start strumming my guitar and record a melody, then I go through my notebook and find lyrics that make me feel the same way. That’s a song.
What’s your favorite – writing, performing or recording?
They’re all really different. I enjoy song writing because it is an outlet. When I was little, I wrote short stories about football players or whatever I was thinking about. Performing is different. I love being on stage. I feel comfortable. It’s the best feeling in the world when you connect with an audience – it’s almost like a conversation.
Are you looking forward to your Garden Gigs performance?
I am. The Arboretum is a big place. There will be a lot of people, and I think I will reach a new audience. I hope Lake Highlands and East Dallas people will come out. I will be a fun Friday night.
Twomey’s answers have been edited for clarity and brevity.
Garden Gigs runs from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m., and tickets for members ($8) and nonmembers ($10) may be purchased here (parking is included). Also performing July 28th will be Kate Miner and Shayne Green. Guests can bring in blankets or low folding chairs and either bring picnics or buy from food trucks on site. The sunset view over White Rock Lake is free.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AgldUwdV8ss