Home > Interviews > Ellis Paul

 

 

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Boston Beats:  State your name, age and occupation for the record please.

Ellis: Iím Ellis Paul. Iím 40 and my occupation is songwriter.

BB: How did you first get into music? When did you learn how to play?
Ellis: I started playing when I was around 20, 21, when I got into guitar. I started dabbling in music in high school, but not this kind of thing. I was playing trumpet and band and that kind of thing, but I didnít have any being-in-a-band dreams at that point. I started really playing guitar when I was 20, 21, in college.

BB: When did you write your first song?
Ellis: About the same time. I canít remember what the name of it was, it probably wasnít very good, but I took to writing right away. Didnít learn many songs, just started writing my own right from the top.


SONGWRITING

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BB: Tell me about your song writing style. How does a new song usually come about?
Ellis: Usually I work on the guitar part first. Iíll just be hanging with the guitar in between shows, back at the hotel or at home, and Iíll come up with some sort of guitar thing that actually interests me. Generally the music tells me what the song should be about, depending on what mood the music is, and then I start filling in the lyrics. I kind of use free verse in the beginning until I come up with a good catch phrase that I can build a song around.

BB: Do you ever start with a concept or a feeling and build it from there?
Ellis: Yeah, I usually build off the music, but occasionally Iíll go in with a concept right from the top and that works as well, but for the most part thatís not the way I go in.

BB: What are some of your biggest songs?
Ellis: Well, I play a song called Mariaís Beautiful Mess, and a song called 3000 miles. The World Ainít Slowing Down is one of my biggest songs, a song called Angel in Manhattan and a song called Conversation with a Ghost. That collection of songs is probably my most popular.

BB: What are your favorites of your own songs?
Ellis: Iíd say Maria's Beautiful Mess is one of them. Usually itís whatever is the newest batch of songs is that Iíve written. I just wrote a song called Jukebox On My Grave and a song called Take All The Sky You Need, and those are my two my new favorites.

BB: Have you found your songs in movies or TV?
Ellis: Yeah, the World Ainít Slowing Down ended up being the theme song to a Jim Carrey movie called Me, Myself & Irene. A song called Sweet Mistakes was in a Jack Black film called Shallow Hal, and I had a song called If You Break Down that got into Ed, and then a couple of songs on the Real World on MTV, so Iíve had some success with that stuff.

BB: What does it feel like when someone covers one your songs?
Ellis: Itís great. I was singing a song called Godís Promise out in California at this big music conference, and as I was playing it I could hear somebody across the hallway in another conference room actually covering it at the same time. I thought that was pretty cool.
BB: That is cool.
Ellis: Itís a big thrill when people do that. I donít really write them thinking that other people can play them but itís great when people actually adopt them and take them under there own wing.

BB: Do you have a favorite cover of one of your songs?
Ellis: Yeah, The Burn Sisters did a version of Godís Promise that was far better than mine, and that was probably the one I was the most blown away by. Theyíre a family music group out of New York State.

BB: What are your own musical influences?
Ellis: Well, I love the classic early 70ís singer-songwriters. Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Bill Withers, people like that. That sort of sparse folk rock is what Iíve been into ever since the beginning.

BB: What do you consider to be your favorite albums?
Ellis: Thatís hard. A bunch of Beatles albums, The White Album, Abby Road, Sergeant Pepperís. I like a lot of the early Dylan albums like Another Side of Bob Dylan. What else? Joni Mitchell, Blue. August and Everything After, by the Counting Crows, and a lot of U2 albums. Achtung Baby is probably my favorite.

BB: How would you describe your own style?
Ellis: Itís a combination of folk and pop and rock music. I think if I had been born a few decades earlier it would fit comfortably in that same niche as some of those other people. Maybe not quality wise, I guess thatís up to the general public, but it comes out of the classic singer-songwriter tradition. Itís a little Neil Young, itís a little Dylan, itís a little James Taylor and itís a lot me.

RECORDING

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BB: Whatís your process of recording music? What do you do to get your best stuff down?
Ellis: Well, a lot of times the best stuff just comes to me sitting in front of a couple of microphones and doing things live. Iíve had some success layering track upon track upon track, and starting with a click-track and laying the guitar and having other people lay the drums down, but I feel like that that process is a little bit hollow in the long run. I prefer to record with a live band and then clean it up with overdubs. That way you get some of the spontaneousness out of the band. But this last record I did, I mostly worked off of loops, which is cool too. That process was a lot of fun because the producer and I were more in command of the choices that the instruments were making, because we were taking things off of the Internet that we really liked.

BB: Tell me about that album.
Ellis: Itís called American Jukebox Fables, and itís coming out on April 5th, 2005. Itís produced by a guy named Flynn, whoís a Boston producer-songwriter-musician. And it came out great, Iím really happy with it. We wanted to do something a little bit more contemporary sounding, more along the lines of David Gray and Dido. So we did a lot of midi, a lot of programming, a lot of loops. The songs themselves were more like country songs. They were more sort of simplified story songs, so the mix is pretty interesting. It came out pretty good, Iím pretty proud of it.

BB: What kind of guitar do you play? How long have you had it?
Ellis: I play two acoustic guitars that I take on the road with me.
One is a Santa Cruz Model F. Iíve played that one probably for 8 or 9 years now, itís very warm sounding. Then I have a Guild D100 acoustic that has a beautiful inlay. I have it strung up as Nashville guitar, so it is high-strung, which is like a 12-string but just the high strings off of the 12-string, so itís up an octave and itís a little more jangley.

BB: Do you prefer the studio or playing out?
Ellis: Theyíre so different. I like playing out to a certain point. I donít like being away from home that much but I love the performing aspect. And being in a studio is really great when things are working well. So I guess I like them about the same.

BB: Speaking of home, are you still Boston-based?
Ellis: My wife and I moved out of New England, and weíre settling near her parents place for the next couple of years. Iím hoping that I get to come back after that, but weíll have to wait and see where life takes us.

 

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*Pictures courtesy of http://www.ellispaul.com/

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