Christmas Songs: “Why Can’t It Be Christmas Every Day Of The Year?” by Lila Jane and Georgia

“Christmas Songs” week continues today with the Parzen Family Singers holiday ditty from last year, “Why Can’t It Be Christmas Every Day Of The Year?” sung by Lila Jane and Georgia.

That’s a photo of the sisters, below, from earlier this year when the weather was still warm enough for them to perform their “pandemic flash mob” concerts on the street outside our house.

They go to a music magnet elementary school. Across our neighborhood, at the same time each week, kids from their music program would set up and play songs from their Suzuki Method books for neighbors. It was a program organized by Lila Jane’s awesome cello teacher, who’s also our good friend.

The health crisis has been so tough on kids, our own girls included. But music has been such a great balm for them: They both take piano lessons, Georgia plays violin and guitar, and Lila Jane plays cello. And on many weekends, we jam together, write songs, and I teach them about the recording arts (something I enjoy immensely).

All the photos in the video above are from last year. It was wonderful to revisit them and to remember what life was like at our house before the pandemic. It’s still going to take a while but it will be like that again…

I hope that their song and video can bring a little bit of sunshine into your lives today. Thanks for listening. And Merry Christmas from the Parzen Family!

Christmas Songs: “(General, Please) Keep My Baby Safe This Christmas Eve”

“Christmas Songs” week continues on the blog today with a Christmas song I wrote together with my Nous Non Plus bandmates in 2011. At the time, Tracie and I were still living in Austin where we wrote, performed, and produced our album “Freudian Slip” (a track from that record recently appeared in “Emily in Paris”).

Austin music legend David Garza helped us produce the album and played on nearly all of the tracks. Another Austin great, Kyle Thompson, played drums.

The song was inspired by a Southern Californian blogger who called herself “Marines Girl.” Tracie and I followed her as she wrote about what it was like to be married to someone who was stationed overseas.

My loyal and ever-ready bandmates, always ready to embrace my crazy ideas, lovingly helped me flesh out my original idea for the song. It’s one of the few English-language tracks we ever recorded and David plays an amazing guitar solo on it.

I’ll never forget the moment we played it for our record company: They were like, “you wrote a sad Christmas song?” Needless to say, they refused to release it.

But it’s one of my all-time favorites from our catalog and I loved writing, performing, and recording it.

Those are lead singers Céline and Jean-Luc with David in the photo below (at EAR studio where we did most of the live tracking).

Here’s a short clip of us rehearsing with David and Kyle in our living room in Austin. Most of the band was stayed with us while we were making the album and we did some of the tracking in my home studio. It was one of those really great times in our lives. Tracie and I were still newlyweds and we were just beginning to try to start a family…

And here are some random images from Nous Non Plus over the years.

I sure miss those times but it’s also wonderful to listen to these songs. It’s like each one captures a moment, a memory, and a feeling that could have only happened at that particular place and time.

Thanks for letting me share it with you here. And I hope you like the track. Merry Christmas, everyone!

Christmas Songs: “Nothing Good Rhymes with Santa Klaus”

From the department of “you can talk about your Donald Trumps and Rush Limbaughs”…

Like every songwriter who happens to be a nice Jewish boy from a nice Jewish family (read: my mother’s other sons are both lawyers), it’s always been a lifelong dream of mine to write a great Christmas song.

In keeping with the holiday spirit this year (and with the knowledge that so many of you are stuck at home chained to a computer screen and thus might be more open to some hokey Christmas jingle divertissement than in a normal year), today I’m sharing one of my favorite roasted chestnuts, “Nothing Good Rhymes with Santa Klaus,” a song I wrote, performed, and recorded with our friend and writer extraordinaire Gwendolyn Knapp in Houston in 2018.

December 2018, you ask? It feels like a lifetime since we wrote the lines:

I read the Sunday Papers about the world’s faux pas
You can talk about your Donald Trumps and your Rush Limbaughs
When you’re eating at your drunk in-laws
Talkin’ ’bout the war on Santa Klaus

Please note that the plural of faux pas is pronounced foe paws.

That’s me and Gwendolyn, below, playing a gig as The Go Aways (iTunes link for our one album released) in the time before the time of the pandemic and what a good time it was.

Thanks for being here, thanks for listening (and for helping to make my childhood dream come true), and most importantly, MERRY CHRISTMAS YA’LL!

More good Christmas music (well, I guess “good” is a relative term) is on its way!

NEW SONG: “I Can’t Wait For The Eight Nights Of Hanukkah.” Happy Hanukkah, everyone!

Please consider giving to our GoFundMe to raise funds for the MLK Day 2021 parade in Orange, Texas where Tracie grew up and where we’ve been protesting a newly constructed neo-Confederate monument since 2017. Thank you for your support.

In a normal year, the Parzen Family usually hosts 2-3 blow-out parties a year, each with a kids music recital and parents jam session (sometimes lasting late into the evening).

Everyone — and I mean, EVERYONE — is invited and welcome and there’s always plenty of great wine, food, and music to share.

But over the last few years, our Hanukkah parties have become the pièce de résistance. That’s because of Tracie’s (now) famous latkes and jelly-filled donuts which she makes on the spot, sometimes for 50+ people!

We’re really bummed that we can’t have our holiday party this year. So instead we made this video with images from years past. The superb photos from last year’s party come by way of the amazing Annie Mulligan, our friend and fellow Parker parent.

Happy Hanukkah, everyone! Raise a glass to freedom!

I Can’t Wait For The Eight Nights Of Hanukkah

From the album It’s So Easy In America Tonight (November 2020)
available on the Terrible Kids Music label
Written, performed, and produced by
Parzen Family Singers at
Baby P Studios
Houston, Texas
Engineered by daddy.

Something’s happening soon
And I’m over the moon
And it’s going down tonight

You know it’s gonna be fun
Cause it’s the number one
It’s the Festival of lights

I can’t wait
For the eight
Nights of Hanukkah

Dreidel I will play
As you light
The menorah

Way back in history
Judas Maccabbee
set his people free

And then miraculously
The oil burned more than a week
It was so beautiful to see

I can’t wait
For the eight
Nights of Hanukkah

Dreidel I will play
As you light
Your menorah

Light the candles
Sing the songs
Say the prayers
All night long

Watch the candles glow

CHRISTMAS SONG 2020: “A Different Kind Of Christmas” by Parzen Family Singers

Happy holidays, everyone! Thanks for being here. The Parzen family hopes you and loved ones are all healthy and safe.

Please check out Parzen Family Singers’ new Christmas song “A Different Kind Of Christmas” (in the video above) featuring Georgia on vocals.

And please check out our 2020 album on Band Camp here and below.

Happy Thanksgiving! Wishing everyone a happy and healthy holiday season. Stay safe and know that you have friends in Houston.

Love, the Parzen Family

*****

It’s So Easy In America Tonight
Written, performed, recorded, and produced by the Parzen Family Singers at
Baby P Studios in Houston, Texas.
Engineered by daddy.
All Rights Reserved/Copyright Parzen Family Singers 2020
Available on Terrible Kids Records.

A Different Kind of Christmas

As Georgia says at the end of the track, “believe in the year.” This year’s Christmas is like no other before it.

It’s So Easy In America Tonight

Inspired by Van Jones’ observation on the evening that it became abundantly clear that Joe Biden would be the country’s next president: “It’s easier tonight to tell your kids that character matters…”

White Man’s Kinda Blues

About an 83-year-old aggrieved White man who hopes Democrats will die when Joe Biden takes office.

Where There’s Love

A love song written in the time of a global pandemic, racist violence, and economic catastrophe for too many Americans. It seemed their stars were crossed. But where there’s love, there’s nothing lost.

Have Mercy On Me

A covid-19 blues.

All They Need (Parzen Family TV Theme Song)

If the Parzen Family where an early 80s sitcom, this would be their theme song.

In the Corners of My Mind

A man looks into the deepest, darkest corners of his mind and is surprised by what he finds.

NEW SONG: “It’s So Easy In America Tonight” by Parzen Family Singers (election song)

Tracie and I were moved to tears by Van Jones’ commentary the night the election was called for Joe Biden.

“It’s easier to tell your kids character matters. It matters,” he said after it became abundantly apparent that Joe Biden will be our next president and Kamala Harris our next vice president. “Telling the truth matters. Being a good person matters.”

His words and the brio of the evening (plus my best friend’s Franciacorta and one two many glasses of Nebbiolo) inspired this song (video below).

It’s So Easy In America Tonight
by Parzen Family Singers

Lay your weary head to rest
The last four years have left us stressed
But now we know
That it’s all gonna be alright

I know we’ve seen our darker days
They made us feel like stowaways
But we’ve seen the future
And man it sure looks bright

It’s so easy to be yourself
You don’t have to be like no else
It’s so easy in America tonight

It’s so easy to love your neighbors
And maybe they’ll return the favor
It’s so easy in America tonight

Easier to teach your children
That all people were born free
Free to be the people they wanna be

I will still drive down your roads
And watch how your mighty rivers flow
America from sea to shining sea

I’ll play your blues and pay my dues
Cause the sweetest sounding kind of news
Just came over the airwaves on my TV

Easier to teach your children
That all people were born free
Free to be the people they wanna be

It’s so easy to be yourself
You don’t have to be like no else
It’s so easy in America tonight

It’s so easy to love your neighbors
And maybe they’ll return the favor
It’s so easy in America tonight

As our daughters make their way through the pandemic summer, music is their balm.

Something really magical happened last Sunday at our house.

I was in our home studio, tracking vocals on a new song I was working on (below), when Georgia, age 8, asked if she could sit in on the session. I hooked her up with a pair of headphones and once I was done with my first take, she said, “hey, daddy, I hear a part in my brain. Can I try recording it?”

Next thing I knew, she was laying down her own vocals on the track. A part and arrangement that she came up with herself.

It may not seem like much. But those familiar with the recording arts will recognize what a big step that is in a young person’s evolution as a musician and performer. It was awesome. Check out the track below.

The pandemic summer has been tough on the girls. We and they recognize how fortunate we all are. Tracie and I both worked from home before the crisis took shape and even though I’ve lost a lot of my clients, we still have enough work to keep us afloat.

But the girls still pine for visits with their Texas grandparents, a cancelled trip to California to see their grandmother there, playdates with their friends and Texas cousins, summer afternoons spent at our community pool, Saturday mornings at the bagel place.

They feel their parents’ stress as we fret about money and wonder if even the slightest cough or sneeze is the first symptom of something potentially debilitating or deadly. They sense our sadness and worry as family members, friends, and colleagues have fallen ill with the virus.

It’s a lot for a newly turned 7-year-old and a soon-to-be 9-year-old to absorb.

Their resilience and their positive attitude have been an inspiration to Tracie and me. Their strength is the reason we don’t give up hope, especially on those sleepless nights when we wonder how we’re going to pay the bills, how we are going to guide them through remote learning and keep up with our own work this fall, how and even when we’re going to get to the other side of this national nightmare.

Throughout the pandemic, summer music has been their balm. A place and space where they can feel free to express themselves as they fill our home with sound and joy.

From their “pandemic flash mob street concerts” to their remote piano lessons and our jam sessions, they’ve been nothing less than amazing.

I created the slideshow below (set to the new song) so that we’ll remember these long hot Houston summer days — the pandemic summer.

Thanks for listening and letting us share our blessings.

Protest Song (We Will Survive)
by Parzen Family Singers

People are yelling and running around
Starting to look like a battleground
And I just heard there’s trouble in town
Someone just said they’re burning it down

It’s just another of life’s mysteries
All of this chaos and monstrosity

Don’t tell me we got nothing to lose
So we’re hitting the streets and the avenues
Marching to the beat of a different drum
While old white men are calling us scum

Protests politicians pandemic in addition
Lightning thunder hurricanes’ll put me under
Portland Washington New York Tommy Gun
Feels like the whole world’s coming undone

We’re still alive
We will survive
Into the eyes
Of the Storm

Maybe it’s one of life’s sad ironies
Some people call it the human disease

Leftists Marxists Communists are on your list
Racists fascists supremacists and man they’re pissed
Borders hoarders new world orders
Anarchists and pacifists and oh-my-lorders

Sometimes it’s feels like there’s no end in sight
Sometimes I can’t tell if it’s day or night

Black brown yellow red all the colors round your head
Man child running wild what was that I heard you said
White man has a plan to be born again
That’s why I am running from the ku klux klan

Until we meet again, Jaynes Gastropub. “We had some good times, didn’t we?”

Above: the Jayne Burger — “Niman Ranch ground beef, aged Vermont cheddar, house pickled onions, garlic aioli, fries.”

The year was 2009 — and oh what a good year it was — when a lapsed New Yorker cum native Californian sat down in a newly opened restaurant in Austin, Texas with his southeast Texan bride-to-be.

“What a great place you have here!” he said to the server as he approached their table.

“Thank you,” he replied. “Have you ever heard of a restaurant called ‘Jaynes Gastropub’ in San Diego? The owners modeled the restaurant after Jaynes.”

The Texan joint was a nearly cookie-cutter version of the San Diego original.

Above: “We had some good times, didn’t we?” wrote Jayne and Jon on their social media yesterday. Jaynes’ opening coincided with the first boom of natural wine in the U.S.

From the “custom millwork, zinc bar, mosaic tile floor all the way up to the 1920′s tin ceiling” to the large mirrors and Anglophilic paraphernalia adorning the walls, Jaynes made you feel like you had traveled to another time and place.

When it opened in 2007, the restaurant rode atop the new wave of gastropubs that opened across the U.S.

Guests would work their way through appetizers like Gambas al Ajillo, Chips and Gravy Poutine, Queso Fundido, Crispy Calamari, munching away and washing it down with groovy European wines and international craft beers.

You’d ask for a bottle of lithe Nebbiolo or a hearty Mourvèdre as you struggled deliciously to decide between mouth-watering mains like Lamb Shepherd’s Pie, Steak Frites, or the legendary Jayne Burger (above). Or sometimes, you’d just order nearly the whole damn menu and share with friends around the wonderful hand-crafted community table on the patio, the wine and music flowing all the while.

Jaynes was good eating at its best, in a time when Americans were still learning a thing or three from British gastropub culture — comfort food prepared masterfully with the highest quality ingredients.

Above: Jaynes was also a place where great musicians gathered and great music happened — paired with white Burgundy and old Nebbiolo.

Yes, I’m so sorry to say but you read that write: Jaynes was.

Yesterday, Jayne and her husband Jon announced in an Instagram post that the restaurant will not reopen.

The only thing that attenuates our sadness is the tide of warm memories that fills our hearts and minds.

Jaynes gave Tracie and me so much. It was one of the backdrops of our early courtship, the host of our wedding reception, and the place where everyone knew our names when we returned to my hometown. Our children played there together, we played countless concerts there.

Above, from left: John Yelenosky, Megan Yelenosky, Jayne Battle, Jon Erickson, Tracie Parzen, and Jeremy Parzen at Jaynes — where else?

Jayne and Jon, Tracie and I can’t thank you enough for the hospitality, the generosity, the friendship and solidarity that you’ve shared with us over the years. There will never be another Jaynes and the magic of those years will forever be inscribed in our hearts, in the name of joy and love.

We’re looking forward to the next chapter in your lives. Or should I say, all of our lives? For none of our lives will be the same without Jaynes Gastropub.

Keep smiling through
Just like you always do
‘Till the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away
So will you please say hello
To the folks that I know
Tell them I won’t be long
They’ll be happy to know
That as you saw me go
I was singing this song
We’ll meet again
Don’t know where
Don’t know when
But I know we’ll meet again some sunny day

“Ten years gone & you’re still turning me on.” HAPPY 10th ANNIVERSARY TRACIE P!

Scroll down for the song I wrote for Tracie for our 10th wedding anniversary: “Ten Years Gone (and You’re Still Turning Me On).”

Tracie and I were married 10 years ago today in La Jolla, California where I grew up.

Our first kiss and first dance happened back in August of 2008 in Austin, Texas (at the Continental Club, where else?) after we’d already been in touch through our blogs for many months and many emails and texts had been sent back and forth.

By February of 2009, we were engaged. I had asked her to marry me after my band played a show in LA. We drank Bruno Paillard in our hotel room that night.

On January 31, 2010, we got hitched. Tracie’s dad, the Reverend Branch, officiated.

We drank Bollinger rosé all night that night at our reception at Jaynes Gastropub, one of our favorite restaurants, owned by our close friends, in San Diego.

After our honeymoon in Italy (where else?), we settled into a little house we rented in Austin. Both of our girls were born in Austin (Georgia in 2011, Lila Jane in 2013) and we brought both of them home to that little house on the corner of Gro[o]ver and Alegria (streets have never been so aptly named!).

In early 2014, we moved to Houston where we rented and still live in a bigger house in a neighborhood that we love and a community where we have put down roots.

Georgia’s eight years old now and Lila Jane’s 6. Our house is always filled with lots of music and now a couple of chihuahuas, too.

We’re still as broke as the day we met (well, maybe not quite that broke) and we still struggle to get by. But we’re all happy, healthy, and doing things we love and enjoy.
Continue reading