An Interview with Milwaukee-Based Artist Social Cig

Parker+Schultz%2C+also+known+by+his+stage+name+Social+Cig%2C+performs+at+a+house+show+prior+to+the+COVID-19+pandemic.+

Parker Schultz, also known by his stage name Social Cig, performs at a house show prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The MUR Music Department had the opportunity to chat with Parker Schultz, also known by his stage name, Social Cig, about his music, the Milwaukee artist scene, and everything in between on Friday, Feb. 5. 

The SoundCloud interview is linked above.

MUR: Do you want to start by telling us a little bit about yourself? 

Parker: Sure! So, my name is Parker, and I am a senior right now at UWM for marketing real estate, and I also work at a few different properties around Milwaukee as a leasing consultant. But when I’m not doing that, I’m usually skateboarding or making music. I grew up in West Bend, like 40 minutes north of Milwaukee, and have been living in Milwaukee ever since college, and just kind of hang out with my friends and try to live life and find some happiness.  

MUR: So, I was just curious, how did you come up with the name? It’s very creative. Is there a story behind it? 

Parker: Yeah, actually. So when we moved into my current house, my roommates and I kind of smoked vapes and stuff every now and then. But I went to Europe and the idea of cigarettes got a little more attractive to me for some reason, and so I got these little filters that were like pre-rolled cigarettes and a bag of tobacco. And then we would just be hanging out and we would all be rolling our little cigarettes, and we called them “social cigs” because we were all kind of in denial that we smoked cigarettes, and they were more of a social thing. But then it kind of grew throughout the years… meeting people through conversations while smoking cigarettes. After a house show or something like that, there are always those weird little human interactions of smoking cigarettes together, or like bumming a cigarette from somebody. And those interactions are always so cool, and you meet the coolest characters. It’s just a very genuine thing. I was looking for a name for a while. I was going by Arcilla Kid, Arcilla is my middle name and also my mom’s maiden name, but I just didn’t really want to have people call me that, so I just kind of wanted to go under a band name. I want people to refer to me as Parker, but Social Cig is my music, and I like to have a story like that behind it. Just sort of a general feeling that a lot of people can relate to.  

MUR: So, you play a lot of house shows, or you did before the pandemic. What do you miss most about doing those kinds of shows? 

Parker: When I would play shows, I would have all my friends come, and it was always just a really cool place to see friends of friends that I normally don’t see on a day-to-day basis. It was a really cool atmosphere of people around Milwaukee, and everyone was just kind of similar as people. It was just a very positive atmosphere. I really miss that and seeing people that I haven’t seen in a while after shows. It’s so sad to think about not being able to play or be crowded in a small Milwaukee basement. I guess I miss the people aspect of it. 

MUR: We know that over quarantine you released your acoustic EP, Stuck at Home. Have you been working on any projects since then? 

Parker: Yeah! So, because I can’t do live shows or anything like that, it’s been actually really nice for me because focusing a lot on shows is kind of stressful, especially because of school, too, and trying to get a show and setlist together with the guys. I’ve just been able to have a lot more time with writing and recording, so I’ve been working on a second album, and it is called Nothing is Ever For Sure and Everything is Always Changing. Actually, during quarantine, I went through a really bad breakup, and so a lot of the album that’s going to be coming out is pretty sad, but also pretty happy, I guess? I don’t know, it’s been a pretty wild 2020-21. That’s my main thing right now, getting that album finished. It’s sixteen songs and I think I’m like 65-70% done, I would say. I’m shooting for some time in March. 

MUR: A lot of your lyrics, especially in songs like “Facebook Life Update,” really stick out and make people want to listen. Do you have any specific inspiration or process behind writing lyrics? 

Parker: Honestly, I write in journals constantly, like every day. Just about my day, things that are happening, and whatever I’m feeling. Just doing that, almost as an exercise to be continuously writing, helps when you do sit down and want to write a song. It helps make those thoughts and feelings come into words a little bit easier. It’s all just practice and repetition. Once you kind of get your own style, really know yourself, and know-how to articulate your feelings into your own words, I think that really can be beneficial to a lot of artists and writers. 

MUR: When did you first start writing music? 

Parker: So, I started playing guitar when I was nine or ten, and pretty much the night I picked up my first guitar, not even knowing real chords, I just started writing songs. It’s just something I always did. I was also in a band in high school. I didn’t really start songwriting songwriting until my sophomore year of high school. Then I had a terrible talent show accident where I messed up, and so I didn’t show anybody any of my music for a few years, but I would keep writing in quiet. Then I kind of just opened up to some close friends and showed them stuff I’d been working on, and it’s all very vulnerable. Just a lot of support from friends and people listening have really helped my confidence with sharing it out more. It’s been a journey for sure. It’s tough to have that confidence and to be vulnerable in front of people. 

MUR: Do you have any guilty pleasures? Music, food, TV shows, or anything that you don’t want anyone to know about? 

Parker: Chugging water to techno music is life-changing if you haven’t done it. So, obviously drinking water is important for people, but sometimes I’ll have a house song or a techno song playing in my room and I’ll just grab my water bottle and just start chugging to the beat, and then afterward I just feel like a crazy high. Otherwise, I really love skillets. Like, egg skillets and breakfast food. I’m trying to think of a guilty pleasure… oh my guilty pleasure is for sure listening to a lot of Joe Rogan.  

MUR: Do you have a favorite breakfast place in Milwaukee? 

Parker: As far as breakfast food I would say Ma Fischer’s, shoutout Ma Fischer’s. Otherwise, I went to FreshFin the other day. The curry coconut bowl is so good. I love sushi too.  

MUR: Speaking of food, if it was 1 a.m. and you had just finished playing a show in Milwaukee, where would you go to get food? 

Parker: I would say Ma Fischer’s would still be a pretty banging place to go, especially after midnight because they’re open 24/7. Also, I like Red Lion. Red Lion Pub is really awesome. It’s like that British, UK pub. There’s always soccer going on and they have really good food.  

MUR: Obviously people have been suffering during the pandemic not being able to play shows, but what is it like from an artist’s perspective? Do you have anything that you’re working on or looking forward to for when the pandemic is over? 

Parker: I would say my experience is a little bit different compared to a lot of musicians around Milwaukee just because I wasn’t really banking on the live show income. I know there are a lot of full-time musicians who really bank on their live shows and playing multiple gigs in a week to really survive. So I really feel for them, and it’s really sad that they’re just not able to work. I know a lot of people in the Milwaukee scene who are on unemployment and are really struggling. I would say there is a sense of optimism, though, around the community of getting back, hopefully, this summer. For me, as I said before, it’s just really altered my perspective on just kind of taking time for myself and focusing on writing this next album. It was hard to find things to write about too with COVID, just because it was a very weird time and still is. It’s hard to adjust and accept the world. I think some themes in the album that I’m working on, too, is just accepting the fact that everything is constantly changing and you need to live with that. There’s a beauty to it too. As far as live shows, I’m optimistic for playing some shows this summer. Maybe some outdoor things or some small coffee shop things but we’ll cross that bridge when we get there.  

MUR: Have you been doing any virtual shows or putting out any virtual content during the pandemic? 

Parker: Yeah, I did early on in the pandemic. I did this one virtual show with Fat Charlie’s. They are an East Side basement venue. I know Josh really well and we did a porch show. They were going to do a porch virtual series once a week, but then the cops shut it down because it was too loud. The virtual shows just never really work out super well, especially if you don’t have really good equipment, which is a real bummer for a lot of lower-income artists who just don’t have that following either. I feel like people aren’t just going to pay for a virtual access code for a band they’ve never seen before. I’ve just always been kind of turned off by the whole virtual atmosphere of concerts and things. It’s just not the same. It’s pretty cheesy, but they are doing their best. I have gone live on Instagram a few times just like when I’m feeling it I’ll just play a few songs, but nothing that I’ve really promoted.  

MUR: Are there any other local up-and-coming artists that you’ve been listening to or that you’re friends with? 

Parker: Definitely! So, my roommate, Duwayne’s been working on his own music. He does more like alternative hip-hop. He’s one of the best poets, writers, and beat-makers I’ve ever heard in my life! He just doesn’t have anything out right now, but he will. His name is Duwayne Davis. Also, my friend Micah Emrich just put out an EP, I think last night. @micahemrichofficial is his Instagram. Barflord is my old neighbor, Carter Voras. That’s his solo project, but Dogbad is their main band. Isaac, the guitarist from Dogbad, also plays bass for me. Isaac’s been doing guitar lessons and also bass lessons, and he just graduated so he’s been trying to make a living off of doing music and doing lessons. Shoutout Isaac Ripinski, if anyone’s looking for guitar lessons, hit him up. My homie Tlalok is still doing a lot of small live shows around Brady Street and I think just around the East Side, but he’s one of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen too. Those are a few that come to mind right now.  

MUR: It seems like the Milwaukee music scene is like a big community. Would you say that’s true? 

Parker: Yeah, for sure! And it sucks because I haven’t seen a lot of these people in a long time, since COVID really. It would be really cool to see similar people at these house shows, like if you’re seeing an artist out somewhere and you see somebody you know. Fellow Kinsman is also an artist around Milwaukee, and he works at Turner Hall, and I would see him there and say what’s up. There are so many faces that came in and out around that time, and I miss a lot of people in the Milwaukee scene. Just like the random run-ins of faces. But hopefully this summer it will be much better.  

MUR: In the meantime, what can we do to help local artists and local venues? 

Parker: I feel like if you have money to donate to those venues, do that. For college students, we don’t necessarily have the money to donate. But definitely just listening and supporting local music is huge. Maybe just checking out my music, or any of the people I mentioned. I feel like there are so many people that I could keep rambling off, too. I know there are some playlists out there, too, that have curated Milwaukee local artists. I would say listen to local music, and I would encourage anybody to reach out to an artist and let them know how much a song or lyric means to them. Even just sharing music with your friends in your small circles is great. I feel like the world is missing out on a lot of genuine music lately. Personally, I just try to put out a lot of genuine music that people can relate to on a human level. 

MUR: Before we wrap up, you’re a senior and you’re going to be graduating this spring. What are your plans for after you graduate? Are you going to continue with music? 

Parker: Once I get this album done, I actually got a DJ mixing board for Christmas, so I’m really excited to dive in on that and learn how to DJ. I want to start another side project of just putting out mixes or DJing parties. After college, I’m either going to find a place in River West and stay for another year and keep working at the company that I’m at right now, or I’m going to move to Austin or somewhere and find a leasing consultant job and just make music and skateboard. That’s just pretty much what my life boils down to right now. Ultimately, I want to move out to Europe for a little bit. Especially Europe because it’s just so much easier and cheaper to travel once you’re there. In a post-COVID world, Austin, Texas, from what I hear, is a very exploding place. I think it would be really cool to be on the front lines of seeing that city become something and be a part of it.  

MUR: Thank you so much for meeting with us today! Do you have anything else that you want to promote about yourself, or any new music coming out that you want to mention before we close? 

Parker: Yeah! If you haven’t checked out my music, check it out on all streaming platforms. Otherwise, be on the lookout for my new album coming out hopefully in March, but I think it might be more April. Nothing is Ever For Sure and Everything is Always Changing.  

This story was written by Grace Flynn and she can be reached at grace.a.flynn@marquette.edu.