If you’ve listened to country music on the radio anywhere in the country in the past several years — including Kix Country here in Flagler County — you might recognize the voice of disc jockey Shawn Parr, host of “Nash Nights Live” and now “Across the Country.” He will be joining 31 of the biggest names in country music songwriting at the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival, beginning with a free kickoff event 5 p.m. April 29, at European Village.
“Shawn Parr is well known in Nashville,” said David Ayres, general manager of Flagler Broadcasting, the parent company of Kix Country. “It’s a real endorsement of the Palm Coast Songwriters Festival — that it’s truly a national event.”
Launched by Garry Lubi, the festival features visiting writers this year who have written over 125 No. 1 hits.
“That says a lot about your particular festival,” said Parr, who has been in the DJ business for 30 years, along with acting in TV shows. Parr is also the voice of country music TV awards shows, announcing the nominees and sponsors. He spoke with the Palm Coast Observer from his Nashville studio on April 22, as he prepared to make the trip.
What is special about songwriting festivals?
A lot of songwriters write with a particular artist in mind, and I think it’s fascinating how an artist can take a song and make it their own. When you hear the thought process of how some of the biggest hits in the world have bene created, it changes the meaning of the song for you as a listener.
How has country music changed in 30 years?
In the early 1990s, it was a completely different sound, and then you went through the mid 2000s where it went a little poppier, and it seems to me it’s turning that corner again, back to that traditional sound, with John Pardi, Chris Stapleton, Eric Church. It’s really in a good spot right now.
Country songs are often more narrative than other popular genres. What is the power of telling a story in three minutes?
You have to find the mood. You have to tug at the heart strings. “In Case You Didn’t Know,” sung by Brett Young, was written by a songwriter coming to the festival. The song never says, “I love you,” but it was my wedding song personally because that song said everything I wanted to say to my wife.
"Country music hits you in whatever mood you’re in."
Whether it’s that kind of song, or I just need a fun song, or give me something I can turn up and listen to in the car — Carrie Underwood belting a passionate gospel song at the top of her lungs. Country music hits you in whatever mood you’re in.
Which music stars have you met and then discovered they were “regular people”?
Brad Paisley is a prime example for me. The first time I ever met Brad, he said, “When you come to Nashville, here’s my number. I want you call me.” I was just taken aback by that. I figured he would forget about me, but when I got to Nashville, I called him. Not only did he remember me, he invited me to his house; we smoked cigars, we hung out, I was in one of his music videos.
I was new in the business when I met Reba McEntire. She could tell I was nervous — she was one of my first big interviews, and she basically interviewed me and made me feel right at home, and we’ve been friends for 30 years.
Kix Brooks, with Brooks and Dunn. You would never be afraid to approach guys like Kix Brooks.
Lately it’s Brett Young. He’s got seven No. 1 singles in a row. We grew up in the same area but didn’t know each other, and when he first came to Nashville, he came in for an interview, and we’re best friends to this day. He’s so appreciative of what he has.
You’re also an actor, having appeared on the TV shows such as “Heist” and “Nashville.” How is acting in a show similar to hosting a country music radio show?
It’s almost like playing a character. It’s me, but you have to be “on.” You have to hit that switch.
I was in the movie “Lucky You” (2007), with Eric Bana and Robert Duvall, and I was supposed to be on set for two days. I did this scene, and the director said, “We want to write you into this movie.” So I did a supporting role, and I was shooting for four weeks.
I’ve been very, very blessed. But doing radio is my passion for over 30 years now.
Do you ever get tired of country music? What else do you listen to?
I grew up in a neighborhood where they were playing Led Zeppelin and Journey, and my mother was an Elvis Presley fanatic, so I appreciated everything.
Then I had this job where I was a club DJ, and I got to mix Janet Jackson and Prince on one night, and the next night, Clint Black and George Strait.
I’ve never gotten tired of country music — ever. Country music is my home.