Learn not only to forgive others, but more importantly, learn to forgive yourself.
As a part of our interview series with leaders, stars, and rising stars in the music industry, we had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Carl Pariso.
Carl Pariso is a Nashville-based singer/songwriter hailing from Montague, New Jersey. With a dynamic blend of pop/rock and traditional Americana influences, Carl’s music captivates audiences with its theatrical flair and relatable storytelling.
Carl’s journey in the realm of music led him to the dazzling streets of New York City, where he quickly made a name for himself as a standout performer in the world of Musical Theatre. After an awe-inspiring stint as part of the acclaimed Broadway Tour of Cabaret in 2018, Carl decided to focus his immense talents on the composing side of the theater world. He curated a mesmerizing cabaret at The Duplex in NYC, featuring an array of his own original musical theater works, brilliantly directed by the esteemed Travis Greisler, Associate Broadway Director of The Cher Show.
In 2021, Carl made the decision to embark on a new chapter in his illustrious career, relocating to the vibrant city of Nashville. Currently, he is in the midst of recording his forthcoming album, aptly titled “Level 30,” which is set to be released in October 2023. In addition to his studio work, Carl continues to captivate audiences throughout the Nashville, TN area with his energetic live performances. Building upon his growing momentum, he has an exciting tour lined up for the fall of 2023.
One thing is certain: diving into Carl’s upcoming album will allow you to truly understand him as an artist and forge a lasting connection, making you a fan for years to come.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! Before we dive in, our readers would love to learn a bit about your “origin story”. Can you tell us the story of how you grew up?
Thank you so much for having me on this interview!
Sure! I grew up on a farm in Montague, NJ. Montague is a very rural small town right on the Northwest boarder of Pennsylvania and New York state. I grew up constantly surrounded by music as my dad was a very accomplished and professional opera singer at The Metropolitan Opera. Not only is he a talented singer, but he also is well versed in guitar, bass, and banjo. I always loved to sing. My mom told me that I could sing well before I could talk. In middle school, I had a strong interest in learning how to play guitar and bass. I was eager to start a band, so my dad gave me lessons. Once I put my band together, I realized we needed our own songs to play. I immediately tried my hand at songwriting, and fell deeply in love with the craft. By the time college came around, I was certain I wanted to pursue songwriting. In my senior year of high school, I started to catch the theatre bug, and joined the school musical. During that time, I started watching old movie musicals and fell in love with all the Fred Astaire movies. I couldn’t believe how amazing the music was and was so inspired by the orchestral arrangements. I decided to pursue a degree in Music Composition at the University of Delaware with a Theatre minor.
Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?
After college, I moved to NYC to pursue an acting career in musical theatre. While I was there, I performed at several regional theaters across the country as well as performing on the National Tour of ‘Cabaret.” Then, Covid hit the world. Auditions and performances halted that year, and NYC became a frustrating place for me to live. I went back to the drawing board and thought about what the next step for me was going to be. During isolation, I started recording demos of songs I had written, and became obsessed with writing again. Then, I remembered something. While I was on tour with “Cabaret” we spent a week in Nashville performing at TPAC. It was, by far, the most exciting and vibrant city I visited while on the 7 month tour. I remember thinking to myself as I was walking the streets of downtown Nashville…”I don’t know how, when, and why, but at some point I am going to live here.” So, I packed my bags and moved to Nashville in March of 2021. When I first moved here, I was initially pursing an MBA degree at Belmont University. I had aspirations to open up my own Arts Center, and wanted to acquire the knowledge to do so. However, Music City had different plans for me. It’s hard being a songwriter in Nashville without desperately wanting to pursue it. After I played my first full band show at Tin Roof in March of 2022, I was hooked again. I remembered how much I missed it! So, I paused my degree and threw myself into a career as a musician.
Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?
When I first moved to NYC, I reached out to a teacher that coached me in a musical theatre workshop while I was in college. He knew I had an interest in musical theatre composition, so he put me in touch with a friend of his. That friend was Stephen Schwartz. I have always been a massive fan of Schwartz’s compositions and lyrics. Pippin, Wicked, and Disney’s Hunchback of Notre Dame just to name a few. I reached out to Mr. Schwartz and he invited me to his NYC apartment to chat about musical theatre. The entire experience was so surreal! I cannot tell you how kind and generous Stephen Schwartz is. He spoke with me for hours one on one, and gave me so much advice and words of encouragement. It was so incredible to hear him talk about his career in this personal setting. That memory and moment in time holds a close place in my heart. So, Mr. Schwartz, thank you.
It has been said that sometimes our mistakes can be our greatest teachers. Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Sure can! I was in my first band in high school, around 15 years old and we signed up for a local talent show. The winner of the talent show would get to perform at our State Fair, which in our county was a big deal. Everyone we knew was going to be there and we all grew up watching bands play at the State Fair, so we had to win this talent show. The talent show drummed up all the local talent that our small town of Montague had to offer: local comedians, harmonica players, hula hoopers, and us. When we got there, we all thought we had it in the bag. We had worked hard, practiced all week leading up to the gig, and we had this intoxicating confidence that we were going to win. That feeling of confidence continued as we saw the other performers go up, and continued even more after we were done playing. We heard the crowd applause much louder than we had heard the entire day. I’m sure we all had the same arrogant thought that we had just won it by a landslide. So, It was time to announce the winner. They announced that a 6 year old hula hooper, who hula hooped for maybe 15 seconds, had won. My band and I were utterly shocked and devastatingly defeated. However, this taught me a very valuable lesson that has helped me through the years of pursuing a career in the arts. Never assume your success, and never put all the weight of success on one event. In an industry that is so saturated, subjective, and where “who you know” takes priority, you cannot assume anything. That was a very humbling lesson I’m glad I learned early on.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
I am very fortunate to have had many people in my life support my career and help me in many facets. So, I just can’t pick one. I literally wouldn’t be here without my parents. I cannot fathom how lucky I am that I grew up in a family that overwhelmingly supported my pursuit in the arts through every step of my life. My dad taught me lessons, and introduced me to music of all sorts. My mom drove me and my band to all my gigs, rehearsals, studios, etc. Both of them knew the importance of the arts and that alone was incredibly important to have in my life.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
While many people use quotes from legendary philosophers and influential icons throughout history, one of my favorite quotes is from the movie “We Bought a Zoo.”
“You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of just embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
I could never sing in front of people, other than my family, until I was about 10 years old. My mom forced me to sing in a talent show. I was so mad that she signed me up and I offered to do anything else besides sing, but she wouldn’t budge. I had to sing. Right before I went up to sing, I knew there was no way out of it and I had to rip the band aid. Once I started singing, I was fine and, quite honestly, having fun. Ever since, I realized you don’t need to be brave every single second of the day. That’s exhausting! Most instances, it’s usually just seconds that go by until that stress and weight of responsibility is over.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
I am working on an album called “Level 30.” I curated a group of 9 songs that I wrote in my 20’s and I am listing each one in chronological order of when I wrote them. The last song is titled “Level 30” and talks about my life in reflection as well as what I want for my life in the future. The idea was to create a sort of musical time capsule or personal journal of my life as a young man, and I think you can see the musical and emotional growth through the album. It is set to be released in November, and I’m excited to share my life with the world.
We are very interested in diversity in the entertainment industry. Can you share three reasons with our readers about why you think it’s important to have diversity represented in music, film, and television? How can that potentially affect our culture?
I can only speak so much on this as a white man who has pursued a career as an actor, and now as a musician. What I will say is that it is always important to have diversity of people and thought in anything that is collaborative and creative. It’s the only way anyone is challenged and the only way true growth happens. It’s important to have voices and stories heard that aren’t often told because we only know what we are exposed to in our life. Even though the world is a massive place, we tend to stay in our communities and our bubbles. I think art is a perfect medium to burst some of those bubbles and introduce different cultures and ideas into the everyone’s self-created world. I think through art, we can represent diversity and new stories in a non-threatening way, and bring cultures together peacefully. Our country, specifically, is incredibly divided and has adopted this unhealthy tribal mindset. If there is going to be anything that melds us back together again, I believe it will be the arts. I will end this with a quote from Karl Paulnack’s Boston Conservatory Welcome Address Speech to incoming music students that really speaks to this topic.
“If there is a future wave of wellness on this planet, of harmony, of peace, of an end to war, of mutual understanding, of equality, of fairness, I don’t expect it will come from a government, a military force or a corporation. I no longer even expect it to come from the religions of the world, which together seem to have brought us as much war as they have peace. If there is a future of peace for humankind, if there is to be an understanding of how these invisible, internal things should fit together, I expect it will come from the artists, because that’s what we do.”
What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why?
1. Don’t let yourself get in your own way.
When I was in college, I cared too much about my peers opinion on my talent and the talent of others. I put too much weight in their words and opinions, and prevented myself from trying. Once I left and started to feel okay in my own skin, I developed a healthy dose of confidence in myself. However the same thing happened again when I first moved to Nashville. Deep down I really wanted to pursue music, but I pushed down that want. The fear of starting over from square one was overwhelming. I created a lack of confidence in myself again, and allowed myself to wallow in that self-doubt for over a year. I wish I hadn’t taken so long to find the motivation and ambition again. I spent too much time getting in my own way.
2. Don’t take anyone too seriously.
Through my career, I have met a lot of people who either are accomplished or claim to be accomplished. They both have the same thing in common. They both, generally, have no clue what they are doing. They are flying by the seam of their pants. I’ve realized how much an industry can seem mysterious and exclusive, but once you pull the veil back a little, you see everyone running around like chickens with their heads cut off. I had a vocal coach, later on in my time spent in NYC, tell me a story about the first time she music directed a Broadway musical, she expected it to be this hyper-professional atmosphere, but she said it was no different than her experience at a community theatre except for the fact that it had way more funding. She said the politics, the gossip, and disorganization was all the same. I had also found the exact same thing through my experiences as well. I wish that I had realized that earlier. It prevented me from reaching out to the people I should’ve or pursuing opportunities that may have seemed too big at the time. I was afraid to be a nobody reaching too high. Reach high, be confident, talk to people whether or not you think that they’re important because like you, everyone is just trying to figure it out.
3. Learn not only to forgive others, but more importantly, learn to forgive yourself.
Holding onto failures or regrets in your past adds so much extra, and unnecessary weight. My first audition in NYC was a final callback for the National Tour of “Once” the musical. It is one of my favorite musicals of all time. Glen Hansard, who wrote the music for both the movie and musical, was one of my idols growing up. To have the chance to be in this show on tour was a dream. Even though I knew his music in and out, I wasn’t ready for the pressures NYC audition rooms had to offer. I bombed the audition. Forgot words, sang wrong notes, and played wrong chords. I didn’t hear back, obviously, and I punished myself for years after that. I carried that weight into a lot of audition rooms, and a lot of my performances. Whatever the mistake you make, it’s up to you on whether or not it defines you. Forgiving yourself is a huge part of the process of growth.
4. Remember to have fun.
Growing up with a professional musician, I always took music extremely seriously. It definitely led to many frustrating and unproductive lessons and practice sessions. I’d get upset with the way I was sounding or performing and just spiral down a self-deprecating rabbit hole. As music and all art is incredibly important, it is also very fun to do! In fact, your art becomes more important when you are enjoying yourself in it.
5. It is okay not to know what’s next. Take your time.
I have always had many interests in my life. I love writing all types of music, and I love performing all types of music. I love acting, I love writing literature and poetry, I love science, I love history, I love philosophy, the list goes on. It got very overwhelming for me at times, because I was confused about what it was I should pursue. I felt guilty if I wasn’t working on all of my interests all at once. If you are ever confused or worried about what you should be pursuing, it’s okay not to know. Don’t feel guilty or lazy. Just be curious, present, and open-minded, and the answer will come to you.
Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?
Yeah, burn out is prevalent across all industries, and it’s especially tough for artists who may not always feel fulfilled or rewarded for their hard work. I’m sure everyone has their own way of dealing with burn out, but in general, I think as long as you are pursuing your specific goals and doing what you love, it leaves less room for burn out. I think taking the time to know what it is you’re trying to achieve is the first step. Not only is it the first step, but also something you have to constantly ask yourself and check in with as you continue to pursue it. Learning to say “no” to opportunities that don’t align with your priorities and your passion is a great skill to develop as well. It’s easy to get sidetracked and fall into other activities and side hustles that distract you from who you are and what you want.
You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
I have struggled with anxiety and OCD most of my adult life, and I would love to get more involved and help anyway I can when it comes to mental health awareness. I think we can do much more outreach to help everyone deal with their psychological pain in a healthy way. I think mental health should be a MUCH higher priority in this world than it currently is. Everyone in this country and this world should have access to mental health resources that are affordable, and reliable. However, those resources only get used if there is more widespread education and awareness of the benefits of therapy and psychiatric care. We need to develop a respectful relationship with mental health professionals the same way we do with surgeons or medical doctors. I don’t believe we are there yet as a society. More research should be done on safer and/or more natural ways to cope with mental illness, as we have seen that some psychiatric pharmaceutical medications have only caused more pain. If I had the means and influence, I would get involved in a massive financial way. Host benefit concerts, and make sure the money is going to the right people and the right professionals. For now, I will be an advocate for mental health awareness and be a lending ear for whoever needs it. I hope my music can help anyone who is working through their mental health or inspires people to work through it.
Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. :-)
This is a very tough question, as I have many influences and idols in many different mediums. I would have to say Steve Carrell. I doubt he would ever agree to have lunch or breakfast with me, but I’ve always been a huge fan of all of his work. I started my career in the arts as an actor, and his ability to shift between comedy and drama is outstanding. He has a background in theatre, and singing. He became very successful later on in life, and as a 30 year old man pursuing a career in music, I think he would be able to speak words of specific advice and encouragement to me.
In a commencement speech he gave to Princeton University he said, “…And every once in awhile put something positive into the world. We have become so cynical these days. And by we I mean us. So do something kind, make someone laugh, and don’t take yourself too seriously.” I think that advice can speak to everyone, especially anyone pursuing a career in the arts.
He just seems like a guy that I would have a lot to talk about with.
How can our readers follow you online?
They can go to my website at http://www.carlpariso.com and follow me on Instagram: @carlpariso, TikTok: @carlpariso, Facebook: Carl Pariso, Youtube: @carlpariso.
This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!
About the interviewer: Guernslye Honoré, affectionately known as “Gee-Gee”, is an amalgamation of creativity, vision, and endless enthusiasm. She has elegantly twined the worlds of writing, acting, and digital marketing into an inspiring tapestry of achievement. As the creative genius at the heart of Esma Marketing & Publishing, she leads her team to unprecedented heights with her comprehensive understanding of the industry and her innate flair for innovation. Her boundless passion and sense of purpose radiate from every endeavor she undertakes, turning ideas into reality and creating a realm of infinite possibilities. A true dynamo, Gee-Gee’s name has become synonymous with inspirational leadership and the art of creating success.