Appearing on 'The Voice' a confidence-booster for Diné artist

By Noel Lyn Smith
Navajo Times

WINDOW ROCK, February 28, 2013

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Rudy Parris

T he recent season of "The Voice" may be over but Rudy Parris continues to gain strength from appearing on it.

"I've gone from the local spotlight to the national spotlight and it's motivating," Parris said.

Parris, along with his brother Abel Parris and manager Phil Pescosolido, stopped by the Navajo Times office Feb. 21 while on their way to Laughlin, Nev.

Parris, of Visalia, Calif., was a member of country singer Blake Shelton's team on Season 3 of "The Voice" on NBC.

He was eliminated from the competition during the Oct. 30 knockout round against Terry McDermott, who became a friend while the men roomed together during filming.

When McDermott was asked by show producers which contestant he would like to return to the show, he requested Parris, who appeared in the season's last three episodes and was there when McDermott was named runner-up.

"It turned out that I did the last three episodes of the show, in succession," Parris said. "It was perfect."

"So you were basically on the whole show this whole season," Pescosolido said.

"Nah, I was off for a minute," Parris said.

It is that optimism that has kept him going in music.

Parris, who is of Navajo and Hispanic descent, was born and raised in Visalia, Calif. in the San Joaquin Valley.

He knows that a question some music executives may ask is why has he not broken into the mainstream?

The easy answer is that Parris decided to stay in Visalia to raise his daughter and because it is home.

But do not get the wrong impression, he said, there have been musicians from the region who have made it big including Tommy Johnston of The Doobie Brothers and Steve Perry of Journey.

"They're from Visalia, the area, but they left. I never left," he said, then added that his music continues to be influenced by the Bakersfield sound.

Parris, 46, said there have been offers throughout the years. Some did not work out while others saw him opening for music legends like Merle Haggard, Jerry Lee Lewis, BB King and Bo Didley.

He said that after years of trying to achieve success the sense of doubt did appear...but not anymore.

"This show showed me that I could be a national artist. That I was appealing to people...that people were touched by what I do and who I am," he said.

Parris' grandfather moved to the Visalia area from Artesia, N.M. to work in the valley's farming community.

After watching the mistreatment of Native Americans in the region, Parris' grandfather decided to disassociate from his Navajo heritage.

"It is unfortunate for me," Parris said. "I always told myself when I get the resources to do so, that I was going to research my family and find out exactly where we are from."

With that in mind, Parris would like to someday perform on the Navajo Nation.

"We will, I guarantee you…" Pescosolido said of performing on the reservation. "Rudy loves his people, his heritage."

Since appearing on "The Voice," Parris has been busy performing, songwriting, receiving endorsement deals from Gibson guitar and Bad Cat Amplifier, and planning the next step.

He played homecoming shows at the Cellar Door in Visalia and at Buck Owens' Crystal Palace in Bakersfield, Calif.

"The response was tremendous," he said about the Visalia show. "I could barely sing. I wanted to cry every five minutes because there was so many people there from throughout my career."

Another recent gig was Feb. 15 at Theatre 166 in Carrollton, Texas and his next show is March 17 at The Federal Bar in Los Angeles.

In April, he will be a speaker at Hispanicize 2013, an annual event for Latino trendsetters and newsmakers, in Miami Beach, Fla.

Parris has also completed a songwriting stint in Nashville, where he collaborated with songwriters Larry Weiss, who penned "Rhinestone Cowboy," Dennis Knutson, who co-wrote "Wine-Colored Roses," and Billy Burnette, formerly of Fleetwood Mac and whose family is rooted in rockabilly.

After the Texas show, Parris, Abel and Pescosolido traveled to the Ozark Mountains in Missouri to visit residents and work on music.

Experiences like that enhance songwriting, he said.

"I write about my life, other people's lives, social issues. I try to write a lot of spiritual music - music that's uplifting that says something worthy and valuable to others," he said. "I'm trying to be a light in the darkness."

Although his run on "The Voice" ended midway, being a contestant on the popular singing competition continues to generate public interest as witnessed by Abel, who said people have asked Parris for autographs and photographs.

While the trio was dining in a restaurant in New Mexico, a couple of fans spotted Parris.

"I saw the one girl say, 'Oh that's the guy from 'The Voice.' I got Goosebumps," Abel said.

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