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Posts from the ‘Ellis Paul’ Category

Review: Ellis Paul “City of Silver Dreams”

ellis paul xmas rev press-

by Holley Dey

It seems fitting that the first and title track on Ellis Paul’s new holiday album celebrates the spirit of New York, a city that survives and thrives, transformed each year by the sights and sounds of the season.  The “City of Silver Dreams” peers through the ribbon draped windows, rejoices at St. Patrick’s Cathedral and hears the magic in the taxicab horns.  There is both wonder and whimsy in a song where a delicate piano chimes in support of warm vocal harmonies. Read more

New Year’s Eve with Ellis Paul, Neil Young and the Orthodontist

There was  no dawdling involved.  We opted for an early dinner at Capital Grille where the last available table sat window side and offered a full view of the whimsical dragons, pageantry and bright smiles of Boston’s First Night parade.  After dinner I did a furtive striptease in the parking garage, exchanging polyester for sequins while the motor idled, one eye on the rearview mirror and with a delicious sense of daring.  My date claimed to enjoy the pre-show. Read more

Schooled! Songwriting with Ellis Paul

Photograph of Ellis Paul by MacPolski
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The  local children’s museum often holds evening workshops for parents and educators.  I first met the museum director at one of these events.   The discussion that evening was on fostering creativity, and the museum director told the group that truly creative people are uniformly poor spellers.  He and I had never met, never spoken, yet in a room full of people, his smiling eyes met mine and the director said to me, “I bet you’re a terrific speller”.  Ouch.  Nailed. Read more

Ellis Paul: A Tribute to Roy Orbison

Ellis Paul is celebrating a birthday this month!  Don’t light the candles quite yet, though.  The party belongs to someone else.  Music legend Roy Orbison would have turned 75 on April 23, and Ellis has been invited to contribute to a worldwide video tribute in the singer’s honor.  Produced by Mr. Orbison’s publishing company, the video montage will be backed by Ellis Paul’s cover of Roy’s signature hit “Crying”.  When complete, the montage will be featured in Hard Rock Cafes around the world.

The video is one of many planned tributes.  A new exhibit will open at the Grammy Museum in Los Angeles on April 29, 2011.  “Roy Orbison: The Soul of Rock-n-Roll” will celebrate the life and career of the singer/songwriter.  Remembered for his powerful voice and emotional delivery, Orbison produced hit after hit in the 1950′s and early 1960′s including “Oh, Pretty Woman”, “Only the Lonely”, “Running Scared”, and “Crying”. 

The haunting loneliness of “Crying” and Roy’s effortless delivery of the very difficult song clearly impressed Ellis Paul.  The way Ellis tells it, the song has earned a prominent slot in his jukebox……..

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Now Ellis will play a prominent role in celebrating Roy Orbison and his music.  The following performance of “Crying” was recorded live in concert at Wilde Auditorium, West Hartford on April 8, 2011.

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With his lyrical delivery of the song, Ellis Paul will surely honor the man whose distinctive voice lingers in our collective memory.

Happy Birthday, Roy Orbison!  You made sunglasses cool.  You made the music cooler.  You will always have a place in our jukebox.

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Photo of Ellis Paul courtesy of MacPolski

Video and audio captures of Ellis Paul courtesy of Louise Uznanski

Photo of Roy Orbison and the Beatles from Mr. Orbison’s official website: http://www.royorbison.com/us

More on Ellis Paul: http://www.ellispaul.com/

Ellis Paul on Songwriting and Musical Journalism

A conversation with Ellis Paul:  Second of a two part series

His pleasing melodies and thoughtful lyrics have been recognized with no fewer than fourteen Boston Music Awards.  His songs have been widely featured on television and in film.  We asked Ellis Paul to share insights into his highly successful songwriting.

What is your process for songwriting?

I write constantly – on a daily basis.  I write and I rewrite; songs often undergo three or four edits before they’re ready to be published or performed.  Sometimes I’ll send songs to other musicians for review.  I have a string of songwriters whose opinions I value. 

When Stephen King writes a novel, he sends the chapters to an editor.  The finished book is the result of both the writing and the editing process.  Songwriters today somehow don’t believe that their work needs editing, but it’s an important part of producing a good song.

Your lyrics are socially aware, but not confrontational.  Is that a choice?

The idea is to make the listener a voyeur, as if they are looking through a window.  If the songwriter preaches, then the listener looks at the writer and not the song.  I prefer to allow the scene to unfurl without manipulating the listener.  Then I can just be the journalist who tells a story, and the listener becomes my cowriter.  They take their own meaning from the story.

Is the goal of your songwriting to educate, to inform, or to provide an escape?

I tend to gravitate toward songs that are information based, that can help the listener understand the subject in a better way.  I think that the emotional content is lost if the topic is approached in a moral way.

Something has to trigger the impulse to write.  I wrote “Hurricane Angel” a few years after the Katrina disaster when I read the account of refugees sleeping on the floor of an abandoned New Orleans warehouse. 

Just before Christmas I had been writing a song that ties Mary to modern mothers.  It’s a kind of time lapse photograph of life, and of mothers’ sacrifices over the years as their children grow.

How has your songwriting style changed through the years?

In the early years, I took a more academic approach to songwriting.  The songs were wordier.  Now my songs are more conversational; they have an easier flow. 

I collaborated with Kristian Bush (of the country duo Sugarland) for several songs on my most recent album, “The Day After Everything Changed”.  Working with a pop writer brought a less heady feel and a lighter touch to the music.

The collaboration seems to have worked; up to eight of my songs from that album will be heard in the new Farrelly brothers movie “Hall Pass”, due to be released later this month.

Which of your songs are your personal favorites?

Umm.  I’d have to say that some of my favorites are “Maria’s Beautiful Mess”, “Take All the Sky You Need”, and from the new album, “Rose Tattoo” and “Dragonfly”.

But some of the songs are just cathartic to play, and some are like cotton candy.

If so, we’ve developed a newfound appreciation for that carnival confection.  More, please.

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Many thanks to Ellis Paul and his management for allowing us the opportunity to chat.

For more on Ellis Paul, Including his tour schedule: http://www.ellispaul.com/

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

Featured photograph of Ellis Paul by Louise/4tay

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.

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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

Ellis Paul: Paying out musical dividends

Black & white photograph of musician Ellis Paul kindly provided by macpolski; color photograph graciously shared by Louise/4tay

When singer/songwriter Ellis Paul took the stage last Saturday night, he was not alone.  He brought with him that sense of calm and confidence that comes from years of experience.  His ninety minute set reflected that quiet confidence, offering a rare and pleasing blend of melody and personality that left the audience lingering well after the music had ended, hoping for more.

His original brand of music has a lyrical quality with a sound grounded in folk, but spiced with a country/pop flavor.  It’s a combination that has won regional and national accolades.  Most recently, Paul has been asked to collaborate on the film “Hall Pass” (starring Owen Wilson and slated for a February 2011 release).  Up to eight songs from the singer’s 2010 album “The Day after Everything Changed” will be featured in the soundtrack.

Paul had a humorous take on this collaboration for the Saturday night audience.  “Some of you know that I’ve had a couple of songs in movies over the years, most of them in Farrelly brothers films.  They just called me and asked me to send the new record to them.  Then they called me back, and they said, can you send another copy of the record, but this time….could you take the vocals out? And I said sure, can you send me your next movie without the actors?”

Fortunately, the vocals were left in for the November 20 show.  Paul has a clear and expressive voice with a faint breathy quality that lends character; his range was showcased nicely against a spare instrumental background consisting of his own guitar, harmonica, or piano play.  Limited back-up vocals were provided by a willing audience.

Both setlist and requested songs were played, ranging from the socially relevant “Hurricane Angel” to the romantic “Rose Tattoo” and the whimsical “Dragonfly”.  Most remarkable were the lyrics to these songs, capable of evoking vivid imagery, and in some cases an emotional response.

Listen to “Hurricane Angel”, the personal and poignant story of post Katrina Louisiana.  “Mr. President, you can’t afford to lie, cause I can’t afford to pay.  Hurricane Angel I’m lifting my eyes over Baton Rouge.  Lift up your wings, let me hear your voice singing, can your turn these black skies to blue again?”

“The Lights of Vegas” is one of several songs on the new album co-written by Kristian Bush, one-half of the smash country duo Sugarland and a longtime Ellis Paul friend.  This is the story of a man who leaves all behind to invest his last dollar in the slots, looking for that one last chance before the sun rises.  The following performance clip includes a brief rehearsal segment as the audience learns the song’s simple chorus. Na na na na….

Throughout the evening, brief interludes between songs were filled by stories of the musician’s life on the road, and these were punctuated by the same dry and intelligent wit that characterizes Paul’s songwriting.

It was a ninety minute set that felt like twenty, skillfully paced and delivered.  As a first introduction to singer/songwriter Ellis Paul, this New Jersey evening proved a complete success.  The show was well worth the investment of time and travel, and one that paid musical dividends.

For more on singer/songwriter Ellis Paul: http://www.ellispaul.com/

For a look at creative marketing & a free download of the title track from “The Day after Everything Changed”: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uepurGa9ZBA&playnext=1&list=PLB37C21823395DB06&index=33

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