By fans, for fans

Ellis Paul on crowd-funding, chasing beauty and Oddbody’s

By CC Hutten

Photo: Singer-songwriter Ellis Paul will perform Aug. 28 at Oddbody’s Music Room; photo: Neale Eckstein

Musician, artist, businessman and father Ellis Paul is taking his Boston style one-man show around the country, stopping in Dayton Aug. 28 at Oddbody’s Music Room.

Originally from Boston, Paul was a leading musician during the American folk (“Boston style”) revival of the 1990s, and continues to be a figure of contemporary acoustic music. He’s released 19 albums, performs over 200 performances annually and has won 14 Boston Music Awards. Used to performing at Canal Street Tavern, Paul says Dayton is one of his favorite towns to play because it was one of the first places he played on the road in 1992.

Over 20 years of being a musician, Paul has seen changes in himself as well as the industry. While his newer music off Chasing Beauty is more melodic and with fewer lyrics than previous work, he continues to express human connection through music.

“I look for stories that are about people going through transitions that are important,” he says. “A lot of it is a natural progression of many years writing songs. I wanted to write about people who are at some kind of crossroads. For the most part, they’re about people living in adventure.”

Telling stories through creating music has always been Paul’s Plan A. Though it’s a non-conventional way to make a living, Paul has made it work for the better over the years by staying well-rounded, but with the same goal: storytelling.

“I burned my Plan B,” he continues. “I never have anything else to fall back on. I consider myself foremost a writer, someone who conveys stories and ideas to people. Even if I stop with music, I won’t stop storytelling,” he says. “I’ll be making music through my 70s and 80s. That’s my Plan A.”

“I feel like there’s a lot of stuff I want to do outside of touring, touring, touring,” he says.

Paul’s music has been featured in various forms of media entertainment, including “Nellie Bly” in the movie 10 Days in a Mad House, to be released Sept. 25. His 20th album, recorded live at S.P.A.C.E. in Illinois, will come out later this year. Paul has also crafted children’s music, an album called Hero In You, which inspired his first children’s book of the same name; The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas will be he second children’s book, to be released Oct. 1 in time for the 2015 holidays.

The children’s books are not just for kids, however.

Adults are meant to enjoy them, as they are no different from songwriting, to him—“I’m just putting my stories out,” he says.

The music industry, and his career in it, is always changing, up and down, like a roller coaster. He’s maintained his status and focus by trying to keep the quality consistent, despite any crazes that may come up.

“People aren’t going to see me grow a beard or wear plaid, or bend to whatever trend is happening,” Paul laughs. “Fortunately I have an audience to get away with that and keep on growing.”

Not only does Paul have a strong fan base that sticks with him through the trends, they also help provide an integral piece to his work’s expansion—financing. Paul began to crowd fund the creation of his music with the aptly named 2010 album The Day Everything Changed. Due to its success, he went for it again, this time creating Chasing Beauty, an album that is, fundamentally, by fans, for fans.

“The people I play to have been with me seven or eight records and they want to see the next step, and want to feel more involved, more invested, part of it,” he says. “It’s organic. I get to answer to people who are invested in it, rather than a record label that’s interested in making money.”

It’s a business dynamic versus a personal dynamic, and one that works quite well for Paul and his fans.

Chasing Beauty, his second crowd-funded album raised over $100,000 with over 600 donors. On it, he works with Sugarland’s Kristian Bush and Train’s Brandon Bush, alongside what he said were many talented people to help craft his storytelling album, of which he will perform in Dayton.

His tour this year will feature new songs blended with old, updating his audiences with new stories but also touching on his classic material. A staple of Paul’s shows is his spoken storytelling between songs.

“I always look at records as sort of a ‘prom picture,’” he muses. “It captures a moment of time; the music is dressed as best as it can. When I tour, I’m playing the ‘jeans’ version of the song. I focus on instruments, but not like an orchestra. The shows are more like, ‘this is how I wrote this,’ more about the creation, rather than the ‘prom night.’”

“I think you’ll be surprised how much noise one guy can make,” he concludes. “If you’ve never seen one person, a one-man show, hopefully when you leave you feel elevated.”

Ellis Paul will perform Friday, Aug. 28, at Oddbody’s Music Room, 5418 Burkhardt Rd., at 8 p.m.; doors open at 7 p.m. The event is for patrons 18 and older. Tickets are $15 online in advance, $17 at the door. For more information, please visit ellispaul.com. 

 

Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at CCHutten@DaytonCityPaper.com.

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Reach DCP freelance writer CC Hutten at ContactUs@DaytonCityPaper.com

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