Ellis Paul

A native of northern Maine, and now living in Virginia, singer-songwriter Ellis Paul made his musical name by hitting the open mic circuit in and around Boston, in such places as the Old Vienna Kaffeehaus and O’Brien’s. Well before he picked up a guitar, Paul was a high school trumpet player who came to Boston for a summer scholarship at Berklee College of Music, but ended up going to Boston College on a track scholarship. A knee injury, followed by surgery, sidelined him and during a year of recovery, he filled the gap by learning guitar. “My then-girlfriend’s sister loaned me one,” he said. “And when I was 20, I ended up diving in, entirely self taught.”

Paul, whose voice can climb way up into the high register, has been singing all his life. Perhaps best known for composing “The World Ain’t Slowing Down” and “3,000 Miles,” songwriting has come easier than he expected. Early on, he did a lot of experimenting with words and music. “Now I’m kind of in a groove,” he said. “I’m about as prolific as I was in the early days, but there’s less fat. I don’t waste words as much as I used to. I think it’s in many ways easier to write well because of that.” Never afraid to tackle a cover song, he’s recently been playing with Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” On a whole other level, and considering that he’s a huge Red Sox fan, he’s sung the national anthem five times at Fenway Park. “The first time I did it, they were playing the Yankees, too,” he said. “That was cool!”

When he’s on the road, Paul brings along three guitars: A Taylor custom model, a Santa Cruz Model F, and a Guild D100. But at almost every concert, three or four out of the 18 or 20 songs he performs are done with him at the piano, which he started playing at the age of 40. Paul won his first Boston Music Award in 1992, around the same time his first album came out, and he’s since nabbed 13 more. One side gig that he’s most proud of is working with the Farrelly Brothers. “I’ve had songs in three of their films now,” he said. “My manager is friends with them, and he’s been sending them my stuff since they started, and any time there’s a perfect fit for a song, they’ve included me.”
(by Ed Symkus)

Published on December 28, 2012

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