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For Ellis Paul, 'The World Ain't Slowing Down'

March 23, 2017

THREE OAKS, Mich. — Despite 19 albums to his credit, singer-songwriter Ellis Paul is perhaps best known for his catchy acoustic pop tune "The World Ain't Slowing Down," which became the theme song for Bobby and Peter Farrelly's film "Me, Myself & Irene."
While the film certainly has its memorable moments, it's Paul's song that remains the unforgettable element of that project.

"It came about because of a connection my manager had with the Farrelly brothers," Paul says by phone from his home in Presque Isle, Maine. "They were friends way back in the '80s on Martha's Vineyard where they used to party in their 20s together. The great thing about the Farrelly brothers is that they take care of regional people. They put a lot of New Englanders in their movies, and that's how the song ended up in the movie."

That's just one of the songs and stories that Paul will reflect on Friday when he performs at The Acorn Theater as part of a tour celebrating his 25th anniversary on the road.

"It's kind of a run around the track and waving at people who have been coming to shows for 25 years," Paul says. "I touch on every album and I tell stories from every album and share a few new songs and a few new stories, but mostly I talk about the arc of the past 25 years and the changes along the way. A lot of the early stuff is me exploring how to put a song together. It's almost like a chapter in my songwriting where I'm trying to work through a lyric moment or a guitar moment or a melody moment and just trying to grow. I feel like the dust has settled a lot since then. I kind of know who I am and how I write now."

Paul grew up in the small town of Fort Kent, Maine, a place nestled next to the Canadian border, in a family of potato farmers, although he never felt that pull himself.

"It was my grandfather's farm and my dad was a potato specialist," Paul says. "He was a scientist, so even though he was still in the potato industry he sort of graduated out of it in a way, which opened the door for me. I'm not cut out for that kind of work. I'd rather be doing this then getting up at 5:30 a.m. and getting on a tractor."

As a boy, Paul found his escape through athletics, which led to a track scholarship to Boston College where he studied English. After he suffered a knee injury in his junior year, which forced him to take a year off, his girlfriend’s sister gave him a secondhand guitar that he played for hours. Soon he was writing songs, and after graduating, he stayed planted in Boston's fertile music scene, where he continued to grow. It was the same circuit that opened the door for other like-minded artists of the day, and in turn, gave Paul exposure to such creative contemporaries as Shawn Colvin, Dar Williams, Patty Larkin, John Gorka, Catie Curtis and Bill Morrissey.

"That's when the singer-songwriter movement really hit me between the eyes," Paul says. "The great thing about the Boston scene is that there were all these open mics, but they weren't at bars. They were in these listening rooms. So you could go in and there are 100-150 people in the room and you could hear a pin drop. It wasn't background noise. It was something taken seriously. There were radio stations in Boston playing our music, so we viewed it as a career path and not a hobby and the audiences were treating it the same way. So you just felt like you had to rise to the occasion and I think that's why so many of us did well and are still doing it today."

Paul and Morrissey, one of New England’s most prominent folk artists, developed a mutual admiration. It was Morrissey who produced Paul's first full-length album, 1993's "Say ​Something," on Black Wolf Records, the label Paul founded with ​Ralph​ Jaccodine, the man who would become his manager.
"Bill was the professor. He was the guide who had done the job we all wanted to do," Paul says. "He was a living embodiment of an artist. I was fortunate enough that he gave me his time and energy and produced my first album, and just served as a role model as a songwriter and the quality of songs."
Like most musicians in the folk genre, Paul also is heavily influenced by Woody Guthrie. He has been a staple at the Woody Guthrie Festival and his commitment to Guthrie’s legacy led to his inclusion in a 10-day celebration of Guthrie's work held at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in September 1996 – an event that included Bruce Springsteen, Billy Bragg, Indigo Girls and Ani DiFranco.

"I think the thing with Woody has to do with the whole writing what you see and being a journalist as well as a musician by telling the stories of the people around you in your time and how it all blends together," Paul says. "He chronicled the decades from the Great Depression to the last '60s and had a great impact on people and what music can do. It's not just to entertain, but to inform and enlighten."

That legacy and influence is reflected throughout Paul's own music. Take his last album, 2014's "Chasing Beauty," for example. The album is filled with stories of people and places that reflect larger truths about us all. “Kick Out the Lights (Johnny Cash)” pays tribute to the fearless American icon name-checked in its title. “Plastic Soldier” offers homage to a wounded soldier returning from Afghanistan. A real-life barnstorming pilot takes the spotlight in “Jimmie Angel’s Flying Circus,” while iconic Boston blue collar musician Dennis Brennan takes the focus in “Waiting on a Break.”

"All of my favorite songs unfold like movies in my head," Paul says of his craft. "When I really feel like I know who the narrator is and I can see the picture, those are the best songs to my taste. So as a songwriter I try to write as many of those as often as I can."

If you go

Who: Ellis Paul with Josh Harty opening
When: 8 p.m. EDT Friday
Where: The Acorn Theater, 107 Generations Drive, Three Oaks, Mich.
How much: $20
Contact: 756-3879 or www.acorntheater.com
Artist info: www.ellispaul.com

by JEREMY D. BONFIGLIO , The News Dispatch

updated: 8 months ago