Southern music scene welcome change for Ellis Paul

Photo courtesy Ralph Jaccodine Management
A former track star at Boston College, Ellis Paul says his competitiveness helped him break into the tough world of music.

Photo courtesy Ralph Jaccodine Management A former track star at Boston College, Ellis Paul says his competitiveness helped him break into the tough world of music.

Ellis Paul

Saturday at the Buckman Performing Arts Center at St. Mary's School, 60 Perkins Ext. Show times: 10 a.m. (children's show) and 8 p.m.

Early show tickets are $5 for children and free for adults. Evening show tickets are $25. Tickets available at the box office, by phone at 901-537-1483, and online at stmarysschool.org/thebuckman.

Singer-songwriter Ellis Paul has long been associated with New England, where he was born and built his reputation on the folk-pop scene, but for the past eight years, he has called Charlottesville, Va., home.

"It doesn't feel too different, being a musician because I'm still traveling the same circuit and playing the same gigs," says Paul, who moved to the Old Dominion with his wife and two young daughters to be closer to the in-laws. "I don't play much in Charlottesville or the Southeast that much. Some. But everything else is nice here. The music scene is great. There're a lot of great musicians. But it's a lot warmer."

Paul, who previously visited Memphis during the Folk Alliance's tenure here over the past decade, is looking to ingratiate himself more in the South. He will perform two concerts here Saturday at St. Mary's School's Buckman Performing Arts Center.

At 10 a.m. will be a family show, part of the Buckman's Magic Carpet Ride series, featuring music from Paul's two children's albums. The latest of these, last year's The Hero In You, is a series of biographical songs about inspirational historical figures. A later evening performance will put the spotlight on Paul's thoughtful, literate songwriting style as heard on his most recent record, the Christmas album City of Silver Dreams.

Also released last year, the Silver Dreams' is part of Paul's ongoing collaboration with Kristian Bush of the duo Sugarland. The two met more than 20 years ago in Atlanta and have been regular writing partners ever since, with Bush contributing two songs to Silver Dreams. Bush has also helped produce several of Paul's albums, including his last adult record, 2010s The Day After Everything Changed, and his upcoming spring release.

"We'll probably do one song from the Christmas record," says Paul of his planned set. "But it's a folk show and there's a lot of stories between songs. It's sort of a compilation of what I've been doing in the last three or four years with a couple of older songs. I'm expecting to play to a lot of people who don't know music that well, so it'll be an introductory Ellis Paul show. I'll give them the whole chocolate box."

Though he played trumpet in the school band, music was not a huge part of Paul's life growing up in Kent, Maine, a small potato-farming community close to the Canadian border. Track and field was his real passion, and his fleet feet took him to Boston College on a scholarship where he excelled at the 10,000 meters. An injury in his junior year sidelined him, however, and to pass the time Paul found himself picking up the guitar.

"If you've had a life of training and competitiveness it definitely can translate over to rehearsing and getting into the grind of getting gigs and working your way up the ladder of the music world," says Paul of his transition from sports to music.

Starting at open mics, Paul slowly honed his craft on the fertile Boston folk scene, winning the Boston Acoustic Underground Award in 1991. It would be first of many awards he would rack up, including an astounding 14 Boston Music Awards.

In 2000, Paul broke out of the folk circuit when his song "The World Ain't Slowin' Down" was featured in the Jim Carrey film Me, "Myself & Irene," directed by fellow New Englanders Peter and Bobby Farrelly. The track gave Paul the biggest exposure of his career, with more than one million views on YouTube.

His music has also been used in the film "Shallow Hal" and on the TV series "Ed."

"I don't feel any different about any of the songs that I wrote for television of movies than I do for my albums," says Paul. "With the music industry being the way it is, I'm grateful for any kind of attention you can get because we're just kind of guerrilla artists now, all of us. So getting in movies and television is a great way to get our music out there."

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