by Shaun Knittel -
SGN Associate Editor
After a 22-year break from music due to depression and anxiety, Seattle vocalist Karin Parks won the second season of the Capitol Hill Talent Contest at The Grill on Broadway (314 Broadway E.). Now, the 51-year-old singer is scheduled to headline Karin Parks Live: Many Voices. One Diva. One Night. at the same venue on December 21.
'Channeling the voices of divas of every sort from Barbra Streisand to Beyoncé, including some holiday favorites, Karin will warm your heart and blow your mind with her velvet voice and soulful style,' said Les Sterling, operations manager at The Grill on Broadway. 'Come to The Grill, grab a martini or two, and settle in for a night you won't soon forget.'
Seattle Gay News caught up with Parks to talk about her past, the upcoming show, and her hopes for a better tomorrow.
'After a 22 year break from music due to depression and anxiety, it was much, much harder to start back over, all over again from scratch,' said Parks.
The entertainer tells SGN that winning the Capitol Hill Talent Show was a very touching moment. 'To get that bit of recognition in my hometown meant the world to me and it was an affirmation that I need to keep going and will continue pursuing a singing career as long as I live and can get as far as fate will allow.'
SINGING A 'SOOTHING RUSH'
Singing is how Parks deals with life's curveballs. When something is bothering her, she says the simple answer is to sing it out. 'It's an emotional comfort, an outlet.'
'Singing is a very deep and profound expression and exposes vulnerabilities,' Parks told SGN. 'I used to sing to toys when I was a little kid. I could be a very anxious kid and an anxious teenager that grew into anxious and depressed adult, and singing gave me a soothing rush. After I got help for anxiety and depression, I feel I can do anything - and being able to sing was the penny that dropped and proved to me that I was back on my feet.'
Parks has lived in Seattle and the Puget Sound area since she was five. 'I was very wayward in my 20s and decided to take off to London, but ended up in Dublin, Ireland,' she recalled. 'I started my singing odyssey by answering an ad for a female singer in a local record store in Dublin, called Freebird Records. I performed there for five years and now going on two and a half years here in Seattle.'
AN ALLY SINCE CHILDHOOD
Parks describes herself as a 'staunch ally' to the LGBT community. 'Growing up with anxiety and depression was tough enough as a straight kid, but I had several friends through grade school and high school who went through absolute hell and were terrified to come out,' she said. 'And by the magic of Facebook I am back in contact with several of them!'
'The passage of Referendum 74 was a civil rights milestone,' she said. 'To see people have joy and the equal right to marry the person they love was watching sheer happiness. It's not often that we get to witness heartfelt sheer happiness!'
Like most artists, Parks has conviction. She told SGN that she believes no one should go hungry in this world. 'I am a caretaker for my elderly parents so senior care is a huge deal with me. Because I am a caretaker and I used to cook for musicians, feeding people is an instinct for me. The hungry, the elderly, the homeless, the sick, and those down on their luck are something that we as a society need to be aware of and help anyway we can.
'With the abundance of food in this nation we need to have help resources for people who need it,' she added.
Parks is also an animal lover who says, 'I try to give where I can to shelters, food drives, and rescues.'
HER BIG BREAK
Among the interesting yet little-known facts about Parks are that she once cooked for rock stars U2, Simply Red, Waterboys, and Chris de Burgh in Dublin. While cutting sandwiches at a Dublin rehearsal studio, she landed the opportunity to do a demo song for a film with Def Leppard members Rick Savage and Joe Elliott, titled 'Hyperactive,' in 1987. Parks made seven TV appearances with local Dublin bands doing backing and lead vocals on Saturday morning kids' shows and 'The Late, Late, Show with Gay Byrne,' who at the time was the Irish equivalent of Johnny Carson.
She told SGN her biggest vocal influences were Barbra Streisand, Shirley Bassey, Judy Garland, Cher, and Robert Plant. 'I love Eddie Vedder and the guys from PM Dawn,' she added.
'I listen to absolutely everything from PM Dawn, Led Zeppelin, to Dean Martin, the Clash, '60s girl bands, Motown, John Legend, and Al Green,' said Parks. 'I literally will listen to anything.'
'JUST DO IT'
If you are thinking about following the path of singing onstage and entertaining people for a living, Parks says, 'Just do it. Put one foot in front of the other and keep going, work hard, never assume anything, get along with people, and build good relationships. Respect is imperative.
'Know when you need to ask for help and always do your research,' she continued. 'Record all your rehearsals. Develop a thick skin and be skeptical of the word 'no' but be honest with yourself. It's a long haul.'
Singers often come from a place of great sorrow or great happiness. The best performers are extreme in all they do, and Parks is no exception. She told SGN that for her, for now, the sorrow part is gone. 'Now that I think I've reclaimed my life I am just starting to experience more of the happiness. Cheers to the future!'
Karin Parks' upcoming show at The Grill on Broadway is sure to be an unforgettable night. 'This show will focus on a combination of old and current classics showcasing some our world's most famous divas, but a few fun holiday numbers as well,' she said. 'I am hoping it will be an evening of people being able to enjoy the best vocals I can deliver. I research my songs very carefully so there will be some dance numbers as well as classics.
'I'm serious about pursuing a singing career, but not in a pretentious way,' she added. 'I don't have gimmicks and really want people of have a good time. It's a milestone night where I really try to anchor myself as a solo artist. I really look forward to it.'
FEELS 'AT HOME' ON HILL
Parks has nothing but love for her fans. 'When you have an audience that is willing to sit there and listen to you, you do your best to give them a nice evening and a great performance,' she said. 'I believe in treating my audience like they are guests in my home.'
Karin Parks Live is scheduled for December 21, from 8 p.m. to midnight. This is an all-ages show and there is no cover charge.
'I love my audience - especially my Capitol Hill audience,' said Parks. 'There's just so much diversity and acceptance. I feel very much at home here.'
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