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Ellis Paul

Ellis Paul returns to The Pump House

La Crosse Tribune

Monday, March 21, 2016

by Ryan Stotts,

Ellis Paul returns to The Pump House
He was a writer before he was a musician — and an athlete even before that.

Ellis Paul uses all of that experience when he performs, and his special brand of musical folk-flavored storytelling has invited comparisons with Woody Guthrie, Bob Dylan, even Bruce Springsteen.

But sometimes it takes the stamina of a distance runner to deal with all that touring out on the road.

“It’s a pleasure and a pain,” Paul said on the phone recently from upstate New York.

He’d been booted off his plane, unable to get home to his family in Virginia; stuck, as he called it, in a kind of netherworld.

It’s worth it when he finally gets on stage, though, which he’ll do when he once again performs April 2 at The Pump House Regional Arts Center. It’s one of his favorite places to play.

“It’s one moment in my day when I can focus and communicate with an audience,” he said. “It negates everything else in the universe.”

Performing, he said, brings him peace and purpose. It’s also brought him a year-round calendar of up to 200 tour stops, and a wealth of accolades, including 15 Boston Music Awards.

An English major on a track scholarship at Boston College, an injury lead Paul to focus more on his singing and his songwriting, and as his popularity and success have grown over the years, he has written a canon of material, both for adults and for children.

While he said the similarities between the two are greater than their differences, they can diverge.

With adults, he said, “You almost have to pull them in” with a song; kids are quite the opposite. “They’ll come running to it openly, if you put the right things in front of them,” he said.

Hoping to teach children more about the world through music, he released the award-winning “The Dragonfly Races” album in 2008.

But if writing for kids calls for him to use broader brush strokes and brighter colors, writing for adults has required him to use more subtlety and texture; more meaning between the lines.

“It’s the same paint brush,” he said, “just different brush strokes.”

Paul is noted for chronicling his own personal journey through his music, as well as the times in which he’s living. That kind of personal and panoramic style has made him a hit with audiences everywhere he goes. He sees himself as the writer of “nuggets,” three-minute songs that tend to encapsulate a particular, intensely personal, and often pivotal point on the human map.

“I’m looking for that one little crossroads moment in a person’s life,” he said.

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