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Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul gives his fans exactly what they want

Fredericksburg Online

Thursday, June 11, 2015

by Stephen Hu,

In the 26 years since he released his first album, singer–songwriter Ellis Paul has seen a lot of changes in the music business.
“There was one path before. You got a record deal, you got on the road, you wrote songs, you recorded them and then the record label did all the work,” said Paul. “And now it’s social media and the Internet and there’s no record labels like there were. I think it may be harder to be heard among the din these days than it was before. Because of the record label system, a lot of people got weeded out. Nowadays it’s a free-fall and everybody’s got a machete and is trying to hack their way through the jungle to achieve an identity and a living and a career. I’m lucky I came into this when I did because I had a label for 15 years of my life and they helped me set the groundwork for where I am now.”
After 19 albums, Paul tries to keep his recordings fresh by avoiding ideas he used on previous albums. While iTunes, YouTube and Spotify have ushered in a new era of singles, Paul feels that his fans like full albums.
“I still have a fan base that want it. It’s a chapter book on me rather than singles,” said Paul. “I think the fan and someone who’s a die-hard person who’s interested in what you are—not in a moment, but in an hour—are going to prefer the album format.”
Paul recently released his second crowd-funded album, “Chasing Beauty.” For an artist with a dedicated following, the crowd-funding model works very well. Fans put up the money for the considerable expense of recording an album, essentially pre-ordering the record while financing its production. Paul used his funds very carefully—“Chasing Beauty” is a meticulously crafted album.
“I went to Atlanta and the guys who recorded it for me were the Bush Brothers,” said Paul. “They’re pretty extraordinary musicians themselves. Kristian Bush has been in the band Sugarland for the last decade. Brandon Bush is in Train and is also in Sugarland’s travelling band. So I had a really great crew of musicians playing on it.”
The songs are eclectic, including some of the storytelling style that Paul has made famous during his career. These are often about characters at a crossroads in their lives. One song, “UK Girl (Boston Calling),” is a humorous song about taking an English girl to a Red Sox game.
“It’s a true story,” said Paul. “It was actually a girl from Boston and a guy from the UK. So I swapped it around a little bit with the details.”
The album also includes what Paul refers to as hero-based songs, focused on historical people or places like Johnny Cash, aviator Jimmie Angel and the Empire State Building. Paul really perfected the hero-based song on his first children’s album, “The Hero In You.” Originally released in 2012, it has just been re-released with a fully illustrated book and CD. The album features 13 famous and not-so-famous historical figures including Thomas Edison, Rosa Parks, Georgia O’Keeffe and Chief Joseph.
“I wanted people to go to Google to find out who Nellie Bly and Tee Tot and Augustus Jackson were,” said Paul.
The idea for a children’s album came from songs Paul had written for his own children (now 8 and 10 years old). He wanted them to have a recording they could listen to while he was away on tour. The album has been widely praised and won a Parent’s Choice Gold award when it was first released.
Although “Chasing Beauty” was recorded with a full band including backing vocalists and horns, Paul will be playing a solo show at Ashland Coffee and Tea this Saturday. He says the songs were originally conceived for solo voice and guitar.
“To me, the album versions are more like my prom picture. The actual songs themselves are T-shirts and jeans and are kind of meant to be that way,” said Paul.
Stephen Hu is a musician whose storytelling style is becoming famous in Fredericksburg.

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