Parris Bowens on fear, faith and finding your voice

Acclaimed musician and artist shares how he gained confidence in his calling

If you want to catch up with Parris Bowens, make sure you have adequate stamina. This talented musician is always on the move.  Whether it’s touring with artists like Anthony Hamilton, writing and producing for gospel and R&B hitmakers, or working on his own projects with his band Parris & The Revival, his creative motor is always in high gear.

Discovered by Tye Tribbett as a young gospel keyboardist, Parris became a key member of Tribbett’s band, Soundcheck, and co-wrote songs such as No Way, Mighty Long Way and Hold On. Since then, he’s become a highly successful songwriter and musician, working with artists such as Musiq Soulchild, Timbaland, Brandy, Floetry, Gerald Levert, Vivian Green, Marvin Sapp, Kierra Sheard, Myron Butler, Kim Burrell, The Roots, Israel & New Breed and many others. Along with expressing his musical talent, he also has a graphic design and illustration business which is now producing an animated series called “Battle of the Shed”, in which superhero musicians fight with runs and harmonies rather than swords and guns.

Despite his busy creative life, his most important priority is his family, which consists of his wife Dionne and their two sons.

Parris was extremely gracious and helpful when we approached him with the opportunity to share his knowledge with other faith-focused musicians. This is only a brief excerpt of the wealth of information he shared. You can read the entire interview in God and Gigs: Succeed as a Musician without Sacrificing your Faith, available at Amazon and other major book retailers.

Tell us a little about how you got your start in music. What made you want to be a professional musician?

Well I got my start in music because I grew in a musical family. [My] Dad is a pastor and [my] mom a singing evangelist. One day my Dad sat me down and taught me how to play because he needed someone at the church. I was about 10 or 11.

What was the biggest struggle of your early career?

FEAR. FEAR. FEAR. Early on in my life I went through some traumatic things that led to a bit of people anxiety. So the irony of being on stage was that I had to face people. So when I started playing with an artist as exciting and radical as a Tye Tribbett, it took a while for me to adjust to the attention. I would try to hide out behind the curtain with my keyboard on stage. Or, I would keep my volume levels very low and Tye would come back to the keyboard and turn my volume up. For a longtime I didn’t feel adequate. I had to break the cycle of fear.

Do you relate to other musicians working in secular music? What are the differences between working in Christian and secular music areas?

Yes sir. Coming up in Philly I’ve been around the secular scene a lot. Most musicians in the secular arena are church boys / girls. We all have similar roots. I’ve played secular for years and did a lot of recordings as well before God called me out. But he didn’t call me out for a rebuke but for an assignment. A lot of people misjudge how God will use you and where he’ll send you. I understand the guys out there who are working to feed their families but I also know that road (Christian or secular) is not good for some guys at all. The differences in the industries is like being among family (Christian) and then going out into college or the adult world (secular). There is a safety net in the Christian industry even though some abuse this privilege. In the secular arena there is very little to no accountability and there’s this NO JUDGEMENT ZONE out there that really says that ANYTHING GOES and YOU CAN’T SAY ANYTHING TO ME! So it can be dangerous. Most guys won’t admit it but I’ve seen both sides intimately. But the key to both worlds is a healthy relationship with the Holy Spirit and some friends to hold you accountable.

Do you feel you have a platform / influence on other musicians based on your success? If so, how do you use that influence?

Absolutely. Like I said earlier, when I started playing with Tye & G.A., my influence jumped immediately just due to the influence Tye had. Of course over time I had to develop and become worthy of that influence until I could stand on my own two feet and give back. The way I use the influence is I keep my door open wide enough to let some of my base in. I’ve always been an advocate of answering emails, commenting on social media and talking to people at engagements…you can always read when someone is genuine. Sometimes I’ll see me in somebody and extend a hand further to connect. But ultimately, I love teaching the intangibles and things of the Spirit because that’s where my greatest growth has come from. Technical knowledge is much [more] easily attained. And I still do share on that front, but my real value is in the intangibles. I always have a younger guy I’m pouring into in most seasons of my life. But these guys always have a sense of humility and purpose. You can’t teach someone who isn’t ready to be taught. So being teachable and humble is key in mentorship.

If there was one piece of advice you could give a young musician starting out, what would it be?

Before you do anything, seek the Holy Spirit. Get filled and build a relationship with him. He will guide you and sometimes it won’t be where you think or even where you want to go. You’ll go against the crowd most times but I promise you there’s no safer place to be. This thing is real. All of the other stuff will be added. That comes from my favorite scripture. Matthew 6:33 –  ” But seek first (not only) the kingdom of God and his righteousness and all these things shall be added unto you.” You don’t have to CHASE what will be added if you seek the Kingdom first.

For more info on Parris and his projects, visit his Bandcamp  site, or subscribe to his YouTube channel. To access the entire interview, check out the God and Gigs book on Amazon.

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