Sit Down With: Alexia Parenzee talks about ancestral connection to music and why she helps regional musicians

Jessica MoroneyGeraldton Guardian
Alexia Parenzee playing at Sounds of the Mid West album launch at Queens Park Theatre.
Camera IconAlexia Parenzee playing at Sounds of the Mid West album launch at Queens Park Theatre. Credit: Lisa Favazzo/The Geraldton Guardian

A woman whose feet itch for travel but hands remain busy to help Geraldton’s music scene grow, Alexia Parenzee explains her journey to music and desire to see other creatives thrive in regional WA.

The founder and director of Regional Sounds is passionate about bringing creatives together, being the producer, if you will, behind the launch in January of the new safe space in the old railway station building for musicians to explore and develop their talents — a first of its kind for regional towns such as Geraldton.

The jazzy-soul, roots and folk singer-songwriter was once concerned about where her music belonged, now she couldn’t care less.

“Does it need to fit?” Parenzee asks. “I’ve hooked into this awesome genre called retro pop, I feel like I sit in that as well.”

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The gentle and soft-spoken 29-year-old’s dream is to have a sustainable music career, but building a pathway for other regional musicians to advance theirs comes first.

“It’s extra challenging in the regions because we work in our silos — away from each other in our bedrooms — and don’t really get to connect with other musicians,” Parenzee said.

As well as that, COVID restrictions had put a hold on Geraldton’s already hush music industry.

But Parenzee feels that life is beginning to pick up again. “Now it’s game on, especially in the arts industry,” she said.

“We’ve had a really difficult time with events and music, but we stay positive because we know it’s what we love and people get so much from live music and coming together.”

The mother of twin toddlers was born in South Africa and spent her youth in New Zealand, moving to WA before she turned 20.

Parenzee has travelled and toured since she can remember, visiting countries across Europe and Asia.

A believer that collaboration with other musicians is crucial for growth and creative inspiration, nonetheless the earthy, homegrown musician’s career is in the forefront of her mind.

“I’m going hard with my music because the time is now for me. I feel ready and clear with my career as an artist and I’m going for it,” she said.

Factoring in the strong music connection to lineage, Parenzee explained her grandad was a jazz singer in a time when South Africa was extremely political.

As well as her music, ancestry helped form her outlook on life. Parenzee was the first in her family tree to have the opportunity to succeed in the music industry.

“I have so many creative people in my family line, but nobody was able to advance their creative careers because of the colour of their skin,” she said.

“I’m the first one in my family to have that freedom — to be considered an artist of colour.”

Channelling her grandfather’s energy, Parenzee explained how his strong passion for making music outstripped the danger in attending underground jazz shows and touring illegally.

“That really inspires me, and that’s why I don’t muck around because the people in my family before me didn’t have that option,” she said.

Regional Sounds is turning up the volume in the local music scene, and Parenzee said she created the quirky and creative space to champion regional artists.

Thinking back to a time when Geraldton had a pumping music scene 10-15 years ago, Parenzee witnessed the city’s tendency to peak and then drop off, and believed the music scene was peaking again.

“I feel like we’re at a really great spot at the moment with diversity, different types of genres and interesting collaborations that are starting to emerge,” she said.

Unsure what the future holds, Parenzee said her family felt grounded in Geraldton, and location wasn’t defined by place, but rather about achieving goals.

“At the moment, I’m dancing between pursuing my own career and also trying to set up a pathway for other regional people who want to advance in their music careers while enjoying the regional lifestyle — because it’s amazing,” she said.

Parenzee wants regional artists to connect with other creators, start collaborating and be inspired.

“Don’t wait for someone to tell you that you should pursue music, no one’s going to tell you. If you love music and believe in yourself as a creator, that’s all you need,” she said.

Regional Sounds community development manager Sarah O’Malley and Parenzee’s long-time friend said the community should be thankful for the opportunities created and potential developed, due in large part to Parenzee.

“In the time working together I’ve seen a lot of change made and a culture shift in the regional community,” she said. “It’s really great to be a part of.

“She is motivated, has great ideas and puts the work in to make them happen.”

She said Parenzee was an inspiration to the local industry, and was unique by promoting the whole scene, not just individual artists.

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