Caravan du Nord back in Austin

Published 4:43 pm Saturday, October 5, 2013

Charlie Parr

Charlie Parr

As a boy, Charlie Parr remembers seeing a movie at Austin’s Paramount Theatre and being captivated by the castle facade architecture, even believing people lived in the buildings depicted in the design.

Parr will soon be the one bringing stories and tales to the Paramount’s stage through his folk-blues songs.

At 7 p.m. Oct. 11, Parr will perform at the Paramount when he headlines the Caravan du Nord’s return to Austin, a show that will also feature the Cactus Blossoms and Full Circle.

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“Playing a show at the Paramount is pretty amazing, because I remember seeing a movie there when I was 5 years old,” Parr said, who added he doesn’t remember what movie he saw, because he was focused on the Paramount’s architecture.

Parr, a renowned folk-blues musician, grew up in Austin as the son of two parents who worked Hormel Foods Corp.

“Back then we called it Hormels,” he said, emphasizing the S.

Parr remembers living on the outskirts of town overlooking corns and soybean fields, but one of his most prominent memories was riding his bike from one end of town to another and being outside.

“It was a great town for bike riding,” he said, noting that Austin is still a great biking town.

Parr also remembers going to Klagge’s Ice Cream Store east of the Cedar River on Fourth Avenue Northeast, but it’s been closed for many years.

“I wish I could there again,” he said.

Though Parr now lives in Duluth with his wife, Emily, and their two children — 6-year-old daughter Talulah and 12-year-old son Elijah — he still has many family members living in Austin and near Hollandale. He frequently comes home to visit his mother, and he still enjoys taking a bike out for a spin, often on the new trails in Austin.

Parr has said he did so-so before he dropped out of Austin High School during his sophomore year. Parr spent several years unfocused and playing a little music before getting his General Education Diploma and enrolling at Augsburg College in Minneapolis. He would spend seven years working toward a philosophy degree.

Parr moved to Minneapolis in the mid-1980s, moving back to Austin for a short time to be with his ailing father in 1994. Parr spent several years working to help the homeless in the Twin Cities and Duluth, but he eventually started to burn out. He’d started playing in several clubs and centers in the Metro area, and his wife suggested he take a break from outreach work to focus on his music for a while.

Parr has been recording, performing and traveling as a musician ever since.

Music with roots

Though Parr’s music has taken him as far as Australia, where a filmmaker he knew used his music for a commercial that gained popularity, and to Ireland and Europe, he is still tied to Minnesota’s music scene. Parr touted Minnesota’s vibrant music scene, a scene he describes as one that is always changing and adapting and consists of a community of people always willing to help one another.

“It’s amazing, it’s real fluid almost the way the music scene is here,” he said.

That scene isn’t limited to the Twin Cities. Parr and other Duluth-based musicians like Low and Trampled By Turtles have attracted much more attention in recent years.

“I think Duluth is getting a lot of good attention, and rightfully so because folks worked hard,” he said.

While he’s pleased with the recent notoriety, Parr said Duluth has had a vibrant, active music scene as long as he’s lived there. More people have just noticed in recent years.

“They’re going to have the music scene whether anyone else pays attention to it or not,” he said.

Parr is excited to again partner with the Caravan du Nord, a traveling concert series sponsored by 89.3 The Current and presented by the Minnesota Music Coalition — two groups Parr praised.

“They’re just great,” said Parr, who touted Minnesota as having a unique and positive music scene that he’s proud to be a part of.

Along with the Oct. 11 concert, The Caravan du Nord will again host artist workshops in room E102 of Riverland Community College’s East Campus earlier that day. Parr will speak speak from 3 to 4 p.m. with The Current’s Bill DeVille. Though he admitted he’s not a big fan of public speaking, Parr said he owes a debt to folk music and the musicians who’ve helped him. That inspires him to do whatever he can to talk with other musicians and encourage them.

“It’s folk music. We all get to have it; it’s our music. We can all play it,” Parr said.

‘Really, really worth it’

Despite his respect for other musicians, Parr is typically a one-man band, often traveling and performing alone.

“I’m kind of a long haul trucker who doesn’t deliver anything,” he said of his travels.

Despite his success, Parr said music is not an easy business, and gas prices often cut into his earnings.

“I’d say it’s hard, but frankly it’s been really, really worth it,” he said.

Parr described himself and his family as frugal, as he stocks his truck with food at grocery stores like Superfresh in lieu of eating at restaurants.

Parr admits he can get nervous when worrying about expenses and finances. But, a big part of the business depends on a musician’s goals, whether their chief measure of success is making money or playing music.

Though he released his 11th studio album, “Barnswallow,” in February, Parr is already looking ahead to his next release, which he anticipates could hit stores by summer.

“I’ll be recording again around the new year,” he said.

In fact, Parr has already written most of the material for the upcoming album, but he needs to decide where and how to record the new songs.

After he performs in Austin, Parr will continue a busy schedule. He’ll play six shows in Minnesota, then he’ll play in Australia and Los Angeles before heading home for Thanksgiving. He’ll tour the southeast in states like Ohio, Virginia and Tennessee before heading home for Christmas.

He’ll test out the new songs on the tour.

“It’s like trying on clothes: You have to kind of break them in, see how they feel,” Parr said.

Despite a busy upcoming schedule, Parr said he’s looking forward to coming home to Austin.

“It’s always good to come back to town,” Parr said.

A day of Caravan


The Caravan du Nord tour, now in its third year, is once again turning its stop in Austin into an all day affair.

Tickets for the concert at $10.

Artist Workshops

At Riverland Community College, Austin East Campus, Room E102

Booking and Touring on a Budget

2 to 3 p.m.

With Jennie Knoebel (Paramount Theatre), Sara Horishnyk (Xylo Entertainment), Wendy Larson (musician), Ellen Stanley (Minnesota Music Coalition).

Conversation with Charlie Parr

3 to 4 p.m.

Hosted by Bill DeVille of 89.3 The Current

Social Hour

4:30 to 5:30 p.m. at Dusty’s Bar & Lounge

422 North Main Street

Cactus Blossoms

Cactus Blossoms


7 p.m. — Full Circle

7:45 p.m. — Cactus Blossoms

8:45 p.m. — Charlie Parr