Over the past couple of years, David Parks has traveled the world, regularly playing music to crowds of 20,000 or more. But the 24-year-old bassist, a Memphis native, has done so as a sideman — as a member of rap/pop/reggae star Sean Kingston's touring band. Back home for now, this week Parks will command a smaller stage. But as the organizer of a revue-style concert dubbed "The Show," featuring young local and regional hip-hop and R&B artists, he'll be calling the shots this time.
Parks was born and raised in Memphis, taking up the bass as a student at Overton High School and earning a scholarship to the University of Memphis as part of the school's jazz program. Parks was working toward his degree and gigging locally — playing shows with artists such as Al Kapone and FreeSol — when he saw auditions for rap mogul Sean "Diddy" Combs' Making the Band reality television series.
As a 22-year-old junior, Parks joined a few musician friends and headed to Chicago to audition for the show — a contest meant to determine Combs' touring band.
"I ended up getting in the house," Parks says of the series, which had contestants living together in a Los Angeles mansion. "That experience changed my life. It showed me professionalism — what I needed to be doing to get where I needed to go. To see someone like Diddy ... he's a bazillionaire, but he never sleeps. He's working all the time. That's why he has what he has."
In some ways, it was a typical reality-show experience: "There were cameras in every room. There's not a blind spot in the house," Parks says. "You're wearing a mic all day. The only time you take it off is to take a shower or change the battery. That's it. But you get used to it."
And there was plenty of the expected drama: "When you throw 20 people from different places in the same house, that's gonna happen. Especially when you start mixing it with alcohol."
But Parks kept his focus on his career goals.
"My bass playing really grew up," he says. "If there are six bass players in the house out of thousands of who auditioned, you got to imagine these cats can really play."
Parks set school aside to join the show, and though he didn't make it to the winner's circle — Parks made it to the next-to-last round of cuts — Making the Band helped make his career.
"My goal was to get the exposure," Parks says. And he did.
After leaving the show, Parks returned home and registered to return to school, but before he could resume classes he got a call from a Making the Band associate about auditioning for Kingston's band. Parks flew out to Los Angeles, got the gig, and has gone out with Kingston on multiple tours over the past couple of years, hitting spots such as Canada, Africa, England, and Indonesia and going on a major stadium tour as an opener for Justin Bieber.
Parks' travels with Kingston got put on hold this spring, when the singer suffered serious injuries in a jet ski accident. With the band on hiatus as Kingston recovers, Parks has found himself back home, finally finishing up his degree at the University of Memphis — he's set to graduate in December — and getting re-involved in the local music scene.
"I want to bring back that vibe," Parks says of the city's live R&B heritage. "And at the end of the day, I'm still work-for-hire. I want to get to the point of signing my own checks."
Parks' first entrepreneurial foray is "The Show," a concert featuring his band, Trump Tight, which showcases other twentysomething R&B musicians. The band will be backing up a series of local and regional artists: highly regarded Nashville rapper Dee Goodz, Memphis rapper Pat24Seven, and Memphis hip-hop group Those Guys, along with local R&B singers C.J. Tate and Jessica Ray. The band will close the night in a set with turntable stalwart DJ Crumbz.
Parks and his crew will also be filming the concert with an eye toward producing a DVD as a promotional tool for the involved artists. Parks says he's also hoping to bring national artists to town occasionally for shows with his band.
"Every hip-hop show we have here is DJ and artist," Parks says. "That's cool. But I want to bring the energy and feel of a live band with those hip-hop artists."
While Parks waits for his Kingston gigs to pick up and works on forging his niche locally, he says he hasn't been tempted to relocate to more recording-heavy cities such as Los Angeles or Atlanta.
"I spend a lot of time in both places, but I love what we have here," Parks says. "If everybody that was dope at what they did got together in Memphis and put it together for a greater purpose, there's no reason we can't shine."
Featuring Trump Tight, Dee Goodz, Pat24Seven, C.J. Tate, Jessica Ray, and Those Guys
Sunday, August 7th, 7 p.m.