Jeff Lowe: Ivan I can’t imagine there is anyone that is a fan of Southern Gospel Music that doesn’t know who you are but just in case there is that one reader how about a little introduction, who you are and a little about your ministry.
Ivan Parker: I’ve been singing my whole life. I know that sounds like a cliché for a lot of artists, but I’ve been singing since I was a tot. My dad was a Pentecostal pastor in North Carolina where I grew up. I was the youngest of seven kids and we all just sang. My mom did tell me one time when I was two years old my dad asked one Sunday night, does anyone have a special song they want to sing tonight? She said I jumped out of her lap and ran to the front and sang “On the Wings of a Snow White Dove” at two years old. So, I’ve been in and around gospel music all these years and never thought I’d ever have the privilege of actually singing Christian music and telling people about Jesus.
JL: My first introduction to your talent was when you were with Gold City and of course Midnight Cry, such a big song for both you as well as the group. What about before Gold City who were you with before?
IP: In 1982, I joined the Singing Americans and sang for about a year with Danny Funderburk singing tenor and Ed Hill singing baritone and Dwayne Burke sang bass. Then I met up with this young group from Georgia. Nobody knew too much about them either a group called Gold City, so about 1983 is when I started my time with Gold City.
JL: Thinking about Ivan Parker, the singer. Is there one person that you listened to growing up that had the biggest influence on your style or that impacted you vocally?
IP: Well, honestly, if I was to go down the list there would be several. I did enjoy Jake Hess; he was one of my original favorites. I just loved not only his voice but the animation, you could watch his face and it would tell a story. Then I would say Duane Allen, with the Oak Ridge Boys. Back in that day he was a powerhouse in my book and smooth, man what a great singer. So, there’s a combination I guess of several singers even Donnie Sumner, he just had this voice that was bigger than the house, so strong.
JL: Let’s talk about your new project, Feels Like Home. I was privileged to have had the opportunity to review that project and I have to say, I really enjoyed it. I thought the song selections were great, the arrangements, just everything about it. What led you to record that project now?
IP: Well I was actually telling someone the other day this project has really been in the works for years. You know, down through the years, just being exposed to a lot of song writers and being a part of the Gaither Homecoming Tour, I got to meet a lot of the very important writers in our history books. You know, writers like Dottie Rambo, Bill and Gloria Gaither and Andre Crouch, the list just keeps going, Mosie Lister.
Years ago, I remember singing and some of the Homecoming stuff we were doing, whenever I would hear one of these great classics, I thought, “I need to just jot that song down. There may come a time I may need a classic song.” Well, I kept a list throughout the years and about five years ago I thought, “I’m going to do a whole project of just these classics.” Then, whenever we started talking at the end of last year about a project for this year, I just thought this really feels like it’s just the right time to pull some of these songs out. So, in the process of thinking about it what I noticed was that a lot of those songs I wrote down on the pad were from the 70’s decade. In my thinking the 70’s were a very important decade to a lot of people. That is when Bill Gaither was writing some of his biggest songs and Dallas Holmes, he was making a break into the Christian industry. So, what I noticed was most of these were in a sort of timeline and then I got to thinking this would have been the decade I was growing up and being exposed to these people and these songs.
So, these songs were actually what inspired to actually do what I do. I remember lying on the floor in front of the stereo in mom and dad’s house growing up. I would lay in front of that stereo and listen to these songs and in my mind, I would pretend I was singing them. So that’s where all this influence came from but at the same time these songs just landed in that decade and unmistakably these were the songs that made me want to sing this music. So, in the process of all that, that’s sort of the direction this whole project took was, revisiting that decade of some of the songs that truly touched my soul, that really just made me want to sing. Made me want to sing Christian music, changed my life actually.
JL: Continuing on with that, I’m curious out of the eleven songs on that album is there one you would pick that would be your favorite and why?
IP: Wow, man that is really a strong question, because, I mean all of these songs have a story for me. I remember the majority of the time who was actually singing that song at that particular time and all of a sudden that song really hit home with me and became my favorite song. Then next thing you know I’m listening to a different song and oh dear Lord, no wonder I loved this music so much. Man, that is really a hard question, because I just really love each of these songs as being a favorite of that decade. If I were to look at this list, I would probably have to say “I Just Came to Talk with You Lord”.
That song, I’ll never forget, I was setting there and Dottie Rambo made an appearance on one of the Homecoming videos with us and she set up there and played the guitar and sang it. Man, she sang it with so much feeling, there was so much heart and soul involved in that message and the tears just swelled in my eyes; because I thought, ya know, even today, as I think about the message of that song it still strikes me the same way. It seems like every time we talk to the Lord in prayer it seems like we’re always asking for something. Seems like we’re always in need or wanting something. What would it be like if every day if we were to just have a conversation with God? Just have a conversation with Him, just talk. I’m sure out of all that I would thank God, thank you Lord for a beautiful day of sunshine, thank you for this wonderful day that I feel refreshed today and I get to experience life. So “I Just Came to Talk with You Lord” that would be a very special request, to just be able to set down and talk with Jesus.
JL: When the time comes for you to retire and I’m sure that’s a long way off. When you’re sitting back and looking over your life as a Gospel artist what one thing do you hope to be able to say about yourself and your ministry?
IP: I would love for people to maybe see that I was consistent throughout my career. Whether it be “Midnight Cry” or some of these other songs that I have sang over the years, that I have consistently delivered some really great songs and that I was consistent in my everyday life. Being consistent is something that is very important to me, that would just be a great honor. After it’s all said and done, you know, when the light switch is flipped off and I’m just setting there thinking about all the wonderful times and memories; that would be a privilege if they say “he was a god man.”
JL: In closing Ivan, is there anything you would like to leave with our readers?
IP: I would love for everyone to really strive harder in their everyday life to be more positive. You know, we live a negative world seems like everything that you’re receiving from the news, the condition of the world, the way everything is going. There’s just so much anger, there needs to be more love and you know, that love needs to start with the Christian. We need to, as Christians we need to show the world that love.
To find out more about Ivan Parker visit him at www.ivanparker.com.