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Ellis Paul: The Year After Everything Changed

A conversation with Ellis Paul:  First of a two part series.

After fifteen years with a record label, Ellis Paul made the bold decision to leave.  His most recent album was an independent release.  Regarded by many as the finest effort of his career, the album was named one of NPR Folk Alley’s best of 2010.

One year following the release of “The Day After Everything Changed”, we asked Ellis to talk about life as an independent musician.

Why did you make the decision to go independent?

I started out indie on the singer/songwriter circuit, and then later continued to build an audience with a record label.  The label really isn’t an advantage anymore.  The label’s jobs are distribution and promotion.  Those jobs are pretty much over after three or four months, but the label owns the masters and continues to collect money forever.  Distribution is not as important in the digital age, and I can do better promotion on my own. 

If you have to spend more time marketing yourself, does it stifle creativity?

No, I have many great people working with me; we come up with ideas all the time, even while traveling in the car.  Everyone has a defined role to perform.  It’s the touring schedule that damages creativity.

Editor’s note:  Ellis Paul performs more than 150 dates per year across the country.  His current tour schedule has dates booked through April 2012; he’ll be a featured artist on next month’s Cayamo music cruise.

What are the challenges of being an independent musician?

It’s harder to get the music heard, to get radio stations to play the songs.  Radio stations that were previously supportive continue to play my songs, but not as much.  We hired an indie radio promoter to make calls to AAA and secondary country stations, but it’s tough.

Going independent limits the number of radio stations willing to play the music.  It’s hard to get onto commercial radio unless there’s buzz, either because the song’s in a television commercial, in a movie, or there are a million hits on YouTube. 

It’s also harder to earn the respect and support of national publications.  Media know that the labels purchase ads; those ads put food on the table.

You’ve had songs in the movies; how did that happen?

I’ve been fortunate.  The Farrelly brothers heard my music through a manager relationship and are regionally supportive of New England artists.  The directors used my song over the end credits of the the Jim Carrey movie “Me, Myself & Irene”.  It’s massive exposure, a break many indie musicians dream of getting.  The end credit song has the highest loyalty rate and garners the most attention of any music in a movie.  Years later “The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down”  is still my most requested and downloaded song.

Do you take advantage of social media to market your music?

I do; guerrilla marketing on the internet is important.  I’m on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube.  My YouTube presence is still underdeveloped, and that will be the “go to” area for the next year.  I used YouTube to advertise my new record.  That video clip now has nearly 19,000 views.

Has your decision to go independent affected your relationship with your fans?

I have a broader appreciation of the fans’ commitment to me and my music now.  Thanks to the support from the fans, I was able to work on the new record until it was right.  I’m very pleased with the outcome.

What would you like people to know about life as an independent musician?

The job is about 60-70% business and only 30-40% art.  You have to be a businessman, an accountant, a boss, and a tour agent.  But the art is the most important thing; you have to make sure that the art is great.

.

_____________________________________________________________

Photo credit:  Photo of Ellis Paul by MacPolski

Ellis Paul official site:  http://www.ellispaul.com/

Purchase “The Day After Everything Changed”:  http://amzn.to/eFP03w

10 Comments Post a comment
  1. hicksfan7 #

    Thanks for the interview…so interesting, look fwd to part 2. I have watched that jumping in the lake with the guitar vid before – love it!

    January 31, 2011
  2. Thanks for reading, hicksfan7! Be sure to listen to the video at about the 40 second mark; there’s an interesting/amusing Taylor Hicks parallel!

    January 31, 2011
  3. medolark #

    Very interesting read. Have you thought about doing an itnterview with Taylor with the same questions (except q: 4) for comparison? Ü

    January 31, 2011
    • Thanks, medolark. I’d love to have the opportunity to talk to Mr. Hicks about this topic.

      January 31, 2011
  4. Margaret #

    Nice interview, and thanks for the reminder to support indie artists. I remember seeing an Ellis Paul vid about a year ago, and adding him to my “want to buy” list, which has since been misplaced. I still want this music and intend to purchases some soon. :) I hope Mr. Paul’s schedule brings him down my way sometime.

    January 31, 2011
    • Thank you, Margaret. I’ve really been enjoying “The Day After Everything Changed” – excellent songwriting. I’m planning on seeing Ellis live this April. Check his tour schedule if you get a chance; he’ll be all over this year.

      January 31, 2011
  5. Louise #

    Great insights by Ellis. I really do love that song above. He’s a true artist and it’s too bad these talented musicians have to be ‘jack of all trades’ to get their music heard.

    Thanks for a great interview. Looking forward to seeing him again.

    January 31, 2011
    • Thanks for your comment! It really has to be hard to manage all the jobs associated with being an independent musician, and also maintain a family life. Ellis tours constantly.

      January 31, 2011
  6. It sounds like indie is the way to go these days. Even though it’s a lot of work, the work is all YOURS.

    Nice job! Can’t wait for part 2.

    February 1, 2011

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