How Vincint & Parson James Turned Their Friendship Into a Musical Partnership

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Six years ago, then-aspiring singer-songwriter Vincint Cannady approached another up-and-coming musician, Parson James, in a bar in New York City, and told him that he was a fan of his work. “I had never met you before, you had no idea who I was — I fully knew who you were and was trying not to be a fangirl,” Vincint reminds Parson of their first encounter.

Now, in 2021, the two rising queer artists are still friends, and they’re both in the midst of monumental years for their careers — Vincint’s debut album There Will Be Tears dropped on Friday (June 11) to acclaim from fans, while James is gearing up to unveil his debut EP on his new label, 12Tone Music, later this fall. The pair also teamed up in 2021, joining with rising rap star Qveen Herby for Vincint’s irresistable dance track “Kill My Heart.”

To celebrate their friendship and flourishing careers, Vincint and James hopped on a call with Billboard and interviewed one another, talking about new music, working with friends, what they’re celebrating this Pride Month and much more:

Vincint: Let’s get into it — should I go first?

Parson James: No, definitely not. I am going to ask you some questions because you are putting out your debut album, b—h, and that’s the tea. What?!?

Vincint: [Laughs.] It’s crazy, right?

Parson: Crazy — especially because we’ve known each other for so long. Watching your hustle and your growth and your dedication to your artistry, it’s been so amazing. I mean, we tell each other this all of the time, but we love to cry. So, There Will Be Tears – I mean, I already know, but tell me how, and tell the people how you came to that title and what that means to you.

Vincint: Yeah, I was in the car with our mutual friend Mario José, and we had just listened to the full album, it was done. I didn’t have a name for it, and we were in the valley, and the sun was setting. I look over, and Mario is just full-on weeping. I look at the mirror, and I was full-on weeping. And it was like, “Oh! That’s the sentiment!” At the end of all of this craziness and everything we’ve all gone through, of course there will be tears — but that doesn’t necessarily mean that they have to be sad. It doesn’t necessarily mean that it has to mean something is ending.

I wanted to make an album that resonated with all of us, especially in the queer community, and how long we’ve been apart from each other. Because we all, whether we know it or not, depend so much on interaction with each other to get through our day-to-day lives. I remember sitting in the car like, “Okay, great, it’s tears, that’s the vibe.” I wrote down There Will Be Tears, sent it to Brad [Ehrlich, Vincint’s manager], and he calls me crying like, “That’s it, b–ch! This is the title!”

Parson: That is it! This album is so much more of, like, breakthrough tears, you know? It’s like you’re saying, we’ve collectively all just been through something super traumatic. There’s a loss of romance, there’s separation from our friends and our family, there’s loss, so I truly resonate with that. I feel so lucky to have heard the bulk of this record. You’ve accomplished crying-on-the-dancefloor perfectly.

Vincint: That’s the f–king goal, baby.

Parson: You knocked it out of the park. Your first release from this was “Higher.” Tell about “Higher,” because that’s when I was like, “Okay, the poppers have hit!”

Vincint: “Higher” for me is still going, it’s still growing. I’ve gotten videos from people literally all over the country, out of the country, saying “This is our song of the summer.” And I’m like, “Hey, thanks so much!” Like I’m in shock, I truly cannot believe it.

Parson: You played it for me during quarantine in a car, and I remember the Princess Precious part coming on. I was like, “Excuse me?” I can’t imagine a place being safe with me in it if I hear that song out in public. Like, I’m throwing elbows, I’m just like … that’s it for me. There Will Be ‘Bows, not tears, baby. 

Vincint: JHart and Storyboards (the song’s producers) really did it for me.

Parson: You did the bulk of the album with those two, right?

Vincint: I did two songs on the album with JHart, but the bulk of the album was produced by Storyboards. I think nine out of the 11 songs were produced by Storyboards, and she is truly a genius producer, songwriter, person. It’s truly an honor to know her and to be on this project with her, she just fulfilled all of my dreams and was everything you’d want to find in a producer.

Parson: That’s incredible, especially that you had a female producer do this record with you — because see that is rare, and it needs to be seen more, especially within our community.

Vincint: Look at the material! Okay, now I think it’s my turn to ask the questions, thank you. Let’s get into the first release that you’ve had from this era, “High Tide, Low Tide.”

Parson: Yeah! So I got signed (to indie label 12Tone Music) pretty much in April of last year, The conversations were happening — it started with a DM and it ended up being this full-blown situation, and we thought, “Oh this little sickness thing that’s happening will pass.” Spoiler: It absolutely didn’t. I mean, you were there! I signed on Zoom with my mom!

Vincint: I was literally in there, crying on camera, yelling, “You’re doing great sweetie!”

Parson:But yeah, so “High Tide” was not written at that time yet, but I met a chaotic man that I shacked up with. He got high all of the time, we always went to the beach, he f—ed with my head and heart, and I wrote about him.

Vincint: The quarantine crazies, I swear. Well, I’m proud of you! We love trauma! We live off of trauma! [Both laugh.]

Parson: I mean, I thrive, let’s be honest.

Vincint: But I really want to get into your latest single “Dirty Laundry,” featuring the queen, the goddess, the deity that is JoJo. Tell me everything about it.

Parson: I’m still shookety-shook-shook that this happened. I’m telling you, 12-year-old me is just somewhere twirling in South Carolina in a trailer park and screaming over this. But yeah, I wrote the song last year, too, about the same guy. And that all literally came about because, in the pandemic — there was a coin shortage and stuff? Well, he couldn’t get coins for the laundromat at his place, so he started bringing all of his s–t to my house. All of the time, mounds and mounds of it.

I thought it was funny at the time, like a funny juxtaposition. But I was so embedded into making him feel safe — because he had been through so much self-hate and shame, and all of that stuff that we’ve all been through as queer people struggling to come out. So, that song originally was about him, and it was about letting him know that “Listen, you can tell me anything, you don’t have to be ashamed anymore.”

So I played it for Jo around November, before Thanksgiving, and she was floored by it, apparently. I’ve known her for so long, but it still just didn’t click to me when she asked to be on it. Like, I had to remember that this is the girl. This is the vocal goddess. She asked her label in advance, they were down, and she came over to the studio to put it down. This was our first time actually being in the studio together, weirdly — we sing around, we’ve written little tidbits here and there, but being in the booth, I was so intimidated. She was like, “Let’s do ad-libs now!” And I was like “I can’t sing with you!”

Vincint: That’s when you tell her, “I’ll do mine tomorrow.”

Parson: Exactly. But yeah, it came out almost a month ago, and it’s still doing its thing — it’s been so well-received. We just got done shooting a performance on a big TV show, and I don’t know if I can talk about it … just know, we’re coming to daytime TV, bitch!

Vincint: Speaking of how you felt when JoJo got on your record — I feel like that’s a great transition into how I felt when I got you on my record. Because you know me, and you know I’ve never had a feature before this album. I’m always like, “I can do it myself!” And I remember writing “Kill My Heart” with J, and we were talking about trying to find the perfect person for this song. And I had been with you in the car, and I was kind of throwing out names, like, “Girl, I think Kim would sound great on this,” just fully trying to gauge how you would respond! You were like, “No b–ch, I would sound great on that.” And the next day I was literally like, “Do you wanna be on this song?”

‘Cause the same way you feel about JoJo is the same way I feel about you and your music. I’ve known you as a friend for so long, but I knew you as an artist before! I still remember the night that I came up to you in New York in a bar, like, “Hi! I think I met you before, your name is Parson James!” I had never met you before, you had no idea who I was — I fully knew who you were and was trying not to be a fangirl. To see how much we’ve grown in our friendship and our artistry together, it just felt wild to be asking you to be on the song. I was shook when you said yes, hun! And of course, you laid down your verse and it was like butter.

Parson: [Laughs.] I was literally so happy that you asked me. Like, it took me so long to work with Jo, and somehow there is this weird thing where we are like weirdly scared to ask our friends to work with us — or scared to do things with each other sometimes. What I’ve learned from 2020 and beyond is to work with your f–king friends. There is truly nothing more rewarding. So I was shook up when you asked, and so excited because I was already gagged on the song.

I had an internal fear when I was cutting it — and I wish that Colin the producer would let you know how I was acting a fool in the session, because I was like, “This is not right! We have to take it again!” That little ad-lib at the end of my verse — I redid that thing so many times, because I was so in my head. Like, “This has to be perfect.”

Vincint: Well, darling, it was perfect.

Parson: But beyond friends, I admire you as an artist so much. So I’m just grateful to be a part of it. And you know, Qveen Herby came and did her thing on there.

Vincint: Do you know that she sent me three different versions of the rap? In the same day, three full verses. I said, “Oh, okay, talent.”

Parson: She gave you flow switch, she gave you background harmonies!

Vincint: She started singing on the track and I almost texted her saying, “Listen, what I asked you to do is rap, ma’am. What I didn’t ask you to do is come for my wig with these background vocals.”

Parson: Completely.

Vincint: Okay, so, can you give us a sneak peak of the project you’re working on, or just like a little tidbit, a little tea, the vibe, the feel, anything?

Parson: So, yeah, there’s actually two projects — an EP and an album. I’ve been working on this for obviously years. You know, I was signed to RCA, decided to get out of that, took some self-reflection, got caught up in a big EDM world and got a little swept up and muddled in my sound. So after that situation, I knew what the first project was supposed to be called. Some of the songs are kind of part twos to songs on The Temple EP. Like, “Waiting Game” was written when I was homeless and I knew something greater had to happen. Like, I knew there was a bigger picture. I didn’t give a f–k what it looked like, I just had to make it. Something had to give.

And then I went through a lot after things got explosive for me, I took a lot of chances on people I shouldn’t have — I had a bad manager, I had that label situation, I had these f–ked up guys. There was just so much lonliness within the industry. And so I wrote this song that’ll close out the EP that’s called “Steeple,” and it’s about how, “I went up to the steeple, and it’s filled with lonely people/ Who have everything that they want and nothing that they need.”

Vincint: Y’all hear that? She’s a writer! Joni Mitchell over here!

Parson: [Laughs.] Yeah, it’s an answer to “Waiting Game,” because I was a naive kid who didn’t know that if you don’t have the right people or headspace, then living out here in L.A. can be really difficult sometimes. So the EP is about sitting back and looking at the chances I took on everyone else. How am I going to grow from that? Well, that’s where the album will come into place. But the EP comes first, sometime in the fall!

Vincint: I cannot wait, you know I’m an emotional girl when it comes to the songs.

Parson: Yeah, I love to tug at those strings, honey.

Vincint: I’m so excited, also because I’m your friend, and I’ve seen you through the hard things. I’ve watched you persevere through so much of the bulls–t that people should not have to go through, whether that’s professional or personal, and you always come out on the other end with such striking material to write and work from and give to your fans. Like, I would be in a nuthouse if I went through half of the things you went through, but you handled it so well. I feel like that’s a testament to how great of an artist and a businessman you are, because it takes a lot to do what you do, make it look effortless, and then wake up everyday and choose to keep doing it. That needs to be said, and people should give you your dues because it’s definitely necessary.

Parson: That’s … I will cry on this call, you know I will! [Both laugh.]

Vincint: We will not cry here, I won’t allow it!

Parson: I mean, I echo that sentiment — I have watched you fight tooth and nail for everything that you’ve got and that you’re going to get. I don’t know, it’s just great to have another queer Black man to just have camaraderie with. It’s such a small group of us — we have our friends Bronze [Avery], Kelechi, and a few others. But like yeah, especially now, I’ve noticed so much more supporting and lifting up of Black queer voices in the last year and a half, which we love to see.

Vincint: Agreed, it’s been so nice.

Parson: So I’m curious — what is Pride looking and feeling like to you right now, in this moment?

Vincint: Ooh. Pride for me this year looks like inclusivity, for sure. And I mean that just in the aspect of Black people supporting other Black people within our community. Raising each other up and actually using our voices to make sure something happens. I’ve made a conscious effort, for example, that whenever something is blowing up on my page, to highlight someone else as well — just because I know what that means, because people did it for me.

Also, I think this Pride, I’m just going balls to the wall, honestly. Like, I’m giving you this album, I’m giving these performances, I want to elevate. We don’t say that about ourselves that often, because we’re also wanting to be like “We want everyone in our community to be raised up.” And I do want that, but I also want to be where I think I should be. I want people to see us.

But I do also want that for our friends and colleagues who are up-and-coming artists — they’re incredible, and I want them to be seen and heard and felt. So yes, Pride is looking like inclusivity and stardom, okay? Same question to you, what is Pride looking like for you, babe?

Parson: I mean, inclusivity is big, for sure. I think — well I know, you and I have always been on that same mindset, where we get so genuinely happy for people, oftentimes more so than for ourselves. For me, it’s just seeing the uplifting of each other in the community, especially queer POC. But also, honestly, even just in general! Like, I would love — after coming out of what we all went through — I would love it if we could all take a look at what our mental health looks like, especially in this community. Like, there is no space for boxes or Mean Girl-ing, or any of that. We are all in this together, so Pride to me feels like it needs to be uplifting for everyone. Everyone is invited to the party, you all have a seat at the table.

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