“I’ve been so blessed to be able to do this for a living,” says Charleston-based vocalist Quiana Parler, 27. “I hope the Lord keeps blessing me because I love it! I’ve always been a big fan of Sarah Vaughan and Diana Reeves … I try to infuse bits of their styles. But mostly, I just try to be me. When I first started singing around age 10, I tried to sound like Whitney Houston on everything I did [laughs].”
Five years ago, Parler, a native of Harleyville, made her first big splash in town performing in Calvin Gilmore’s Serenade show on John Street in the late ’90s. She went on to work as the lead vocalist in Latin-jazz group Brazil (fans fondly remember those gigs at Mitchell’s on the Market).
In the last two years, Parler gradually established herself as an independent entertainer with an easy-going demeanor and great command of each tune. The singer is perhaps best known in town for her American Idol audition as well as for touring with Clay Aiken as a backup singer. Recently, she’s earned a wider local fan base with memorable performances in “That ’60s Soul Show” and the funky follow-up, “That ’70s Soul Show.” As one of several featured singers, Parler dazzled audiences with her soulful renditions, deep vibrato, and soaring range.
Currently, she performs weekly gigs with a backing band comprised of Stephen Washington on piano, James Rollerson on drums, Lavonta Green on bass, Chris Williams on sax, Ben Haas on trombone, and Amber Washington on backing vocals. They stick mostly to standard Motown, vintage soul, funk, and Top-40 hits from the ’60s and ’70s … usually a classy mix of classics by Bill Withers, Anita Baker, Sam Cooke, Al Green, and others.
“These guys are great,” Parler says. “There are a lot of oldies and classics, but I’m trying to infuse some new stuff in there. It’s always just a little bit of everything.” —T. Ballard Lesemann
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