As one-fourth of R&B supergroup 112, Quinnes Parker charmed listeners around world with his good looks and smooth vocals. But with six ASCAP awards to his credit, few of 112's legions of fans are aware that in addition to singing lyrics, Parker has a panache for penning them too.
Parker's musical resume includes a string of hits that made 112 a staple on R&B scene including "Cupid," "Anywhere," and "Peaches & Cream." In addition, Parker's talents have helped artists like Keyshia Cole (on her platinum single "I Should Have Cheated,") and the soca sensation Kevin Lyttle ("Turn Me On," an international dance hit) reach the top of the charts.
Having spent the past decade as part of a dynamic quartet, "Q" reemerged in 2007 ready to step out as a solo artist and entrepreneur — handling CEO duties for NeWFAM Entertainment, while preparing Real Talk, his first independent release.
Upon review of Real Talk, Quinnes Parker managed to squeeze some time out of his busy schedule and settle down for an interview with Clayton Perry — reflecting on 112, fatherhood and the current state of R&B.
Looking back at the liner notes from the first 112 album, I saw that you thanked your brother and sisters for "putting up with you," since you would sing all day, everyday. Is there a particular moment from your childhood that stands out?
Man, I used to walk around singing almost anything. My mom would say, "Go get me some milk." I'm like, "I'm going to get Mom some milk [singing]." Anybody that knows me will tell you that I am just a hummingbird. I've been doing this for so long, not realizing that I'm humming or I'm singing something. If you talk to anybody that knows me and you ask them what Quinnes does all the time, they will say, "He never shuts up. He's always humming something." I just have music in me and I have to get it out.
Is there a specific instance in which you became fully aware of your talent?
I would say around age eight. During that time, I got to sing the lead solo in elementary school and the lead solo in the church choir. At the time, I was in the Atlanta Boys Choir, which was equivalent to the Harlem Boys Choir in New York. Just being in those choirs in church and elementary school made me realize, "Maybe I'm onto something," because I would always be chosen to sing the lead on the songs.
Stevie Wonder once said that, "Ability may get you to the top but it takes character to keep you there." What character traits have kept you in the limelight?
Just being sincere, being honest, being authentic, and just staying true to the game. I believe character plays a lot in the success of a person in general because that's all you have. I'm a hard worker. I know the game I'm in. I'm very knowledgeable of it. My work ethic – I think that's the most interesting thing about me and the fact that I'm willing to do whatever it takes.
As an independent artist, when do you see your character being tested the most?
I may not travel the way I'm accustomed to traveling or I may not get to stay at this level of a hotel. I may not record in some level of a studio. If that's what I have to do just to show them – anybody – I'm always willing to do whatever it takes.
The title of your first solo project is called Real Talk. Is there a specific life event that inspired the title? And what kind of elements can listeners expect?
We have weekly meetings with my whole team. I hadn't had a title at that point. I thought about all the titles in my records and how they all came about. The phrase that I just kept saying was, "That's real talk, man. You have to understand that this is what it is. That's just real talk." I said it so many times that I said, "You know what? This is a "real talk" album because I'm talking about real experiences, real issues, real fantasy."
Everything about this album is authentic, from my lyrics to my vocal performance, the instrumentation. I believe in the message of my generation. I came into the industry in the mid-90s when everything at that time was authentic. We had real singers. We had producers that really produced. I'm a true testament, a product of my generation, and I believe a lot of artists have steered away from that. I'm one of those artists that stand firm on R&B.
If I were to say, "R&B is dead," what would be your response?
I wouldn't say that it's dead, but I think it's in rehab. Artists like Beyonce and John Legend, Alicia Keys, Ne-Yo, Keyshia Cole – regardless of what's going on in the format of radio, they found their lane and they speak to us. Real Talk will be my contribution to that field. It will definitely be a healthy contribution, something that I think the few that really love R&B music are going to gravitate towards.
It's often said that life influences art. How has marriage and fatherhood impacted your career and the singles on Real Talk?
I'm not only representing myself, I'm representing a family. So, the best thing that I can do is be myself. Being myself is a person that likes to dance, a person that likes to party, a person that likes to cuddle – I can be sensitive at times, maybe shed a tear here and there – a person that likes to be sexy, a person that knows how to approach a woman, a person that knows how to set the mood with a female, a person that knows how to wine and dine, a true gentleman, a person that's there for life, a person that shows that chivalry isn't dead. I have a son that probably is trying to imitate me, and I make sure that I lead by example. Putting that all together, the end result is just being myself.
Having had a great deal of previous success, I imagine that it's hard to escape the cloud of 112. As a solo artist, what do you want your mark to be?
To be honest with you, I never want to escape the mark of 112. It's because of 112 that I have been able to be in a position to do solo records. The mark that I want to leave as a solo artist is to be to this generation what Marvin Gaye was to his generation, or Luther Vandross, Teddy Pendergrass, Donny Hathaway, Smokey Robinson or Stevie Wonder. They were very musical, true musicians, lyrically sound, great performers, and had a huge following. People relied on them to deliver great music and they did it. That's what I want to do as a solo artist.
When you're part of a group, it is somewhat hard to project your own individuality, so how would you fill in the blank: "I was the ____ of 112"?
They called me the politician because I would always keep things even-keeled. If there was a fight, I was the mediator. I was always named the sex symbol of the group, even though I believe everybody had their own sex appeal. But when it came to sing the sexy suggestive lyric – that's when my number was called [laughing]. That's a long blank, huh?
Slightly… [laughing] You handled the bulk of 112's vocal production, especially on Part III. How would you describe the vocal production process to a fan?
If I give you a song – for example, "The ABCs" – as a vocal producer, I'll tell you, "Instead of chopping A off, hold that note a little longer. When you get to EFG, chop them up a little bit. I want you to cry when you get to XYZ." Vocal production is just having a vision about how the song goes and being able to talk to and show the artist when you're recording it how to get the vision that you see. I think it's a very important part of the completion of the song.
Most definitely. 112 was well-known for their interludes as well as their singles. If you could extend any of them, which one would you want to extend?
I love interludes. I think the one everybody would want extended would be the "Q, Mike, Slim, Daron" Interlude.
"I Surrender" – that's the one I really like. Now that I think about it, most of your interludes could have been full-length songs! What made you cut them short or kept you from revisiting them later?
In creating interludes, the objective is to make people want more. That's when you've done the job of creating an interlude. Sometimes, the label may say, "No, we don't have room for it in the album," or, "We like it so much we'll add it as an interlude."
Since 112, no other male R&B vocal group has really been able to realize a great deal of mainstream success. What was it that you and the other fellows brought that the other groups couldn't?
I think we stayed true to ourselves. We stayed true to the music. We never gravitated to the gimmicks or the fads. I think the one thing about 112 is that the music was always the most important, not the individuals. We were always about the music. When that is the focus, you're able to succeed. A lot of times, other groups or artists buy into the slang of what's going on today instead of making records that will stand the test of time. We were blessed to have the ability to ignore what's going on in the industry and have the strength to stay true.
After the release of Pleasure & Pain, all of 112's members have gone off and started working on solo projects. What is the current status of 112? Is the group officially a wrap or are you just exploring?
We collectively agreed – after thirteen years professionally together and seventeen years just being together as a group – to exhale and stretch out a little bit and explore options individually. But for the record: 112 has not broken up. We are planning to release another 112 album—maybe at the end of 2009. We still tour together and we're very supportive of each other. A lot of times when people see a group and members have explored other options, the usual thought is, "They've broken up, they're not together anymore." We're one of the few groups that are able to step outside of the group and stand alone. The only other group that I can remember that did it successfully was New Edition. They all did their solo ventures but were able to come back and still be New Edition. I think 112 is capable of doing that. We're getting ready to show the world that we're capable.
Few people know that you are also an accomplished songwriter. One particular songwriting credit that I stumbled upon was "I Should Have Cheated" – a breakout single for Keyshia Cole. How did you become involved with that project?
Like you said, I've always been a songwriter – even with the 112 records. Keyshia Cole was recording. We got "I Should Have Cheated" to her manager and she came over and recorded it. It was the fifth single that she released on that album. We pressed and pressed and pressed for them to release it sooner, but I guess they played the popularity/celebrity game. Once they finally released our record, it really opened her up to the marketplace. It was successful for her and for us as well.
Were you at all surprised by the success?
You know, it's funny because nowadays you can't pick a record. You kind of just put it out there and see how it comes back. I'm always confident in my ability and in anything I'm a part of. I always knew that if they would just release it, it would do well.
When you're writing for a female artist, how did you approach the songwriting process? Was there anything different, or is a song just a song and you just put a face with it?
It's a different mindset and I think it's to my advantage. I grew up with a mother-and-father household. I'm very blessed to be able to say that. My dad, he's a provider. He worked all the time. My brother was the oldest of the four of us, and he was in the service. A lot of my high school career I was at home with my mom and my two sisters. I would hear my sisters talk about how their boyfriends did this or how they wish their boyfriends would do this. I learned a lot of things about women at an early age, growing up with two sisters and a mother. I'm able to fall back on that when it comes to writing lyrics because I believe as a man, it's very important to know what a woman wants to hear and to know how to present that. I think I've been blessed with that ability to know how to approach a woman in person or in song.
Do you ever see yourself venturing out of the R&B genre, or is that something you're going to stick with?
That's the core of me. I grew up in the church, so Gospel is a part of me as well. I just love music – whatever it is. In the future, I may venture into other genres.
For more information on on Q Parker, visit his official website.Powered by Sidelines