Christian Music Daily’s NewWorldSon Interview
On NewWorldSon’s self-titled, sophomore release out now, you will hear all sorts of music and musical influences, as if Harry Connick Jr., George Benson, Al Green, Justin Timberlake, Tina Turner, Eric Clapton, Barenaked Ladies, Smash Mouth, Bobby McFerrin, Robert Randolph, Bob Marley and Stevie Wonder were all combined into a Gospel-funk tour-de-force band. Already known for songs like “Workin Man,” “Sweet Holy Spirit,” and “Down From The Mountain,” NewWorldSon takes listeners on a spiritual journey, letting them know there is a God who is available to them, a God who is able to change them for the better. Their new CD includes a Jamaican Praise Medley, because guitarist Josh Toal and his mom have experience with migrant workers in Canada who exposed them to hundreds of island-style worship melodies. NewWorldSon travels a lot, and are popular in Europe, Texas, and they’re an annual highlight at Kingdom Bound Christian music festival near Buffalo each August. Watch this video to see the band in action, and then get ready, because below you’ll be reading the best ever NewWorldSon interview online– nowhere else on the web will you find this kind of interesting, detailed information– not even on the band’s own website!
On himself and his band members
I think my bandmates would say I’m a little silly, stubborn, and self-effacing. As for the group? Joel is intense, very caring, and super intelligent. Josh is hilarious and perhaps the most giving person you will meet, and a great dancer. And Mark is super smart, with a great business mind, and very caring.
On his bass
The bass I currently play is an electric upright bass. When the band first started, I played my old Kay Bass made in 1953. The band plays with a very wide range of dynamics including ‘really loud’ which can cause a lot of problems with feedback and sound. Sound just gets swallowed up by the hollow body so I had to play at a limited volume and make up the difference with my back, shoulders and hands– very painful. So I shopped around for an electric upright that doesn’t have a hollow body and the Yamaha Silent bass sounds great and feels very similar to my old Kay bass. It eliminates the sound issues, is easy to fly with, and makes me look cooler than I really am.
On his musical training
My dad was a professional musician for periods when I was growing up. My brother James and I always knew we would be musicians. He took to the guitar and I took to the bass. We both studied together at music college after moving to Toronto, studying jazz and classical music. I was a composition and arranging major but played most nights of the week anywhere that would have me. I used to practice a lot, but these days I rarely have time after my wife and I put the kids to bed.
On his musical influences
I’ll have to narrow it down here. I’m into good music, particularly music that evokes emotion or calls to my spirit when I hear it. As far as bassists go? Ray Brown, Jaco Pastorius, Tony Levin, Jerry Jemmott, Pino Palladino. Check out John Patitucci, a devout Christian who bears it all through his playing—he’s the complete bass player. I’d love to meet that guy.
On other jobs
I’ve been a professional musician most of my life. I’ve done other jobs: computer programming, ran a manufacturing company, and fixed furnaces, but there’s no other job I want to do but play/teach music that matters. I feel a responsibility to use the gifts that God has given me for a purpose. Saying that, if push came to shove I would gratefully do anything to support my wife and kids. There is merit in just about every job no matter how insignificant it may seem. Money is money; how you get it is just in the details. Be honest and have integrity and good things will come.
On potential fame and fortune
So many people get lost in the wash of money and things. Growing up my parents did their best to provide for us. They were both immigrants so they had to start at the bottom of the ladder. They’re doing great now but I had to go without a lot of conveniences that my schoolmates had. One thing my father always taught me was that money is transient, and things like houses, cars, and clothes can all be replaced but people cannot. Jesus is more relevant today than he’s ever been. Read the Gospels and look at our world. We have everything in North America but you’d never know it.
On playing at a martini bar
We started playing together at a martini bar. Only one, and once that’s done that’s it. In fact, we still do that gig and will probably play there until our schedules won’t allow it. Fact is, we play for 3 hours a night to Christians and non-Christians. We know we’re reaching people– not everyone– but someone. There are people whose hearts are heavy who come out to get fall-down-drunk and instead end up worshipping– IN A MARTINI BAR! As far as alcohol goes, we are always absorbed in playing music– our music is different musically every single time we play. We’re not a jam band but we switch it up on the fly every time, so temptations like alcohol just don’t have room to breathe.
On playing roots music
There has never been a band meeting where we decided to play ‘roots’ music. I’ve always felt that soul music–in effect roots music like the ‘roots’ of modern R&B, rock, jazz, etc.–was a very honest and heartfelt expression of pain and suffering, with an overall feeling of hope, exactly what Jesus was pointing out when He was here seeing the world suffering and telling people to come to Him all who are weary. All four of us come from backgrounds that are quite broken and I would say that if we can offer anything to people it is to share just that– our brokenness and experience of hope and peace through connecting with God. Forget cool culture and let’s all get down to the roots of life– roots revolution–that’s my spin.
On his long hair
I guess having the Beatles’ White Album posters on my wall as kid started my love of unruly hair design.
On what he’s struggled with
Letting God be in control and trusting in Him. I’m a very hands on personality and it can be challenging to trust that God is in control of every situation; I can only walk in opportunities that He lays out for me, not force them to happen.
On his church experience
I had stopped going to church for a few years in my life due to a bad experience. I really missed the family and community experience you get from church. My wife Sue and I started to go to the church we go to now “for our kids.” Within a month I couldn’t believe what going to church did for my walk with God. Being a musician in the secular world you tend to spend a lot of time in dark places. You have to balance that with being in light places. I found that at church.
On his experience visiting the Dominican Republic
I have very mixed emotions. I’m very thankful for what we have in Canada, but very confused because we don’t have the same joy and contentment that people from the Third World have.
On his musical heroes
Muddy Waters, John Lennon, Larry Norman, Mike Stern, Joe Zawinel, and Dave Rave. All these people are honest artists.
On where he’s from
We are all from Southern Ontario in Canada; I’m from Niagara Falls and have a typical bordertown outlook. I love Canada, I’m fascinated with the U.S., and sometimes I wish it was one big community with an open border.
On being part of NewWorldSon
The last thing I was thinking a few years ago was starting another band. I believe God divinely put the four of us in NewWorldSon together; We all met as a foursome on the first gig. God has anointed the band in a way that I can’t explain– I just accept and hold on to that anointing very preciously. It was in my spirit to one day play music on this level as a voice for Jesus Christ, and He answered my desire when I least expected it.
On his name
For a couple of years I did steady work in the studio as a writer and keyboard player with a hip-hop producer from New York named K-Cut. It’s customary for DJs and MCs to have a street name, right, so he and his crew started calling me JP and it just stuck I guess. In 2005, when I was on tour playing keys and singing back-ups in Europe with LMT Connection, a band fronted by former Motown guitarist Leroy Emmanuel with Mark Rogers (NewWorldSon) on drums; I got the nickname “Soul Joel” and to this day Mark still calls me that. I like my given name. It means “Jehovah is God.” It’s Hebrew, well the Greek translation anyhow. My last name is Parisien. I’m French-Canadian. Et oui je parle francais.
On his wearing a newsboy cap
I wear a hat a lot, but not always. It’s easier to find me in a crowd. I’m often too lazy to do my hair. Of course, ball caps are never my style. I like newsie caps and small fedoras. It helps me get into character, like Donny Hathaway or Cab Calloway. The hat I’m wearing in the photo shoot is an old leather newsie cap my sister found for me in a second hand shop.
On his musical influences
Stevie Wonder – He’s the greatest pop artist of the 20th century. He’s the only person I would call a musical genius without it being hyperbole; Sam Cooke – Like Ray Charles, he was rejected by the church for taking gospel music to the mainstream and changing the lyrics. But it’s his early work with the Soul Stirrers that I like the best; Donny Hathaway is my favorite singer of all time; Paul Simon is my favorite lyricist of all time; Dennis Brown – The crown prince of reggae. Nobody sings about judgment so sweetly.
On what he was like in high school
Cerebral, judgmental and cynical.
On tough times
My good friend Bert Hermiston was a saxophone player and twenty-five years my senior. We did a lot of jazz duos together when I was just coming up as a professional musician. He believed in me and forced me to stretch as a player and bandleader. He was a recovered alcoholic and cocaine addict. He loved his daughter deeply and missed his wife terribly (divorce). He was a Christian and a lonely, tortured soul. All he had was music and he played like that. He jumped off a bridge in 1999. Before and after his death, Bert taught me how to really sing and play the blues. I lost a mentor and a friend.
The All-Of-Everything is infinitely patient and compassionate. He knows us intimately and knows how to communicate with each us of uniquely. The Creator knows I’m a born detective so He leaves me clues and subtle signs and He delights in my small revelations. That’s how I became a Christian. I followed the breadcrumbs.
I love cooking. I specialize in ethnic cuisine. I was born in Toronto, which is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the world. Growing up, I ate every kind of food imaginable. Being a vegetarian, you have to learn how to make food savory.
On a great gift received
I’m all about un-acquiring possessions to tell the truth.The best gift I could receive would be for someone to pay off my debts, haha. Actually, the coolest gift I just received was from my sponsor child. She picked me some small flowers from her mother’s garden. I pressed and dried them in a book. The little girl I sponsor’s name is Aneyki. She’s four years old and remarkably smart. We became fast friends. I took her swimming for the first time in her life. When I came home from visiting my Compassion sponsor child In the Dominican Republic, my concept of “need” was utterly shattered. I’ve always been critical of consumer culture but my trip to the DR took that to a whole other level. The vast majority of Dominicans are poor, destitute in fact, but they share everything and they’re full of joy. We North Americans are fat, spoiled, selfish, wealthy and doped up on anti-depressants. (In fact, I’m sure misery and emptiness is a multi-billion dollar business for the pharmaceutical industry.) They’re rich and we’re poor. The first are last and the last are first. Praise the Lord.
On the name NewWorldSon
It’s all about history. The Americas were called the New World by European explorers. The same explorers that wiped out indigenous peoples and imported African slaves. The same African slaves, robbed of their own language and talking drums, who appropriated the tongue of the slave drivers, the saxophone, the guitar and the three chords of Celtic folk music to create the Blues and Gospel. Soul music is unique to the New World and out of love and respect for the art form, we intend to preserve it. Even my family name is uniquely colonial. My ancestors have been here for hundreds of years. There are no Parisiens in France. It’s a word, a designation that eventually became a name. It means quite literally “from Paris.” Funny thing is, I’ve never been to France. I’m a culture orphan, a transplant from the Motherland, a son of a strange land. Newworldson is multi-layered though. The Son part is obvious. The New World part alludes to Revelations 21.
On musical themes
There are times when I feel like being a “Christian” and being a follower of Jesus are at odds with one another. Personally, I’ve met too many Christians so wrapped up in the isms of Christianity that their faith has turned to plastic and their relationship with God is on auto-pilot. This is not intended to be a judgment, just an observation. I don’t aspire to be a mega-church Christian. I want my experience of the Holy Spirit to be like that of the first century Christians (Acts 2). Too many Christ followers are content with a trickle when God wants to bring us to the River and for our cups to be overflowing so that we can share our abundance with those He loves the most: the poor, the widow and the orphan. First World Christianity (Christianism) is cheap and poorly insulated. Caring for the lost sheep (rather than condemning them) is a commandment, not a suggestion. So, if there’s a theme to our music, it’s about being bold in one’s faith. It’s about being firecrackers for God. It’s about being that City On A Hill which cannot be hidden (Matthew 5:14, my favorite scripture). Too much yawning. That’s because Grace is an abstraction now and abstractions are boring. When people start thinking more and doing less, and when religion supplants Relationship, the body of Christ is paralyzed and unable go into dark places. If idle hands are the devil’s plaything, then apathy is his candy store. I don’t eat candy. I eat fish and bread, dig?
On how his bandmates describe him
Stubborn, hotheaded, sassy, complex and empathetic.
On instruments he plays
Piano, organ, drums, most forms of percussion and melodica (which, for those that don’t know, is a cross between a harmonica and an accordion, more or less).
On new beginnings
I’m not ashamed to confess my brokenness. I’ve done drugs before. I’ve abused alcohol before. I’ve had empty sex before. But now I know its worth. It all sucks! It’s boring and self-destructive. And horribly cliché! I’m so glad I got it out of my system. It pales in comparison to a life of constant devotion and service. Blessings and miracles are part of my everyday experience now. That’s the ultimate escape from the mundane. If I had a million dollars, I wouldn’t have it for very long. I would give it away. Capitalism teaches us to hoard wealth. We hoard for those times when we lack. But fear is the complete opposite of faith. Fear is what made Peter start to sink when he got out of the boat. God is faithful. God provides. It’s how Jesus fed the multitudes with a basket of fish and bread. He gave cheerfully; he never worried that there wasn’t enough to go around. He who is kind to those in need lends to the Lord and He will repay that which has been given (Proverbs 19:17). I like receiving rewards I didn’t expect. God blesses us abundantly right when we forgot we had it coming to us. I don’t take myself seriously. It’s the secret to enjoying life. I would never let celebrity culture take that away from me.
On how the band met
Joel and I met through playing music together several years back. We played on some gigs together and had many mutual friends. I met Rich and Mark on our first gig. I gave Joel a ride to the gig and had my guitar and amp in the car. He asked me if I’d like to sit in for a set. There were handshakes and hellos to Rich and Mark and then we started playing. It was evident from the start that we’d come across something special.
I would say our band’s style is very unique because we’re not necessarily uniform in our dress. The way we dress is similar to how we are as musicians and guys. We all have our own style and when that comes together it makes up NewWorldSon. There was no meeting about image, or look for the band– we all just wear what we would wear and there’s something that works about it.
On singing with Joel
I don’t know what my vocal range is– I’m pretty sure it’s tenor though. I haven’t really had any formal vocal training. I’ve learned a lot about technique and singing in general from Joel. I find that singing is one of the most sincere and ethereal ways to worship. I’m often surprised with notes I can hit, or things that I can come up with vocally when we’re playing.
On singing chemistry
Joel and I have a special chemistry when we’re singing together. The timbres of our voices and our different styles seem to compliment each other well. We try not to work out our vocal arrangements too tightly. By leaving this space to move there’s more room for us to follow how the Spirit leads when we’re playing.
On other jobs he’s had
I’ve mostly played music, but I’ve taught guitar, worked in a music store, loaded trucks in warehouses, and done whatever else I’ve needed to do to get by the dry spells.
On his musical influences
My main musical influences? Not an easy one to answer briefly. I love everything that Stax Records put out, as well as Motown Records in the 1960s. I also like a lot of Jamaican music from the 60s to the present. Some big influences are The Staple Singers, Donny Hathaway, Duke Ellington, Peter Tosh, The Beatles, Woody Guthrie and Smokey Robinson.
On the guitars he plays
Get to know the band even more at www.newworldson.com. If you buy their self-titled CD, look in the “Thank Yous” and you’ll see Mark Weber’s name in there! NewWorldSon is one of his favorite bands of all time; Christian Music Daily loves NewWorldSon!