Three musically gifted BYU students could have never imagined what would be in store for their band The National Parks when their latest album, entitled “Young,” debuted on Sept. 3.
Less than 10 days after the public release, the album had climbed to No. 17 on the iTunes Singer/Songwriter charts. Brady Parks, the lead singer, songwriter, and guitarist, said, “It’s been unreal; it’s almost like watching a dream come true and you don’t quite know how to react.”
Parks, a junior advertising student from Parker, Colo., said his passion for music began early in life.
“I’ve always loved music and songwriting,” Parks said. “I’m a dreamer, and when I have an idea in my head, even if it’s outrageous, I go for it.”
Parks began making himself known in Provo by playing at open-mic nights at the popular hangout, the Velour. After a few of these appearances, the owner approached Parks and asked him to put on his own show. He obliged and asked a few of his musically talented friends to participate.
“We got a band together, and it took off from there,” Parks said.
The band began as Brady Parks and the IndiAnns, but the group decided to head a different direction with its music in March. The National Parks includes Sydney Carling, a senior special education major from Kaysville, who masters the piano keys, writes her own lyrics and covers percussion, and Paige Wagner, a senior studying violin performance from Modesto, Calif., who plays the violin and is a vocalist.
“We all collaborate with each other and experiment; then what we like sticks,” Parks added. The members came together through mutual friends, and “they’re a perfect fit,” Parks said.
This past summer the band toured Sacramento, Reno and Seattle on its Tiny Tour.
“(The tour) opened our eyes to how much we really loved being on the road and playing for new people,” Parks said.
The National Parks recorded its newest album in Provo with the respected June Audio. Scott Wiley produced the album. Parks said Wiley helped them take their music to the next level and referred to him as “brilliant.” Upon the band’s arrival at the studio, Parks immediately stated, “it has to be here.” They got to work, and many hands were involved in the production.
“We all wear a lot of hats; we work together really well,” said Jacob Cutler, band manager and graduate student in creative writing from Sandy.
The rapid success of the album came as a surprise to The National Parks. While Wiley was collaborating with Parks on a different project, he mentioned in an email, “By the way, congratulations.” Confused as to why, Parks began jumping up and down and read, “We’re on an iTunes chart.”
“We all got together that night; there was something special in the air, and it’s an exciting time for us,” Parks said.
By the same time the next evening, “Young” had climbed to 19. “We are up with some great people,” Parks said. iTunes had also featured The National Parks in the New and Noteworthy section with its own header.
“This band is special, and that is why I’m involved,” Cutler said. “It’s vindicating to see that I’m not the only one who feels that way.”
Fans are thrilled with the success as well. Courtney Mortensen, a freshman from Kaysville studying marketing management, mentioned, “I’ve followed the band for a year and a half and am stoked and excited for them. … They deserve this, they have been working like crazy.”
“We haven’t been able to take our eyes off of the charts; lately the fruits of our labors have really paid off,” Parks said.
Cutler also mentioned that the iTunes chart is not the only attention the band is receiving.
“We’ve had messages and tweets from all over the country; it’s incredible, really,” he said.
As far as the vision of the band goes, Parks said, “Well, our main focus as a band isn’t to make money or to get famous, but it’s to be able to touch and reach people in a different way and to be a force of good in their lives. We’re all very devoted to the LDS religion, and we want that to show up with who we are as people and musicians.”
Not only is the band successful on track, their opening concert for “Young” on Sept. 7 attracted hundreds to the Velour.
“When you see them live, it’s a whole different ball game,” Mortensen said. “You can see their sincerity, and you know they love what they do.”
Parks recalled working very hard to promote the show and feels elated with the turnout.
“Their sense of unity shines through,” Mortensen said. “They are personal with the audience and make it an incredible experience.”
The National Parks can be seen live Sept. 20 in a show called “Localized” at the Urban Lounge in Salt Lake City, and also on Oct. 4 for a Rooftop Series Concert in Provo.