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Meet Claudio Parrone Jr.

Today we’d like to introduce you to Claudio Parrone Jr.

Claudio, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
I’ll start by saying that I was born and raised in a town called Kenosha, WI. I began doing music back in High School. I was in choir, and I was in a band called “Hello Horizon”. We had a good little run for a couple of years. Played a bunch of shows, finished an album (never released it. We’ll save that story for another day), had a little jingle on the radio, etc…However, though we were finding success in our hometown, it all came to an end once myself and our bass player, Jake, left for college. Shortly after leaving for school, I was diagnosed with severe depression and severe anxiety. I was miserable. So, I dropped out. While I was away at school, though, I began teaching myself guitar and piano. We had 24-hour access to practice rooms, so I spent a lot of time there.

Once I returned home, it was very hard adjusting to regular, everyday life in the real world. I stopped playing guitar and piano, I stopped writing, I stopped acting, I stopped all my artistic endeavors. I was very discouraged. I fell into an even deeper depression that would last about 4-5 more years. In spite of my inner battles; however, I would get back into acting. I moved to Milwaukee and did a handful of plays and films over the course of about two years. In that time, I had started playing music again. Started writing again. I had been invited to a little jam session of sorts with my friend Robert, along with two men who would later become friends/mentors to us both, Jerry and Walter. At our second session/rehearsal, Walter asked me to a play a song that I had wrote. I can’t even begin to explain how nervous I was. These men have been playing music for 30-40 years. Who was I? Eventually, I mustered up the courage and played him a song called, “Better Days”, that I had just finished writing. Afterward, he said, “That’s a great song! Where can I buy it?” Once I told him that I had nothing recorded or released, he advised me to change that ASAP. So I reached out to another mentor of mine, Dan. Dan helped me get my first single, “The Answer”, recorded and released in May of 2016. Shortly after that, I moved back home to Kenosha.

Once I moved back, I made it a point to make some money and pour it all into my music. Fully committed to this dream, I went broke countless times. Played some shows here and there, reached out to bigger venues, but it wasn’t looking good in the booking department. I told myself I needed more music out, and soon. So in 2017, I released 2 EP’s and a couple of singles. This would buy me some more time. Another exciting project I got to be a part of that year, was an album called GUNS, which was produced here in L.A. This album would open a lot of doors for me over the course of the next year. I started working on this project in 2016 while I was still living in Milwaukee. Then in 2017, I came back out to L.A to finish working on the record. It would eventually be released in the latter half of that year. The team then wanted to produce a music video of one of the songs of the album. They decided to go with the song I was featured on, “On Columbine”. Upon the release of the video, more doors opened up for me. So much so that it was finally time to make my dreams a reality. It was time to move to Los Angeles.

Once I decided I was going to move, I began production on my first solo album, “A Boy from Somewhere”. I tracked this album in Chicago with DZ Records for about four months before I moved. I was living in L.A for about two weeks before I started working on it out here with Ari Blitz of AfterMaster Audio Labs. Again, fully committed.
Being a fully independent artist, you have two choices. 1: Sit on ideas, waiting for the right time. Waiting to be a little more liquid financially. Or 2: Go broke with the belief that one day, it’ll all be worth it. And I don’t mean worth it in terms of the financial payoff. I mean worth it in terms of the feeling of satisfaction and relief that you’ll have once you are able to see an idea of yours turn into a piece of art. When you can translate something from your head, into the real world. It’s unlike any other feeling I’ve ever had. As you can probably guess, I have and continue to go with number 2. And every day, one way or another, I’m reminded of the payoff.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Every road is going to have its bumps along the way. That’s how you know it’s worth taking. So no. It has not been smooth. With that being said, it’s been amazing! I don’t ever regret going down this path. Most of the struggles that I’ve experienced have not been directly related to the music, but more so to my personal life. Mental/emotional illness is a very hard maze to navigate through. Add to that being a teenager trying to decide what to do with your life. It’s a pretty good recipe for struggle.

As far as struggles in my music career, I’d say the biggest one that I’ve faced is, if I’m being totally transparent here, money. Unfortunately, you need it. You don’t need a ton. I’m not saying you need millions to make things happen, because that’s just not true. But I’ve never once been able to comfortably pay for any musical project that I’ve done. I’ve had to reach out to family/family friends for loans, I’ve done two crowdfunding campaigns, etc…All the while, playing shows, selling merchandise, getting more and more streams on my music. This is when being an independent artist gets to be tough. The business side of things. You are responsible for EVERYTHING. Which is awesome at times! But I am my own, manager, agent, producer, songwriter, marketing consultant, etc…It’s a lot of hats to wear, especially when I’m only really knowledgable in 2 or 3 of those areas. I just kind of, figure everything else out as I go. Which I’m learning is more common than I thought. BUT! I will say. I take everything in stride. I know that these struggles aren’t forever. Sure, I will be faced with new ones in the future, but there’s not much I can do about that now. So. I choose to be optimistic. I keep my intention, and my purpose in the forefront of my mind at all times. There isn’t much that can slow down a strong mindset.

We’d love to hear more about your work and what you are currently focused on. What else should we know?
I am an independent singer-songwriter. I consider myself just as much of a vocalist as I am a songwriter. I’d say I am more known for my voice than anything else, though. I do get love for my lyricism, however, the first thing that people will mention is my singing.

As of right now, I’m most proud of this national tour that I just did with SoFar Sounds. With no prior knowledge or experience with booking shows, I booked a solo acoustic, 18 city tour. I got a good little email package together, sent it along to city after city, waited, bugged them again, and made it happen. Most cities I had never even traveled to before. So getting to see those places, while playing music, was pretty remarkable.

I didn’t realize how big of a deal that tour was when I was putting it together. Until, in just about every city, someone would come up to me and say, “How did you manage to pull this off? This is crazy.” That gave me some perspective. It’s very hard for me to pat myself on the back. I never think it’s warranted. But in this case, I allowed myself to do so.

I booked the shows, the flights, the train rides, the bus rides, the hotels, the air bnb’s, etc… It was a lot, and I mean a lot, of stress that I had never experienced before, but I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything else in the world.

I think what sets me apart from others in terms of artistry, is my approach to my music. Obviously, most people will have their own approach, however, I believe my approach to writing “Pop” music, is unlike any that I’ve seen or heard. I put Pop in quotes because that genre is ever changing. It’s simply, “what is popular at this time”. That being said, I don’t see anybody else in the genre releasing fully conceptual albums. Where each song is connected, whether that’s sonically, or through the stories and messages of the songs. Each song on my debut album, “A Boy from Somewhere”, flows into the next. There is no break in music. Meaning, it’s very hard to have any stand-alone type singles on the record. However, we found ways to make it work. My engineers on the project have been working in the industry for 15 and 30+ years. They both said that it was the most ambitious project they had ever worked on. I take that as the grandest of compliments. I strive to push myself, and my limits with everything that I do. So the fact that I could push those gentlemen as well is an amazing feeling, and quite frankly, an honor.

I’d like to say that what sets me apart as a person, is my work ethic. Which wouldn’t be a lie. I do work relentlessly. However, the truth is, there are tons of people that do what I do, who also work extremely hard. So, I’ll shy away from that. But I think what does separate me from the pack, is my imagination/ambition. Often times, I’ll have an idea that sounds a little crazy. I’ll bring it to someone that I trust, and that I want to collaborate with. I’ll ask them, have you seen/heard this done before? More often than not, they say, “No.” My response is always, “Then let’s do it.” Ideas that aren’t realized are nothing. They do not exist. I don’t want to go through my entire life, having never existed. So no matter how against the grain an idea of mine is, I do everything in my power to see it through. Whether that means, working more hours, doing odd jobs, I find a way to make sure that it sees the light of day. If it freaks me out, I usually run towards it. That’s where I’ve found the best payoffs.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
What a question. Wow. Well! When I was 16, I got to perform at the International Thespian Festival, in Lincoln, Nebraska. It’s a huge theatre showcase/conference if you will, for High School theatre productions across the country. The musical that my school brought was, “How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying”. I played Finch, who was the lead in the show. It was a very beefy part. The show was about 2 hours and 45 minutes long, and I was on stage for all but maybe 15 minutes of it. I attacked the character in a way that I hadn’t attacked anything before. Every spare second I had in my day was devoted towards learning that entire script. I knew all the lines. Not just my own. I adored every second of that process.

With this new found drive, I discovered that I loved performing. I made the choice then and there that this was not merely a hobby of mine. I was going to do my damnedest to make this my life. Sharing stories, in one way or another. So, we were opening the festival that year. Which meant two sold-out crowds of 3,000, in one night. A truly unbelievable experience for any 16-year-old kid. The show starts with my coming down from the rafters on a window washing pulley system. As I reach the bottom of the pulley, the crowd starts to scream/cheer in a way that I had never experienced before. It was overwhelming. I hadn’t done anything yet. Throughout the show, the audience and I built up an even stronger report. By the end, when I took my bow, I was brought to tears by the response. At that moment, I realized that I had something. I had something that I had to share. It was now my responsibility to share this with as many people as I possibly could. Performing took on a new meaning. In my darkest of times, the only thing that brought any light into my life was performing.
It quite literally, saved my life.

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Image Credit:
Photos by: Savana Danoski, Robert McDowell, Em Kinville, and Stacey Houston.

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