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Ellis Paul

Singer-songwriter marks decades of performing at Front Porch

Chicago Tribune

Monday, November 6, 2017

by Bob Kostanczuk

Singer-songwriter marks decades of performing at Front Porch

There is reason to celebrate 25 years of national and international touring.

After thousands of performances, Ellis Paul will perform an 8 p.m. Nov. 10 concert at Front Porch Music in Valparaiso.

The acclaimed singer-songwriter's music has been used in major motion pictures and on television shows that have aired on NBC and MTV.

Paul's stop in Valparaiso will be a solo acoustic performance laced with humor.

"I talk about the 25 years I've been on the road, play a few new things, tell a lot of stories," the 52-year-old artist said. "There's a lot of comedy and storytelling in between the songs."

Paul's life as a folk troubadour steered him toward the iconic Woody Guthrie. He put melody to some unpublished lyrics by Guthrie, resulting in the song "God's Promise."

Paul's "Sweet Mistakes" found its way onto the soundtrack of the Farrelly Brothers movie "Shallow Hal" (2001). Another Farrelly Brothers film, "Me, Myself & Irene," (2000) featured Paul's "The World Ain't Slowin' Down." Paul said the pop-oriented song "was used four times during the movie," which stars Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger.

"By the time people get to the end of that movie, they really know the song because it's frequently appearing," Paul said. "As an independent artist, it's hard to be heard on a mass scale. That's the plight of the indie songwriters these days that aren't going through the major label system."

Having access to a high-profile movie for one's material is valuable and rewarding, especially when the flick has international distribution, according to Paul.

"It's great to know that your song is slipping into these other cultures," the guitarist and keyboardist said.

The fact that Paul has long been recognized as one of the shining lights of contemporary folk music has not gone unnoticed by Front Porch Music.

"Ellis has been coming to Front Porch Music for over 20 years, and he's the exact type of artist we love to present," said Chad Clifford, owner of the acoustic-music haven. "He is a great guitarist and singer, but really shines as an amazing songwriter."

Paul has rubbed shoulders with standout artists, and even played as part of the "Ribbon of Highway, Endless Skyway" tribute to Woody Guthrie that featured the likes of Arlo Guthrie, Nanci Griffith, Janis Ian and Marty Stuart.

On his own, Paul has taken his traveling road show to the Newport Folk Festival, Carnegie Hall and venues in Paris and London, and from Alaska to Miami.

According to promotional material, he has "performed and conducted over 5,000 shows, festivals, private events, workshops, cruises, songwriting retreats and more."

His list of random thoughts for 25 years of touring includes "groupies become grandmothers over time," and "we are a planet of stories; listen."

The resident of Charlottesville, Va., has put hundreds of thousands of miles on road vehicles to get his music — and name — out there.

"He has been just on the cusp of being a household name, and we have been aware of this since 1995," said Clifford, whose Front Porch audiences have provided a welcoming port for the nomadic musician with the finely weathered singing voice.

"I don't sound like I'm a choirboy, like I did when I was 21; it's got some age on it, and I don't have the same range," Paul said. "But there's a believability and a certain amount of, you know, wisdom, in how it sounds."

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