To many, the American dream might look like a white picket fence, a shiny new car, a couple of kids playing in the yard, and a steady job to keep you living comfortably. However, to others, traveling the country in a van, sleeping on floors, a beat up six-string, and a few friends to share it all with looks more like it. Musicians are driven by their passion to do what they love no matter what it takes, which is what being an American is all about. Henry Ford, Neil Armstrong, Walt Disney, and Amelia Earhart have shared the same American blood, sweat, and tears with musicians like Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, Aretha Franklin, and Johnny Cash. The dreams that musicians have are powerful enough to move mountains and do the impossible. Here in Utah, those dreams are alive and flourishing.
“And I know, and I know that everybody’s dreaming. They grow, they grow like titans or it seems, and I know, I know I must be planted for a reason,” sings Brady Parks in what he says is his favorite song to play live, “Wildflower.” Parks is the frontman of his band, The National Parks, that originated in Provo. “I just feel that [“Wildflower”] has a lot of meaning. It kind of represents where we are as a band and where we want to go as a band.”
As a kid, Parks started playing music on piano, but it wasn’t until his mother bought him a guitar from a garage sale that he fell in love with music and especially writing music. In his early years at high school, he says he wrote songs that fell more into the pop punk or emo genre. He recalls, “I would write a lot of songs that were super dramatic, super angsty . . . a lot of relationship stuff, you know, like typical high school drama. I was all about it.” He moved to Utah from Colorado for college, and that is when he started becoming more involved in the music scene of Provo, where he fell in love with singer-songwriter and folk music, which is what he performs today.
Forming the Band
While attending BYU, Parks first met his keyboard player, Sydney Macfarlane, and it was through mutual friends that they were able to start the band. Their drummer, Cam Brannelly, was playing in a different band when they first met him. It wasn’t until that band broke up that Brannelly joined up with The National Parks. Lastly, Megan Taylor Parks teamed up with the band as the violinist when their former violinist left. Later on, Megan and Brady would end up getting married. “So, I was like, we’ve got to keep this violinist,” jokes Parks.
As with many musicians, there came a time when the band knew that they needed to follow their dreams and pursue their passions. “I kind of feel like it’s one of those things that you get involved with and then as you’re in it, and you can’t see yourself doing anything else,” says Parks. “I always had dreams. Like, it’d be amazing to play for thousands of people and be on stages and be in a band. I guess I never realized it could happen until I was doing it. I remember a specific moment in, like, 2015. I was getting ready to graduate from BYU and all of my schoolmates were going on to big advertising agencies.” Even though Parks studied advertising himself, he admits, “I couldn’t see myself doing that, and I had no desire to jump into that world. That was the moment where I was like, ‘This is something I have to do. I have to go full-time into music and push it harder than I ever have.’ . . . I had this vision of waking up and working on music every day.”
A Taste of Success
That is where the hard work began. The National Parks first jumped in as a full-time touring band. They started by playing hundreds of shows around the U.S. Even with broken down vans, sleeping on floors, and countless hours, they knew that they had to do whatever they could to get their music out there. Eventually, they achieved great success on Spotify when their song “As We Ran” got a lot of attention online. It was because of this, their fan base grew, and more people started coming to their shows to hear that song. That gave The National Parks the opportunity to play more of their catalog to these fans.
This past year, the band has seen enormous growth and achievements. Last March, they played the first arena show in a full year across the country at Vivint Smart Home Arena. In May, they were able to play the national anthem at one of the Jazz playoff games against the Memphis Grizzlies. And on October 9, they are headlining their own music festival called “Superbloom” at OC Tanner Amphitheater near Zion National Park. Parks explains all this success by saying, “I feel like we have this mentality as a band. If we have an idea, we just have to go for it, even if it’s a stretch for us to get there.”
Parks feels very proud about all the goals that his band has accomplished, but playing the national anthem at the Jazz game felt like a big milestone for him personally. “I’ve grown up going to sports games and watching the NBA, and [when] you see the person singing the national anthem, it’s a big deal,” he says. “For me, it was nerve wracking because you’re playing in front of such a large audience and it’s such a special song to be singing, especially at a time when the country feels divided. I feel like the national anthem can be a moment where we all come together and celebrate being proud to be American.”
Uniting Through Music
One thing that many musicians feel strongly about is the uniting power of music and the universality of it. As those that represent the American dream, there is no better way to contribute to their fellow Americans than helping to unite them. “[Music] is such a powerful force,” Parks shares. “I kind of feel like for us, the American dream has been you go from starting out playing open mic nights to playing for large crowds and having your music heard by people. But I also think deeper than that. It really is about bringing something positive and good to the world. If we can get our music out there on a large scale and have it heard by a lot of people, I feel like that is the American dream for us. It’s being able to build this network of communication and these amazing relationships that we’ve formed with people across the country and share experiences through music.”
One particular moment of connection that comes to Parks’s mind is when they played in Chicago. As a Utah band, they never would have guessed that they would have a big fan base in Chicago, but after they sold out one of their shows there, they decided to add another show, which sold out as well. It is these moments that he strives for when people across the country that Parks has never met are singing and connecting to his songs. And the dreams and goals are not stopping for The National Parks. As they continue to work toward them, Parks shares, “We just want to keep pushing and keep getting our music out there and hopefully we can reach a lot more people with our music and our messages.”
You can see The National Parks play at their festival, Superbloom, on October 9, 2021, by getting tickets at superbloomfest.com. You can also follow them on Instagram at @thenationalparksband to see the latest information about the many fun things they are up to.
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