Parachute: For the Record

Charlottesville natives Parachute celebrate homecoming after a year of touring

Parachute is returning to its roots. After a year of national touring and the release of its album Losing Sleep, the band - comprised of University and local high school alumni - will return to Charlottesville to perform at the Jefferson Theater April 30.

These local boys have toured with bands like O.A.R., Switchfoot, and 3 Doors Down, most recently supporting Kelly Clarkson on the international leg of her tour. Moreover, they've performed live on shows like Good Morning America and Jimmy Kimmel.

Yet despite their phenomenal success, Parachute's members are down-to-earth, easy-going and great conversationalists.

How do we know? tableau was very excited to have the opportunity to chat with Will Anderson, lead singer and main songwriter. Anderson embodies the perfect balance between boy-next-door charm, a great sense of humor and amazing talent. He's still looking for - and writing about - his ideal girl, dreams about working with Elton John and has never forgotten his Charlottesville beginnings. He also provides insight into the crazy year following his graduation from the University, giving us an intimate perspective on the life of a recording artist.

How would you describe your style of music?\nI'd say we're a rock band, with melodic pop songs and soul.

And how was your music influenced by the Charlottesville music scene?\nThe Charlottesville scene really taught us how to be a band in general ... We learned a lot from the local artists we went to go see and played with. We were definitely the bratty high schoolers who pestered them with questions, asked them how to get gigs and if we could open for them, but they were really accepting of us as part of the artist community.\nMusically, obviously [the Dave Matthews Band] was a huge influence on us and was the reason we started playing music, but a lot of the local bands that have come and gone while we were in high school and college helped us realize what we did and didn't want to sound like, and the kind of music we wanted to play. It's such a diverse scene, so it was really cool to find our place in all of that and where we fit in, musically speaking.

What was your favorite class that you took at U.Va.?\nMy favorite class at U.Va. was any class with Ted Coffey in the music department, or Gary Gallagher's Civil War overview, even though he kicked me out of the lecture one day for celebrating after beating our guitarist Nate in chess.

That sounds like the Gallagher we know and love! Any other fond memories that you'd like to share? Did you streak the Lawn?\nI streaked the Lawn about once every week or two. This is actually true. And I will never forget tanning on a beach in Italy in a man-thong during one of our summer trips with the Virginia Gentlemen.

What was it like to get signed? And what advice would you give to aspiring musicians?\nGetting signed was such a crazy, whirlwind process and probably one of the most exciting times of our lives. We were getting flown up to New York City on weekends, out to Los Angeles to meet with people, all while still in college and going to class on weekdays.\nIt was a lot of fun seeing that many people being interested in our music, and our label, Mercury, was the one we just felt most comfortable with and who was the most passionate about us as a band. For aspiring musicians who want to take that route, I'd just say write as many songs as you can and listen to the radio a lot. If you write good songs and can play them well live, people are going to come see you. And once we got a lot of people to come see us consistently, the labels took notice. Now that we're able to look into their operation, it's amazing to see how aware those labels are on the local level all around the country. If you can build up a following, they will find you.

I understand that you supported Kelly Clarkson on her "All I Ever Wanted" tour. What's it like to open for an artist like Kelly Clarkson?\nTouring with Kelly is amazing. She's an incredible, incredible singer. To get to see that vocal power live, it's like nothing any of us have ever gotten to witness. I'm not just saying that because we're on tour with her. I have never ever seen anyone sing like Kelly does. And she's fun to hang out with.

How do you balance your growing popularity and your original musical vision? Do you ever feel pressured to change the way you write/perform music?\nI think we've all grown as a band since our time in high school and at U.Va. We're undoubtedly a better band now after touring and playing as many shows as we have. I think that improvement as individual musicians and a unit as a whole, has moved us into a sound that's a bit different from where we started. But the overall vision has always remained the same, which has been to write great songs that people enjoy listening to. But we've never felt pressured to sound one way or the other. We like the instruments we play and make a sound that we as a band have always been drawn to, which just happens to be a very accessible, mainstream kind of sound.

What is your ultimate dream when it comes to your musical career?\nThe ultimate goal, or dream, if you will, is to make music we like and are proud of and to get it into as many people's ears as possible. That and getting rich enough to buy our own private jet.

So what's the craziest, most surreal thing about the entire process - getting signed, touring internationally, and performing on national television?\nIt's all seemed pretty surreal so far. The day we finished classes our fourth year, we flew to Los Angeles for the week, flew back for graduation day and then flew out again that night to go record more. So it's been pretty crazy from the get-go. The most surreal part for me is to get to wake up every day and remember how awesome the show was last night, then realize that you get to do it again that night, and the night after, and the night after that. Sometimes it feels like we tricked just enough people so that work for us involves getting to do what we love, and that alone is the craziest part of it all for me.

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