Q&A: Mary-Louise Parker

Videos by American Songwriter

Videos by American Songwriter

Mary-Louise Parker: “I really love songwriters, and singer-songwriters.”

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As if his new single, “Listen to the Darkside,” wasn’t addicting enough, Mississippi indie rocker Charlie Mars was able to get Weeds actress Mary-Louise Parker to star in the video. And she’s nice to look at.

The pair steam it up in the sultry video (see below), which was directed by famed rock photographer Danny Clinch. As it turns out, when it comes to all things “singer-songwriter-y,” Parker knows her stuff.

Check out this quote from one of her Esquire columns:

“Truthfully, I believe that much communication can happen through music. The right record can be a surrogate for conversation and more potent than a chemical aphrodisiac. “Music is a beautiful opiate,” wrote Henry Miller, and I concur. Some songs make me feel intoxicated from the first five notes, and when you feel light-headed and electric, it’s always better to be lying down, sharing it with someone else. If you are less than articulate, just putting on a song can make you a deputy to greatness. Maybe you couldn’t write “Tupelo Honey,” but you can play it and tell her that you wish you had written it for her. Your ardor will be reified in the form of melody, and she will dissolve if she likes you even a little. Conversely, if the evening isn’t going well, just bust out the soundtrack from Annie.”

We talked to Parker about her trip to the “Darkside.”

How did you end up in the video?

I saw him at Soho House, once, when someone took me to see him play. And then I met him that night, but we only talked for a couple of minutes. Then he called me a couple of months later and asked me to be in it. I don’t really know why I decided to be in it, except I liked the song, and thought he was cool, so…

What is it about the song that appealed to?

it’s one of those song that catches up to you after you’ve heard it, and i think it’s a really cool song. It has a cool vibe to it. Plus, any song that deals with the Dark Side of the Moon I like.

Was that album important to you?

Yeah. All the records from that period are. I don’t really listen to it so much anymore, but it’s one of those iconic records, where if you listen to it you kind of want to lie down, and maybe have a drink or something.

In the video, did you come up with a character, or did they tell you what they wanted you to do?

Well, Danny Clinch, he had the concept for it. They called me, and I kept asking them what the concept was. And finally it was a week before and I was really worried that I was gonna get there and they were going to like, make me be in a giraffe suit or something. I said you really have to tell me the concept, because you never know. And first he threw out a Wizard of Oz theme, you know, relating to the Dark Side of the Moon, so I said fine. Also, he’s such an amazing photographer, like I love all the things he’s done with Tom Waits. And he’s a really cool person, too, which is half of what you you need in a good director for this kind of thing. He just made the room really nice and everything was really relaxed and calm. And he’s really un-self-conscious, which I like. When it doesn’t feel really stage-y and fake.

Yes, things look very genuine. What was it like, getting all intimate like that?

Well, I kind of have to do that a lot, with my job. I’ve done way more stuff than that. It’s one thing with other actors, but Charlie’s not an actor, which is kind of unusual. But no one was uptight. That day. He just kind of let the camera roll and said, whatever happens, happens. And that’s kind of what happened. Pretty much everything that we did was improvised.

It reminded me a bit of that Chris Isaak video, “Wicked Game.”

The one where their rolling around in the sand and stuff?

Right.

Well, he kind of just turned the camera on and it happened. Which is fortunate, because it could have all went bad.Sometimes, actors, you have to do a love scene with them, and then they freak out at the last minute. And they feel uncomfortable. And other people don’t, sometimes they get a little too into it. Sometimes something just nice happens, and this was like that.

Well, the video is cool in that it adds an extra dimension to the song.

That’s what a few people have said. I didn’t really know how they were going even to make a video out of it. Like I had to go to work and I wanted to see my kids before I went to work and I felt bad because I didn’t think we had any footage to make a video out of. So I’m impressed. I know he’s a great director, an amazing photographer, and a smart guy, but I don’t know how he did that, honestly. Because when you’re working on movies, you never feel that you have enough shots, and you need more coverage of this or that…

But I really love the song, it’s just so ill. The first time you listen to it, I mean even my kids, who maybe shouldn’t hear it too often, because it’s about getting high [laughs], but it’s a song you can’t get out of your head. I’ve been listening to the record, and I really like the record too.

Are you a pretty big music fan?

I am, yeah. I write for Esquire sometimes and a lot of what I’ve written about is music. That’s all I ever want to write about. They usually want me to write about sex, so I either write about sex or music, or the two combined. And I interviewed Josh Ritter and I got to know him that way, and I really love his music. I saw him open for John Prine, and he definitely reeled them in. The audience was completely quiet. It was a John Prine crowd, they’re there to see John Prine. But they really got him. I’ve been listening to the new record by Band of Horses. I listen to Rufus Wainwright a lot, and a lot of Tom Waits. Do you know my friend Leona Ness? I love her music. My kids randomly really love Willie Nelson. My daughter is into him. My son really likes Josh Ritter though.

Oh, and I love the Jayhawks too. They’re going to get back together soon. And Elvis Costello. I feel like music 20 years ago was really about the songwriter, and now some of that has been lost. But I really love songwriters and and singer-songwriters.

Are you a musician yourself?  Do you play anything?

I wanted to learn piano for the last play I did, and I fell in love with it so much, I thought maybe I’ll learn piano. And everyone I was studying with said you should join us, you have an affinity for it. And it’s actually good that I can’t do it right, because the only thing that would make me buy a piano at this point in my life is really loving it, and I really do. It really satisfies something in me. I mean, it’s about precision, and it’s such an emotional instrument. So I actually bought one recently. It’s taking up a lot of room.


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