Denise Parent – Deadbeats Drummer Jams Out with “The Songs in My Heart” -By Niki Kaos
Written by Staff on March 1, 2023
A member of both The Deadbeats and Brown Eyed Women, Denise Parent is well noted for her rock-solid dance-inspiring drumming, bringing the Grateful Dead songbook to audiences near and far. Exceptional band members also brought the opportunity to showcase original songs for the dedicated following. If you grew up in the Capital Region music scene, you likely know about the quality experience offered at every show.
With more in her toolbox than drums, solo album, “The Songs in My Heart”, incorporates rhythmic songwriting with percussive skill. I caught up with Denise while she creates an extra special laminate gift for the fans who will be at an upcoming show to learn more about her life as a musician and her latest release.
DP: The Deadbeats, it’s my 30th year.
RRX: Is it really?
DP: Yeah. It’s pretty incredible what we do. What we had, and what we built. And I’m still overwhelmingly pleased when people show up to the shows. They still keep coming. Last year we won The Listen Up award for Favorite Grateful Dead band. That says a lot. It’s been heartwarming to build a community and have friends and fans. I still count my blessings and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to play for people.
RRX: It is heartwarming for me to hear. When I was in my early college years, in the 90s, I remember seeing you on Wednesdays at Valentine’s. You were a role model for me, because you were holding it down. You were a woman musician, but you were just part of the crew. And The Deadbeats created a special vibe for people. As we know, there are now about a million Dead cover bands. But my memories are filled with the sweet nostalgia of those Wednesday nights.
DP: There’s this whole thing about our family. Extended family. People that used to come out every once in a while. And those who come out all the time. And I am extremely grateful, and I use that word knowing exactly what I am saying. I do not take this for granted. And I’m just so fortunate because I love this freakin’ music! I just love it!
I’ve had a good year in 2021. I released my first solo CD. Some songs I’ve been playing with The Deadbeats for 30 years are on that CD. I never really got a live recording from Valentine’s but, talk about worlds colliding. I was playing at Brooklyn Bowl with Brown Eyed Women. It was a great show. And I get to the end of that show. And a fan that I had met from Brown Eyed Women hands me a tape and says, this is for you. This is The Deadbeats from 1996 in Valentine’s. And sure enough. My original songs are on there!
RRX: That’s so cool!
I want to ask you about being in the music scene. People have questions about the survival of local music. You seem to be satisfied with how you’ve done it. Is there something you would say that helped you resolve the difference between being in cover bands versus your original project? What is your secret to not only surviving, but thriving, within the music community?
DP: The Deadbeats have blessed me with many originals. In the days of old, we had Alex in the band. And he wrote a lot of original music. But I was always writing, so we had our music in there for three decades now. And people came out and requested those songs. So that allowed for an easy crossover, because we were doing it for people who liked it.
I knew I loved to play original songs, but those gigs are not going to be as profitable, monetarily. And you really gotta get people in the door. Whereas the Grateful Dead does that all by themselves.
I can remember growing up learning the Zen Tricksters on Long Island. And the Zen Tricksters, still to this day, are my favorite band. They have a great scene. But there would be some people who would yell out “Play a Dead song” after they played an original.
Now I’d be sweaty, all out of breath, raging on the dance floor to their originals, because I love the band. But there are people who just want to hear the Dead. They don’t want the other thing. So, you find a fan base that allows you to do both and stick with it. The Zen Tricksters did have a fan base that allowed for that.
I’m very fortunate to have seen that there is a power in the crossover. And there are bands who can play their own songs, and that gave me the encouragement to go out there and do it.
RRX: Let’s talk about your album “The Songs in My Heart”. I would say the first song, “Shangri La” sets the theme for what you put together. And the lyrics and music throughout the album reflect that blissful place. That place of gratitude that you mentioned.
DP: Well, there is a real inspiration for “Shangri La”, and I’ll tell you if you want.
RRX: Please do!
DP: It’s written about a family trip when I was about one year old to this place in the Catskills called Shangri La. It was a restaurant. I do believe it was the summer that Woodstock was going on, so I’m dating myself now.
My parents and two of my older siblings, my brother, sister and I went up there. Let’s just say…maybe about nine months later, my younger sister was born. But…(laughs)
So, I wrote that song for my family, kind of about that trip. I talk about mommy and daddy, and then my older sisters in the first verse. And then my older brothers in the second verse. And then there’s me. And then there’s my younger sisters in the last verse.
There’s a story there about my family. And a little bit of a funny thing about planting seeds to grow and the little double entendre you can have there. But that’s really what that’s about. I love writing about my family because I feel very fortunate to have grown up in such a loving household. I don’t let that go without being said and repeated, as many times as I can.
RRX: I think that’s what I was connecting to. That love. But via my experience with your other family, through your music. I love learning that this song was about your born family, but for me, as someone who is not blood related to you – I felt like I was part of a family listening to that song.
DP: Oh cool! I love that!
RRX: It was really comforting, and I wanted to hang out. Grab a plate of food and hang out with you all on your vacation.
DP: That sounds like a great place. I think we should bring back Shangri La. I don’t think it’s there anymore, but you know, it could be a place for people who are on their way somewhere. They could come in and get a hot meal, and a friendly conversation.
RRX: We’re on to something there!
I especially liked your lyrics throughout the album. For example, “Happy Love Song”. It’s a little tongue in cheek, maybe, but upbeat? Fun and flirty. Was that what you were thinking when you wrote that song?
DP: Right on! Completely. It’s all tongue and cheek. It was two truths and a lie kind of thing.
RRX: We can do that to ourselves. Two truths and a lie we tell ourselves, and then when we look back at it… I have this thing about interpreting music lyrics for my own emotional needs, which I think many people do as listeners.
DP: We all do that. I think that’s why people don’t want to say what the song is written about, because so many people have their own opinions of what it might mean to them, but I’m open either way. But I do understand that mystery and let them have their own meaning. But I wrote Shangri La for my family, and I’m happy to say that. Because I love my family. So I’m a happy camper in that regard. I’m going to give thanks.
RRX: Your video for the song “Get Over It” is so much fun! People should check it out on YouTube under Morning Sun Smiles.
Thank you for taking the time to talk with me. You have an amazing March lined up, including the Dark Star Orchestra after-party at Parish Public House in Albany on March 10th. People can keep updated at deadbeatsny.com, browneyedwomen.com and mistymountainramblers.com.