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WITF Music: Winter Parks

An expectation-free recording project.

  • Joe Ulrich
James Klippel performing as Winter Parks for WITF Music on April 14, 2023.

 Jeremy Long / WITF

James Klippel performing as Winter Parks for WITF Music on April 14, 2023.

Mixing creativity and business can sometimes take away from the creative experience.

“Winter Parks is the opposite of that to me,” says James Klippel of Lancaster. “Finally this is my place to simply express and get the musical thoughts out. Winter Parks is my expectation-free zone.”

While he mostly writes and records by himself, he brought a band with him during his visit to the WITF Music studio.

Listen to the feature:

How did you get your start in music?

I was probably 14 and I remember getting my first little TASCAM interface on sale, $100, eight channel interface. I remember my first song, I was trying to do a cover of Billy Joel’s “Still Rock and Roll to Me”. And it sounded awful. It was just terrible.

Does which instrument you start writing with help define the vibe of a song?

That is one reason why I’m trying to more songs with the drums because if I start a song on drums, I think it’s going to bring an entirely different energy to the songwriting process. If I’m on a keyboard, I’ll end up making things that are a little more smooth and laid back, or neo-soul vibe. If I’m on guitar, it tends to get a little more like funk oriented.

Recording gear and software

Ableton Live. I know people like their ProTools and their Logic and everything, but Ableton is just the one for me. The interface is different than any other DAW (digital audio workstation) I’ve ever used. There’s a learning curve to it at first, but I watched my friend using Ableton every day and I’m thinking, man, that took you half a second to do what?

James Klippel performing with Winter Parks on April 14, 2023.

Jeremy Long / WITF

James Klippel performing with Winter Parks on April 14, 2023.

How does Winter Parks fit into the R&B genre?

In R&B, some of the themes that they talk about lyrically is the struggle. And I was not raised in the hood. I was not raised in too much of a struggling situation. So it was a little bit of an identity crisis of like, okay, yes, I am black, but I didn’t have to go through a lot of the same struggles.

And from a lyrical aspect, I talk a lot about introspection and anxiety and isolation that is completely relevant to black history in the R&B context, but not in the same way. I feel like I’m almost more of a bedroom artist that’s complaining about his own internal struggle.

How do you account for the experience of writing a song that just pours out within an hour or so?

I think we mentally prime ourselves. If I have this moment where inspiration strikes, that might have been a culmination of me thinking about these 40 different topics the week leading up to it.

I’ve heard another musician say if there was a God, it was in those moments.

For me, I don’t know, maybe I’m more of a pragmatic kind of logical thinker, so I would want to point to evidence, or like a cause and effect for it. But I can’t point to one thing why something moved me beyond normal … being of moved. [Laughs]

Who has influenced you?

David Bowie was a big one. I was listening to a lot of Coheed and Cambria. They’re a little off the beaten path of, of rock and pop, but I really loved it. So if you can imagine a combination of David Bowie and Coheed and Cambria … Kind of a strange musical palette to start off from.

Phil Collins [on] drums, he’s another great inspiration. A lot of people know [he mimics the famous drum fill from “In The Air Tonight”] but there’s way more. His world of drumming is expansive, and I think he did so much for progressive rock drumming and to shape pop music in the eighties.

Favorite local pizza place?

If I’m in Lancaster, there’s a place called Pizzeria 211. It’s in the southern market. They have some great Chicago Deep Dish style. That and Zoetropolis  have some of the best pizza.

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