All Of You Belongs by David Daniel Parker

David Daniel Parker is a DIY indie folk musician currently based out of Nashville, TN. I was incredibly excited to have the opportunity to chat with Parker about his latest EP All Of You Belongs released May 25, 2024. Warm and inviting, the EP offers listeners some much needed positivity.

Described by Parker as “an album about belonging, deep real love with yourself and your friends,” the opening track is appropriately titled “All Of You Belongs.” I find a lot of beauty and comfort in this track, particularly as a member of the LGBTQIA+ community. If you ever need the reminder that you’re worthy of love, just as you are, I’d recommend turning on this song.

This is followed by “Long, Long Time,” a song that feels like watching a summer sun set with someone you love. All Of You Belong then closes with the track “Bud,” an upbeat folksy song about the love that lasts for your friends, no matter where your paths may diverge. Reflecting along with the song upon my own experiences, I found the lyrics, “My foundation has some cracks / You were there when they first broke” particularly hard-hitting.

You can read the interview with Parker discussing All Of You Belongs below, slightly edited for brevity and clarity.

Kaitlyn: So, how long have you been putting out music? I was checking out some of your older stuff, it goes back to 2015, yeah?

David: It’s been a while. It’s been I think eight or nine years. Before that I still had a Bandcamp going, which I think for good reasons I have let dwindle away into cyberspace because it just wasn’t. It was barely songs. I think I didn’t really know how to finish a song at the time. The first song that I put out was I believe in 2015. So 9 years this December. Then I put something out about a year later, then about a year after that, and it just kind of kept going. It’s definitely been a maturing process for myself to be learning about who I am through what comes out naturally as I’m trying to create and just seeing what’s inside that wants to connect with the world.

It’s easy to get discouraged at this point of the process. It’s like, have I said everything that I want to say? Is there anything else to engage with in the world or is that it? Is it just sad and everything sucks and there’s no hope anymore? I’m really tempted to think that, but I’m pushing against it as best as I can, trying to see some good in the world. That’s what a lot of writing has been for me. It’s just trying to shape and see the world differently.

K: Yeah, I definitely get what you’re saying. What helped inspire you with this EP?

D: There’s a lot of different stuff. The first track on All Of You Belongs is the name of the EP, but it’s also the mantra of what I’ve been learning personally in a lot of recovery and therapy and learning about broader and more accepting ways of seeing the world and seeing other people. The first song I had written out of a pretty difficult relationship, but at the same time seeing my youngest sibling through a lot of identity changes. They were just having a really hard time feeling accepted by the family, by a lot of their friends, and it was really just a reaction to that of thinking through all the different parts of a person and how much better it is to be alive and to want to live when you can accept for yourself that all the different parts of you have a place and they don’t need to be shunned away from or ignored for the sake of being accepted by people. Fuck that. I’m into creating a world where people get to be accepted no matter what is going on. That was a huge inspiration and that really bled through the other songs as well.

The second song I wrote is called “Long, Long Time”, which is also the title of an episode of The Last of Us. It came out as pretty controversial because the episode was about two men falling in love. I was crying by the end of the episode. I rewatched it a couple of times ‘cause damn, like, if zombies are here or not I want love like that in my life. I identify as bi, you know. I’m not as involved in the culture as a lot of people have been, but through a lot of my friends and through some media and just learning and asking questions, I don’t know, there’s just something about powerful love that just breaks you down and makes you cry and makes you dream and I wrote that song out of that. Out of a reaction to that, like, that’s what I want. I want a love that’s going to last forever and after I die. It was definitely a huge inspiration. I used a lot of metaphors from that episode and how I was taking it and how I was feeling it.

The third song that’s on the EP is called “Bud.” I wrote it for a lot of good friends I haven’t seen in a long time. I mean, I moved away from them. I was the one that left the area and they’re all still in the same general hour vicinity of each other, which is like ten hours away from me. I’m from Pittsburgh originally. I wrote it just about I guess identifying how I can want to separate from people and then want to just get sucked right back to them. It’s weird, all the reasons why we don’t talk to people for a long time, and then all of a sudden you bump into them and it’s like, “Oh hey, you’re still a person, that’s crazy. You’re still alive, like you survived all this shit.” So it’s kind of just a love song to a lot of my friends and to a lot of new friends that I’ve made in this new area. A little bit of just an anthem for anybody that cares a lot about their friends and, even if they’re in different places, they still mean a lot and you still want to encourage them.

So, a lot of different concepts were inspiring this EP. I guess it feels like a diversion from a lot of other stuff written because I spent a lot of time working on break up songs and songs railing against the way that things are in the world. I think there’s definitely a place for all of that and I love a lot of that kind of music. I just felt like it would be most helpful for me to write about things that felt inspiring and hopeful because the world is really fucked up right now and, even just personally and for the friends that I have in my life, I felt like people need something good to help them smile sometimes and make them cry if it’s in a good way. That’s what was inspiring for me. Kind of a mission to push more good into the world and help people accept themselves and love each other. It sounds like some hippie shit but that’s literally what I was doing.

K: I really respect that. I think the positivity and love in that EP really shines through. So, how did you end up in Nashville?

D: I moved here about two years ago this month. I kind of felt like things were drying up and slowing down for me in Pittsburgh. I had a lot of history there with a lot of different people, and there were some relationships that had really gone sour, and I just recognized there wasn’t much more that I could do at the time or I should do. Like, maybe we all just kind of need to go different ways for a little bit, so that primed me that maybe something was coming, maybe there’s something that I can dream about. 

I had a friend that’s still a good friend of mine. His name’s Andrew Tyson. He was the guy that produced a couple of songs on it and mixed and mastered it for me. His band Real Face was slowly relocating to Nashville altogether. I had played lead guitar for his band in Pittsburgh for a couple of years, up to the point where he moved, which was like three, maybe four, years ago now. I would call him a couple of times a month, sometimes a couple times a week, just to catch up and hear how things were going for him in Nashville. I just loved the music he was making and he was helping people make. He started peppering it in there like “Hey, you know, you could do this too if you want to. Why don’t you move to Nashville? You can just give it a shot.”

It just seems so scary to me for a while like, damn, and leave all these people? So many good connections. With all the difficult ones, there were great ones too. It still hurt a lot that I couldn’t see him whenever I wanted to. I can’t just call him and say, “Hey man, let’s get a beer, just sit in the basement and talk about random shit.” It’s different. We’re in different places, but I felt like it really would be best for me to get to explore myself in a new city in a new place. So I took my friend Andrew up on it. I said, sure, man. It was crazy. They had him and two other people from the band already living in an apartment together. One of the shittiest apartments probably in the Gulch, like, everything else had been torn down and replaced by a tall and skinny, but the place we were in was like. It’s just one level, a triplex that was very old and dilapidated and just kinda slowly falling apart. When I first moved here, I was living out of my Jeep actually. I was a carpenter. I’m very new to a different job now, but I was a carpenter for about five years, and I built a flat bed right in the back of my Jeep and had all my stuff in there. That’s just how I was living at the time, smoking a lot of weed, sleeping in a jeep. After a couple weeks of parking behind their apartment, they’re like, “Hey man, like, you know you could just come inside and sleep on the couch or the floor or something.” Sure, you know, why not?

I started doing that for a little bit and then they were like, “We can just make a space for you here, you know. It’s already three people in a two bedroom apartment. We can make it four, they’ll be all right.” So, two of them were sleeping in one of the rooms. For some reason, the one dude with his own room was like, “I want this room myself, no offense.” I was like, “Hey, that’s fine, like, you’re paying for it, that’s cool.” What I ended up doing, you know, as a woodworker, I cut down a little bit off of the other two guy’s bunk beds, and I added another bunk on top of their bunk bed. So I was a triple-bunker for a couple of months there. That’s just how I was living. That’s just what it was worth for me to live in a new area and to get to be a part of something new.

I have stopped playing in a band with them because I think we all kind of just felt like we need to focus on our own stuff. See what we all would wanna make individually. I guess that happens eventually for a lot of bands, but I’m still close with all the people in it. We just decided we need to focus on our own stuff. That’s kinda when I started focusing on what I want to put out next. I wasn’t really thinking about it for a while. Then these three songs just kind of bubbled to the surface. Now that I’ve written enough songs that I feel like I can write a song, and I’m not self conscious about my voice as much anymore, the way that I write is like, “What would I want to tell people?” Being a musician is being a platform for something, and it was just hitting me a lot. What do I want to tell people? What do I want people to hear if I was gonna sing stuff from the stage or over Spotify or whatever. These songs just really stuck solid with me. Just felt like this is important. I really want people to know that they matter and they deserve love.

K: I like that way of looking at it though, like being really conscious of the platform you have with your music. Also, really impressed that you turned that into a three person bunk bed.

D: I’ve never done that before. I’ve never thought about doing that before. It was just like, well, I want to sleep here somewhere and that seems like the only real spot. So it wouldn’t be too bad and I’ll tell you really, it was close enough to the ceiling that if I rolled over in the middle of the night I had to be careful about it to not scrape my shoulder. That’s what it was worth for me to get to try something new. If it’s worth it, then it doesn’t really matter what it’s gonna cost. You’re living how you want to live. I think that’s really important.

K: How’s the scene been [in Nashville]?

D: It’s pretty strong to my knowledge. I think it depends on where you’re looking too. I’ve gone to a lot of shows like at the East Room or the OG Basement, which are pretty sturdy small-mid-sized venues around here. I love getting to actually connect with people, so I’ve tried to stick to going places where I’ll actually be able to talk to the musicians afterwards, tell them they did a good job and find out what they’re doing next, you know, actually connect with them. The scene, like indie rock, shoegaze, singer-songwriter scene, all the stuff that I fuck with, is going really well. I’m glad to see it and get to dip in and be a part of it a little bit.

I’m part of a group of friends that are playing in a certain basement up in East Nashville. We’ve slowly been trying to get some traction, get more people to know about it and come out to shows, which is tough. We’ve made a lot of flyers for shows, but we don’t just wanna put this dude’s address on the flyer. So, we’re gonna say, you know, DM, and then it’s like, who’s gonna actually do that? There’s two people that did the last time, which felt like a huge honor. There’s a lot of other house shows around that I know are going solid. I’m playing at one next month at Claire Hopkins’s house which is gonna be a phenomenal show. She’s killing it with everything that she’s doing. There’s a couple other house shows that I’ve played at or been to that are going super well too. So, I’d say the scene is strong. The scene is also, in my opinion, pretty overpopulated because hundreds of other people, basically just like me, moved here and thought, yeah, I’m moving to Nashville for music. I mean, what does that even mean? To play music or just because there’s music here? You know, where is the music? Kind of everywhere, I guess, but I would say it’s definitely overpopulated. I don’t think that’s a bad thing though. I think it’s sweet that everybody’s trying to do their thing and grind and make better art. Like, hell yeah for that.

I got to play [at DRKMTTR] with the band that I moved here to play and also with a friend of mine, Laney Esper. We got to play with a really dope band called Sinai Vessel. Cell Tower, a local band, as well. They both just slayed and they’re so much heavier than our band is, so I felt almost, like, big brother energy to have some people show up with big amps and just shred. We’re on the other side of it, you know, but sometimes it do be like that. Now [Laney’s] band name is Son of the Challenger. I got to play with her over at the East Room too. Super cool. And I’ve got to play with two friends of mine- my friend McKenna playing cello and my friend Sam playing keys- as cool acoustic versions of these three songs on the EP. We’re gonna be working on doing a little live take of it the way that we’ve been imagining it together because it sounds so good. Like softer than it already is somehow.

K: I was going to ask if you had any favorite Nashville artists you’ve found?

D: I’ve gotta plug this band The Dreaded Laramie. They’re crushing it big time. They’ve been on the grind for a long time around Nashville. Another band that I’ve really loved is Rig B. They’ve also been killing in the area. I’m really glad to see what they’re doing. I play guitar for another friend of mine’s band. The band is called CAMPCAMP, and we’ve got some shows coming up. I think we’re gonna be playing hopefully at the East Room in August. So if you’re in the area then that’d be a sweet one to check out as well. There’s so many good bands in the area. It’s hard to narrow it down. I’ve got friends in this band, Dando Veins. It’s like a slow core band that’s super good. I mean the list honestly does keep going, but those were some of my favorites.

K: How do you get started releasing music? Have you always played?

D: Well, I’ve been playing for a long time. I started playing piano when I was like eight. My mom had me take piano lessons for about a year, and then I told her I just didn’t want to do it anymore. I mean, now knowing myself, I don’t understand how I could have said that, but that’s what she told me. She said that I actually refused to keep playing. I don’t know, maybe I was bored with it or got tired of the homework or something. Pretty soon after that, I was like ten or eleven, I started trying to figure out how to play guitar off of piano. So, I know how to make this chord on a piano like, hitting a note then going to the guitar and trying to find where that note is on the strings. And then I remember just my astonishment finding out, oh my god, like, there are people that write books on how to play different chords and then there’s so many different ways to play different chords too, like, it just goes on and on. That was super eye opening for me.

I got a lot of practice playing in front of people from playing at church when I was growing up. It was never a full band but with other people that also loved to play music at the church. Playing at church gave me a ton of experience. I’m trying to figure out how to be comfortable with people looking at you ‘cause it’s not a natural thing, I don’t think. It’s kind of embarrassing sometimes, even just having people stare at you, you know, and you’re supposed to say something that’s interesting. Then I got a lot of experience just setting up shows and going to play shows when I was in college. A lot of my friends at the time had also started some bands and were playing music together. My first album was released around that time. And like I said, I had a Bandcamp. I was maybe sixteen, but it just, it was trash. I can call out what it is now. Not even trying to shame my younger self just like. You know, there’s better ways to do it than I was doing it at the time, but I was learning. I was just learning how to use a DAW and put in other instruments and work with myself and, you know, accept however I want to make the music.

So the first project that I put out was called Sufficiency, which I still think is phenomenal. It was worked on by some really great people. I had done it at a transfer program when I was in college. The program is called Contemporary Music Center in Brentwood, and I spent a semester writing songs and eventually picking ten of the favorite ones that I worked on and working with some of the other tech people there to record it. And I mean really my first time releasing music was burning that CD on the school computer like 30 times, and I’m giving it to everybody else in the program on our last day before they were going home and said, “Hey, listen to this on your drive home, you know, hope you like it. I worked really hard on it.” It’s been a real processing style for me for a long time. Writing a song and trying to understand how I’m feeling in the moment and in retrospect a lot of times because I mean, just the strange thing about creating stuff sometimes, you’re surprised about what comes out. Like, I didn’t even know I was thinking that or feeling that. Then, yeah, that’s definitely how I’m feeling and you know, the soul doesn’t lie.

Then I came back to Pittsburgh and figured I just wanted to keep making music and sharing it with my friends. I was in and out of a couple of bands around Pittsburgh, a couple lineups, people that I had playing music with me. One of them was a band with one of the albums on my discography. It’s called I Was Born In The Background Of The Best Things Of The Past. You know when you’re gonna send a text message and there’s that auto suggest that shows up, like the three words? My bass player at the time just kept pushing one of them and that was the album title. We all just decided sure, we could pick something better, or we could just go with that.

I worked with some pretty great people at that time. My friend Ian was playing bass, Nick was playing drums. Then moving to Nashville, I’ve already worked with a couple of different lineups of people, but, I don’t know, like the more I do this stuff, the more I just love the softer side of it, like. I think that’s just more how my ear is tuned and how my personality is in a lot of ways, but I’ve got a heavier line up and I’ve got a way soft line up. So depending on the show, you might see a full band. And then you might see a cello. It just kinda depends on what’s going on.

K: What’s the biggest way your approach has changed to music over the years?

D: It’s a great question. In a lot of ways I think it has stayed pretty similar. At least as far as writing goes and trusting whatever comes out. I think the biggest way that my approach to music and songwriting in particular has changed is just in volume. You can write so many more songs than you think you can, and the only real difference is just making an hour or sometimes a half hour a day to sit down and do it. As I’ve gotten older I’ve let myself write a lot more. I’ve been very inspired by Julie Cameron who wrote The Artist’s Way. She gives a tool for doing morning pages every day, which is basically just free thought journaling for three or more pages, however much you want to fill up in a journal. I mean, those two things tied together, just free writing in general as a practice and then also making sure I’m doing that with music.

This is a really random one, but I had a friend from around Pittsburgh suggest a group called February Art Album Writing Month. Which is basically just take the month of February, tell your friends you’re busy, and plan to write at least fourteen songs. So like one every other day. In the past two years I’ve been able to meet my goal when I wanted to with it. That has just been way eye opening. Like, so wait, if I give myself space to write I don’t even have to push. I don’t think a person has to force themselves to be creative. I think it’s something that feeds us and is really healthy for us. Maybe if you’re not used to it, it might feel difficult, but I mean, so does exercise or, you know, [anything] you want to start up that you’re not already doing. That’s been the most helpful thing for me. Just letting myself write a lot more stuff.

I’ve written about thirty songs over the past year, and I’ve come down to three of them that I wanna put out, you know. It’s really a ratio that I hope in the future that I’ll be more bold just to put out the thirty, even if they aren’t all homogeneous, like they’re all pretty different from each other. For example, a previously released EP called Sad & Sexy, which I wrote when I was stuck at home COVID, there’s a couple trap songs out there. Like, I wonder what happens if I try to rap? I’ve been doing it for years in the car, why don’t I try to record it? I’ve tried a lot of different ways of making art and making music, and it’s just been incredibly helpful to help me grow. I think it’s important to try different stuff just to find out what you like, and maybe you like all of it. I think that’s best scenario.

K: Any other advice? I mean, I think that itself is great advice. Maybe advice to a musician just starting out?

D: I mean putting yourself out there and trying. It’s pretty worn out advice, but that’d be my advice too. It’s so much easier than you think it is to actually finish a song, and then finish five songs. Five songs is all you need to play a set. That’s it. If you can do five songs, then you can play them all in a row and you feel comfortable playing them just to yourself. Just you in a room by yourself, you know? You don’t have to record it. And then eventually you start telling your musician friends. And if you don’t have musician friends, musicians are some of the chillest people in the world in my opinion. In my experience [musicians] have been so accepting and open. I think it’s because you can get into so many different things in music. There’s gotta be a vein for you where you can express yourself and feel heard and understood. I think it’s worth finding that. I think it’s really worth putting the work in, even just to start going to shows where you’re hearing the kind of music that you like to listen to. Then asking the people there, “Hey, I’ve got these five songs. I would really like to play a set eventually.” And then you start to play sets, and after your first set you start to meet some other people that also play, and then they’re gonna know some people. I don’t think you have to be an exceptionally outgoing person to have a band and to have things going for you. I think everybody deserves to be able to express themselves, whether they’re positive or they’re angry or, you know, they have something that they need to tell somebody, I think music has space for all of that. I think it’s been really the biggest tool in my life to maturing and being a more self-accepting and others-accepting kind of person is writing songs and getting to play them and connect with people. It’s a circle that pulls itself in. But, I think it’s absolutely worth it just to get yourself to play your first set somewhere. From there it’s just listening for opportunities and taking them when they show up. You know, sometimes you have to create opportunities for yourself, but I think a lot of times they just show up, because the universe wants you to make music, wants you to make good art, and you deserve it. You owe it to yourself.

K: Yeah, everybody I’ve met in the scene is just the nicest human. It’s the most fulfilling thing. Any other final thoughts or things you want to plug?

D: I’m trying to think if there was one thing I would want somebody to know if they were new in Nashville, if they hadn’t made any connections or done anything yet. I’ve got a lot of experience playing at a bar over in Midtown. I’ve part time embraced the country music thing- as a joke, ironically- but, honestly it does kind of make bank. So if anybody is looking for opportunities to play and haven’t tried playing at a bar before, I play at a place called The Row. It’s a very open, welcome place for people to jump in. If you’re reading this and you want a suggestion of somewhere to play, you don’t know where to play, you could reach out to me and I would love to talk to you about where I’ve got to play around town, because there are more than enough places to play and finding a place where you want to play I think is really important.

K: Awesome, thank you for taking the time to do this. That was fun.

D: Yeah, I’m glad that we got to chat. I hope you continue to enjoy it.

Be sure to follow Parker on Instagram @daviddanielparker to stay up to date on upcoming shows and releases! You can also get more by checking him out on Bandcamp, Soundcloud, and Youtube.

Written by Kaitlyn Boykin