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ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
Orange Pop: Dana Parker's stew stirs orange pop
The performer from Fullerton has found success pursuing an eclectic musical muse.
By ROBERT KINSLER
Special to the Orange County Register
It's rare when an artist's style is immediately accessible even while defying easy classification.
Such is the case with Fullerton-based Dana Parker, a singer-songwriter-keyboardist who blends jazz, pop, blues and occasional bits of classical and electronica into his intoxicating sonic stew.
"I've never been told I sound like anyone else," Parker said. "I'm really thankful about that."
Parker titled his most recent full-length album "Eclectic" for good reason. On the original instrumental "For Commercial Use Only," he masterfully showcases his skills playing blues, while "Change" boasts a soulful mix of R&B, jazz and electronica set against samples of President Kennedy's inaugural speech.
On "Dear Veda," Parker's pleasing baritone navigates a beautiful ballad; "Where You Need to Run To" is a piano-anchored midtempo gem that dwells in territory as far away as it is familiar.
Parker's classical-bending "Mozart Funk" is by far the CD's best-seller on iTunes, MSN Music and MP3.com. His albums are also available online through Borders.com, CDbaby.com and TowerRecords.com.
"When I first came out here, it was depressing. I felt like I had to compete," recalled Parker, who moved to Southern California from his native Rapid City, S.D., a decade ago at 17 to attend Musicians Institute in Hollywood.
"Now, I've reached a happy medium. I feel like I don't have to compete."
Shortly after arriving here, he met producer Dale Kimberlin and Gwen Gordy (sister of the legendary Berry Gordy) and began a four-year stint working at Park Hill Music Gwen Gordy Studios in a number of duties, ranging from studio musician to musical director and producer. After the death of Gwen Gordy and the subsequent death of Kimberlin (who was then owner of and producer at the Hemet-based facility), Parker decided a change was in order.
After graduating from Fullerton College, he went on to complete both his bachelor's and – just this past spring – his master's in commercial music from California State University, Los Angeles.
Now he is busy stepping out and showcasing his remarkable skills as a composer, songwriter and singer. At a recent performance at a Borders Books & Music store in Costa Mesa, a steady stream of customers were lured into the café to watch him; many came up during an intermission to chat with him and purchase "Eclectic" or copies of previous efforts "Kicks Iron" or "Project 3*2*7."
Parker said there are advantages to releasing "Eclectic" on his own label, DR Parker Productions.
"I think at least with this project, I never had to do what people told me to do," he said.
And while Parker has just started promoting "Eclectic," he is already writing and crafting material for his next project.
"We test material all the time; I'm constantly writing and evolving," Parker said.