While Hunter Parrish is best-known for his role as the eldest son of the mom-turned-pot dealer played by Mary-Louise Parker on Showtime's "Weeds," new fans of the actor are likely unaware that he has a strong musical background. Parrish, who starred in the recent Broadway productions of "Spring Awakening" and "Godspell," always intended to record his own music, a career goal he'll finally realize with the release of his debut solo EP, "Guessing Games," on June 26.
"It's so weird to be an actor and say, 'Oh, well, I sing, too!'" Parrish says over the phone during a break from shooting the eighth season of "Weeds," which starts July 1. "I never wanted anyone to be my fan because they like 'Weeds.' I appreciate that, but the truth is I want to make music that people enjoy. I know there's a delicate balance -- I don't want the album to interfere with my acting career and vice versa."
Part of maintaining that balance was Parrish's decision to release the EP, which contains six songs originally meant for a full-length album, on a small label called Layer Cake. The imprint was formed in Los Angeles by Dan Pringle and Leah Haywood -- the songwriting/production team responsible for Nicki Minaj's "Marilyn Monroe" and Demi Lovato's "Unbroken" -- nearly two years ago with the intention to "help artists develop in their embryonic stage," Pringle says. Parrish is one of two acts on the label, and Pringle and Haywood also co-wrote and produced "Guessing Games."
"I want to make my music, and not music that people want to put into a certain box," says Parrish, who met Pringle and Haywood (who work under the moniker Dreamlab) through a now-defunct development deal with Warner Bros. "Would I have turned down a big record contract? Who knows. But at this point, I need to make my music before I make music that other people want."
After meeting in 2009 (and later jointly penning album opener "Oh Mother"), Parrish and Dreamlab officially joined forces in 2011 and spent the year writing and recording at the duo's Los Angeles-based studio whenever Parrish had time off from acting. Parrish, who plays guitar and piano but let session musicians handle the tracks, was interested in a "folky sound." He co-wrote songs on the EP with Pringle and Haywood, bringing in lyric ideas for each number.
"What's great about co-writing is that Hunter learned you can get better-quality songs by bouncing ideas off somebody," Pringle says. "Our priority was to keep the blue-eyed soul in there."
Though the music sounds like it could have been made by a cousin of John Mayer or Jason Mraz, the final EP is, at this point, only being released digitally. In fact, there isn't any marketing plan and the disc's single, "Sitting at Home," was released only two weeks before the EP. Considering Parrish's acting career, there likely won't be a major U.S. tour in support of the release, though the actor hopes to perform a few one-off shows in the coming months. "Obviously, he's already got a pretty decent fan base thanks to his other ventures," Haywood says. "So we thought, 'Why don't we just get a start by putting it out on our own and see what happens?'"
Parrish, who would like to release a full-length album later this year, adds, "It's not like I'm doing this for money or to have a career. It's for me. I want this for myself. I've always loved music, and I need to have a voice of my own."