Parker Millsap let himself “go down musical rabbit holes” a little more on his upcoming album, Other Arrangements — whose closing track “Come Back When You Can’t Stay,” is previewing exclusively below. And that’s a marked difference from what the guitar-slinging Oklahoman did on his three previous, spiritually focused releases.
“I think on this one I didn’t have a ton of expectations going in,” Millsap tells Billboard. “I feel like all the other previous records I had something in mind and I shot for it and they inevitably ended up being something else and I kinda got my heart broken. So for this one I was more concerned with the process, having a good time and writing songs I would want to play live in front of people rather than trying to craft something with specific goals from the outset.”
The result on Other Arrangements — which Millsap made with much of the same production and playing crew as 2016’s The Very Last Day — is a wider range of material, from the textured “Your Water” and the African-flavored “She” to rocking tracks such as “Let A Little Light In,” “Gotta Get To You” and “Fine Line.” The gospel-tinged “Come Back When You Can’t Stay,” meanwhile, also opened the door to co-writing, after Millsap penned the track with Jillette Johnson, who also plays piano and sings on the track.
“The big to-do in Nashville that everybody does is co-writing,” says Millsap, who moved to Nashville three years ago and met Johnson during a session where he was playing guitar. “We got together and she had the title and a good chunk of the chorus but it needed verses, so we worked together on those and she had tweaked the chorus and we had a song and it felt great.” And so did writing with someone else, Millsap notes somewhat grudgingly.
“I’ve been doing some more of it,” he reports, “and so far it’s been hit or miss. It’s different every time. A whole industry has developed around people getting together and writing songs. It’s like you have to make friends and then get into it, and I’m OK at making friends but not amazing at it. But people here do co-writes all the time, so when I moved here I figured, ‘Let’s give it a shot.’ I’m open to it, but it’s not what my mind is focused on most of the time.”
Whatever Millsap does will likely catch the attention of Elton John, who’s been a fan and supporter since Rosanne Cash turned him onto Millsap’s self-titled sophomore album in 2014. John subsequently invited Millsap to perform with him and his band in London, and even a few years later the experience is “surreal.” “It’s funny; The first couple of times he called I denied it,” Millsap recalls. “I thought, ‘This is a weird number. This has got to be spam,’ so I denied the call. And then I was on my buddy’s farm that same day and my manager called me and said, ‘Do you have service? Elton’s gonna call you later today. Be somewhere where you have service!’ — and I was in the middle of Tennessee. We were on our way to Home Depot to get some equipment to build something on the farm and the truck broke down on the side of the road, and then Elton magically calls. It was kind of a weird day.”