Ellis Paul is currently on tour celebrating 25 years of being a touring singer-songwriter. He’s played a lot of bars, coffeehouses, clubs, concert halls, and festivals. His music is as relevant as ever and his audiences cherish his songs and his honest delivery. Experiencing an Ellis Paul show is like having a conversation with a friend–catching up on where he’s been and learning about what’s been rattling around in his head and heart. His words and music are nothing less than eloquent.
To learn more about Ellis Paul, visit his website.
Here’s a video of Ellis singing his song “Rose Tattoo.”
First of all, congratulations on your 25th anniversary tour! Twenty-five years! That’s quite impressive. You have many stories to tell about all those years traveling shore to shore to shore. You’ve also obtained much wisdom about the human condition and the music business by what you’ve experienced and what you’ve seen. How can you best tell a stranger about your life in this under-the-radar world of singer-songwriters?
There are stars that can’t be seen by the naked eye– for every Adele that shines like Venus there are thousands of musicians of note that ply the skies beyond the reach of the naked eye. I’m one of them, and my job isn’t working mass success but for personal connection as many as one person can acquire through live shows and word of mouth. It means racing across the sky to as many points as possible. We are elusive, but we are there.
Your keynote speech at the NERFA (North East Regional Folk Alliance) conference in November 2015 was inspiring. You connected so many dots between your passion for songwriting, community, and your circle of friends. You’re one of the lucky ones who found your tribe. Do you have any advice to those just starting out about how to go about finding their own tribe? What does it take?
Connecting through quality songs and performances, learning to master both, building a team around you, building a team of volunteers and cheerleaders, and loving the process– sacrificing time and some personal things along the way. It’s not easy really, and it’s not luck, it’s more the hard work meets opportunity thing.
I’m fascinated by your creative posters that help to stimulate songwriters to develop both their songwriting craft and their performance skills. Can you explain, in a nutshell what inspired you do develop these visual keys to help unlock the best in creative individuals?
They are visual reminders on how to narrow the flight of a song into a clean path to connect with the listener. I like that there’s a lot to absorb and it pulls you in daily. I teach the wheel in retreats and wanted people to go home with a good version of it.
You’ve probably experienced a multitude of highs and lows during your career. How do you keep yourself grounded after great experiences and never knowing if a soul sucking experience is right around the corner?
Optimism and naivety and hope go a long way in keeping you in the game. I never take small shows for granted, you never know who may be there!
I’m going to list some of your songs and let’s see if you have an anecdote or special memory attached to them:
Paris in a Day
This was written after my honeymoon with my first marriage– it’s like a postcard from that very day, all those things were actually done in a day.
Alice’s Champagne Palace
This is one of my most popular songs– maybe because it;s a happy drinking at a bar song! One of my favorite places to play in the world! We are thinking of having a cruise trip up there in May of 2018! Be on the lookout– I had many adventures in this place and it too feels like a postcard of my times there.
Conversation with a Ghost
This song is one that really helped kick my career out the door-/ Patty Griffin sang beautiful harmonies. It’s a ghost story to Allison Higgins who gave me my first guitar. Best to remain cryptic, I like that people interpret it themselves…
Kick Out the Lights
The recording has Red Molly on it– and a raging guitar solo– it’s a tribute Johnny Cash and his badassness….
A story song for kids and families about a dragon fly race that happens in the forest every night…
This is based on a friend of mine that traveled coast to coast on a greyhound bus, and also feels like a personal story of being road bound in life!
When you listen to music for pleasure, what recordings do you turn to?
I like to listen to Van Morrison, Rod Stewart, Al Green– singer songwriters from the early seventies — and my peers who travel and record today…
Do you have any favorite musicians whose music is fairly new to you but who you’re looking forward to hearing more from in the future?
Many! Rebecca Loebe just put out her best record to date– Robbie Hecht, Caroline Spence, Carsie Blanton.
Ellis Paul will be playing at the me&thee in Marblehead, MA on Friday, March 17. www.meandthee.org