It's been close to two years since Rudy Parris performed on NBC's singing competition "The Voice," and while the Visalia native has kept busy with steady gigs, he's also been laying low.
"I was kind of waiting for the natural progression of this type of thing," says Parris, a singer, guitar player and longtime fixture of the local music scene.
He might soon also be described as heir apparent to the Bakersfield sound. Parris recently inked a deal and is in the middle of production for an album scheduled for release later this year.
On "The Voice," the 48-year-old performed a stripped-down, country version of The Police's "Every Breath You Take." The song earned him a spot on Team Blake (coached by country star Blake Shelton) and a listing on the iTunes rock charts. Ultimately, Parris was gone after the season's first two rounds.
But the show was a turning point in a career that had already lasted close to three decades, Parris says. "I knew it was going to do something big for my career. You're playing for millions of people. Something's got to give."
That something happened in March, when Parris signed with Warrior Records, an independent label based in Los Angeles. Warrior, which is distributed by Universal Music, is home to the likes of Eddie Money, Benny Mardones, Louis Prima Jr. and the Bombastic Meatbats, which features drummer Chad Smith of Red Hot Chili Peppers.
Ironically, the record deal had little to do with his performance on "The Voice." Warrior Records CEO Jim Ervin was introduced to Parris' music through a friend and was quickly impressed by Parris not as a singer or performer, but as a songwriter — especially on "Cowboy Cry."
"That was what initially drew me toward wanting to produce him as an artist," Ervin says. "There are great singers on every street corner, but there are no original songs for them to sing. I wanted this album to be a showcase for Rudy, with compositions entirely written by him."
Parris recorded and submitted more than 30 songs for the album — simple demos, written with just his vocals and a guitar. "If we were unable to feel the strength of a song and lyric from such a bare-bones recording, then I didn't want it to be a part of this project," Ervin says.
Twelve of those songs will be released on the album.
The songs tend toward country, but with more edge, Parris says. They are a culmination of the singer's 28 years in the business.
"People that know me, know I do everything," Parris says. During his club gigs he's been know to play reggae and ska, funk and rock and obviously, '60s and '70s California country. Parris spent eight years in residency at Buck Owens Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, where he played alongside Owens himself.
"The Bakersfield sound is not dead," Parris says. "We're not going to hide the fact that we are from here."
When it came time to start recording, Parris was offered a trip to Nashville. He opted to travel to Hollywood to record at Capitol Records Studio B, the studio where Owens and Merle Haggard created, in the 1960s, much of the material that would come to define country music's Bakersfield sound.
"I'm doing what my heroes did," Parris says.
While Parris has recorded the majority of the album with his brother (and longtime bandmate) Abel Parris, he's also bringing in guest musicians including Chad Smith, guitarist Michael Lee Firkins, Pat Vegas (who founded the band Redbone) and several of the original members of War.
Parris even has a duet with Hank Williams III, with whom he played guitar on a tour in 2003.
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