An Open and Honest Interview with Chicago Artist Parnell

When asked about the tattoo on his forearm which reads “Dear Parnell…”, the musician opened up about his process of creating and how the mark served as him telling himself that no matter what, anything he wants to do can be done by creating a world for himself within the reality surrounding us all. 

24-year-old Chicago artist Parnell has used music as his own outlet. Over just four short years of creating his sound and exploring the horizons that music has to offer, he’s found a ladder of self expression, growth, and patience within himself and his most recent project release, “Signs of a Sleepwalker.”

“The tape is called 'Signs of a Sleepwalker,'” Parnell stated matter-of-factly in our interview together. “In life I felt like I was a sleepwalker. I didn’t feel like I was fully conscious or aware of myself. I just felt like a zombie, unaware of what’s going on.” 

From Parnell’s openness of hoping to make it in a world surrounded by cancel culture in “Kanceled”, to the honesty of not being able to shake a love that missed him the first time around but helped him to recognize how deeply his love goes in “Last Song About You,” there are several layers of him that should be introduced and recognized by those willing to listen. 

Luckily for listeners and readers everywhere, we at Dark Matter got the chance to sit down and talk with the upcoming musician about his newest release, “Signs of a Sleepwalker,” and his process of experiencing growth and self-expression while making music in a COVID world. 

Read more below!

Carly: What do you want people to know about you before they hear your music and what you have to say in that realm? 

Parnell: I would want people to know that I am human. I’m far from perfect, and this is just an outlet for me to express myself in the purest form possible. 

C: What inspired you to jump into music? 

P: I’m going to be as real as possible! What got me into it four years ago-- I was twenty, and I was young minded at that age. I saw a performance of Trey Songz, right? And he had so many women at his concerts. Like...damn! I wanna do this. But the more that I started to do it, I started to see that it was a way that I could really be heard, and I could really express my true feelings this way, and that's what made me take it seriously. That’s where I fell in love with it. This is my passion, I’m passionate about this. 

C: I know you’ve been working super hard on this tape. 

P: I have been. I wrote all of the tracks, but I produced seven out of nine of them myself. 

C: Thats super dope! What was that process like for you? 

P: Overall, it was fun because personally, I feel like I’m digging into a unique sound and with me finding that unique sound, I just feel like I’ve discovered more of who I am as a person. And that’s mainly why I do music, just to try and learn who I am as a person in a fun, creative, artistic way. The sound is very unique and very open, and I had to get out of my comfort zone while producing. 

C: Being out of your comfort zone, was it kind of hard to gauge how you felt about certain songs? Was there any frustration as far creating the project goes? 

P: I feel like the answer is no. Strictly because with this, my mission was to get out of my comfort zone. It was like I’m gonna tackle this shit head-on. So, even if I was faced with the fear of ‘damn, if I say this line they will judge me’...I was in the mindset of ‘look I’m going to give you me, and we’re gonna grow from there.’

C: I see! It was really more about doing this project for you. 

P: Absolutely, yeah. 

C: What’s your support system like as far as your growth in music goes? 

P: Without a doubt my family and the things that fascinate me help me through it. For instance, I’m a huge house fan. Those modern houses… I need me one of those! So, I gotta work my ass off. But my family too. All in all, I just want to be understood by the ones that I truly love and if it has to be through my music, then shit, I’m down for it. They push me alot. 

C: On this upcoming tape, how does the support of your family/goals play into how you wrote things? 

P: I put a lot of thought into my art. From the title, to the lyrics, to the beat, I try to bring the feeling out. Like, with ego check. That’s me telling y'all that I really gotta check my ego. So, as far as support, I just wanted to reign the truth to the forefront. My support system helped me be honest with myself if anything. 

C: Is it hard being so open in how you write and express yourself? 

P: Most definitely! It’s uncomfortable. But I’m a guy that dwells on growth, so whatever’s going to help me evolve as an individual, I’m all for it if i’m going to overcome that fear. 

C: How do you overcome that fear and work through that discomfort? 

P: I try to look at the end goal. The end goal for me is progress, that’s what really pushes me. So, If i wake up the next day and feel like ‘man i’m glad I got that off of my chest’ or see that I’m taking a step forward in life, it’s going to push me. I don’t want to be a bug to nobody and so my music is an outlet for me to be a bug to anyone that’s going to listen. 

C: Is there a favorite track that you have? 

P: Man, every track is my favorite track. Every track captures a specific moment of my life. I don’t know what it is! I don’t know if it’s the liquor or the bad choices I chose to make back in the day, but my memory is shot, and I hardly ever take pictures so my music is what makes me remember that I was at a specific point… But to be fair, a favorite track would have to be 'Last Song About You.' 

C: Earlier we talked about how you felt, like you kind of floated through life and didn’t really have a full purpose. My question for you is has that changed at all through this process? 

P: I feel like this is where I appreciate music so much. Because, when I’m doing these projects and being as vulnerable as possible, that’s a step forward, you know? It’s self discovery, so it’s definitely changing in a major way. But sometimes I still do feel like I’m sleepwalking, but life is a marathon, you just gotta keep going and eventually you’ll get to your destination. 

C: With still having those days, how do you work through it? 

P: I call them slump days. I just try to realize how grateful I truly am and try to realize the art of patience. And realizing that I can’t have everything right now just brings me back to reality. It’s going to happen, but it’s going to happen on God’s timing, not mine. 

Getting the chance to sit down with Parnell was eye-opening and inspiring for myself as an interviewer. Seeing someone be so open, honest, and vulnerable both in their music space and outside of it, has since inspired me to push harder in my craft, whether that be writing content for Dark Matter or stopping to stand in the present moment a little more often. 

“Acceptance is key,” he told me in the final minutes of our interview. “Accept the fact that you will have good days and bad days. Accepting the fact that you have bad days will get you a lot further than you think. Once you do that, then you start to change your mindset and nurture yourself. Give back to yourself.” 

Now that we’ve gotten to know Parnell on a deeper level, I can honestly say that there is a deeper appreciation for the content he’s put out on "Signs of a Sleepwalker." 

You can listen to Signs of a Sleepwalker here

Find him on instagram here.