Paul J. Phillips was born into a family where following a path in pursuit of music was a destine staple in his future. Son of a Baptist choir director and classically trained soprano, Phillips grew up in Kentucky, knowing that he was meant to chase the notes of a melody that would make up the soundtrack to his future.
Thanks to the lovely people at the Press House in Nashville, TN where Paul has recently moved to from the Big Apple, I was able to sit down with him and discuss the passion behind the music, and the ideas that make Paul’s songs come to life.
They say music can be taught, but passion for it is intuitive. After speaking with Paul, it seems his intuition and love for the arts stretches further than the distance he’s traveled to pursue his musical dreams.
When I spoke to Paul I was under the impression that “Magic” was his first solo E.P, but I stood corrected.
“‘Magic’ is actually my third solo recording; my first two records, “Shooting Cars, Building Stars” and “Every Time I Leave” are pretty straight-forward Americana. This new EP is a bit of a departure from that,” he explained, “and is more straight-forward rock and roll. With ‘Magic’ we were just trying to have a little fun with the music and also push the envelope artistically- do something different from what we’ve done in the past.”
When listening to “Magic” (the title track off of the album) it is clear that “pushing the envelope” is exactly what Paul had set out to do. With a 311 meets Jimmy Buffett at a local cafe on a dollar beer night sound, Paul’s newly developed and strangely unique approach to his latest album release has listeners questioning his motives, while never demanding answers; the music speaks for itself.
When there is a title track on an album it’s almost like, which came first? The chick or the egg? So I asked Paul which “Magic” came first (the song or the album concept & name).
“The song came first. Then the chicken,” he joked. “I’m part of a group with some songwriter friends in which we try to write a song a day for the month of May. About a week or two in, when the fresh ideas slow down a bit, the really interesting songs start surfacing. One of the other writers and my good friend, Rollyn, wrote a little ditty about needing and enjoying an adult beverage at the end of a crazy days and ‘Magic’ was basically a fun response to that.”
Basing an entire album off of a fun response song is, from what I could tell during my time speaking with him, a very “Paul” thing to do. Did you ever see that episode of Friends? The one where Monica is trying to realize her dreams of being a chef while catering one of her mom’s dinner parties? (The One With the ‘Cuffs Episode 4.03) Her mom says that both of her parents made a bet that she would pull a “Monica” before the night was over. While in her moment of distress, Phoebe points out to her that pulling a “Monica” may actually be the best thing someone could do. That they could make pulling a “Monica” the best thing since sliced bread.
By Paul, well, pulling a “Paul” I think you get the long-winded analogy that it’s actually the best thing he could’ve done. Basing an album off of chance, fun, experimentation; all of these things make for unique and inspirational songs that complete the entirety of an album that is more of a collection of art then a representation of sound.
“Funny enough,” Paul said. “It originally started out as a reggae tune and when we started working on these new rock tracks, we took a new approach to the music. ‘Magic’ is fun, lighthearted, rocking and bluesy and to me instantly felt like the single of the bunch, as well as the musical compass for the direction of the EP. For those same reasons we decided to use ‘Magic’ as the title of the EP.”
And magic it is.
“I love to meet and hear stories about people that live life on the edge – those who push their own boundaries as artists, athletes, poets, adventurers, painters, musicians, etc.,” Paul offered when I inquired about his inspirations in life. “To me, it seems that when people are really pursuing what they’re passionate about, that’s when true beauty arrives and the world actually changes and evolves in a positive way. So to answer your question, both musically and personally, I’m continually inspired and drawn to people who pursue their life and art in that way. Luckily, I have many friends that inspire me in this way and I’m grateful for that.”
“The real challenge is not to survive. Hell, anyone can do that. It’s to survive as yourself, undiminished.”