My Paul Thorn story posted to The Alternate Root magazine online

20 Jan

Paul Thorn 2

For Paul Thorn, the lyrics he wrote together with Billy Maddox for his 10th album, Too Blessed to Be Stressed, stem from deep personal life lessons, professional musical influences and growing up a preacher’s son in the Deep South.

He wrote songs like “Don’t Let Nobody Rob You of Your Joy,” for his record released last August while seeking personal happiness in his day-to-day life.

“You may have a circle of friends and some of those friends are hard to be around and some of them make you wonder why they are your friends. You keep hanging around them, but they’re poison,” he said.

“They don’t lift you up; every opportunity they get they try to put you down. It’s not healthy to hang around people like that. That’s why that song is important. It’s just the truth. Life is short; you only get to live one time and while you’re here you don’t let nobody steal your joy.”

The Tupelo, Mississippi artist has chosen to take the high road in the known music universe, one somewhat beset with negativity, to deliver authentic “feel-good lyrics.” His songs promise to uplift even the most downtrodden concertgoers or mp3 fans.

Thorn, who performs over 150 shows a year, last performed in concert at The Roost in North Austin Nov. 23. He next performs in Austin April 11 when appears as part of the “In the Round” program at The Paramount Theater with Ruthie Foster and Joe Ely. They call themselves the Southern Troubadours.

His career blossomed after performing along with some musical heavyweights on a tribute album to Jackson Browne, entitled Looking into You, released last April. Thorn said he always liked Browne’s music, but had never met him before recording the song, “Doctor My Eyes.” Other contributing artists included Don Henley, Bonnie Raitt, David Lindley, and Bob Schneider, to name just a few.

In September Thorn met Browne backstage before presenting his song at the Americana Music Honors & Awards at the Ryman Auditorium in Tennessee.

Thorn admits that growing up in the same hometown as the iconic Elvis Presley had a huge impact on him musically as a kid. Yet over the years his career expanded to include several genres that explore all types of angles in the human experience.

“There are all kinds of records for different times in life. There are sad songs on some records about pain and all that kind of stuff, but I just wanted to make a record that made people feel better when they listen to it,” he said.

His father still preaches in the Church of God of Prophecy in Tupelo. The church’s followers provide the gifts of faith healing, prophecy and speaking in foreign tongues.

The song “Get a Healing” feels reminiscent of an evangelical tent revival service in the Deep South, complete with plenty of rhythmic clapping and catchy song lyrics.

The lyrics “you’ve got to get you a healing from the bottom of your heart/get you a healing that’s the only place to start/forgive all the people who have ever brought you harm/get yourself a healing with lovin’ from now on…”

Thorns fans will likely form emotional attachments to his music and lyrics without the benefit of any Pentecostal worship service.

“That song I think does heal somebody when they hear it,” he said.

“That’s what I believe. When I sing that song live I’ve noticed that the crowd really sinks their teeth into it. They’re all out there and they all want to be healed of something; everybody’s ailing from something. They want to feel better whether it’s physically or emotionally. Everybody needs to get fixed. That’s what that song’s talkin’ about.”

Paul’s parents married when his mother, Earlene, was just 15 and his father, Wayne, was 17.

“It was a different time back then,” Thorn said. “They’ll put you in jail for that now.”

His parents for most of their lives have lived in a parsonage on church grounds. Thorn, born in 1964, has older twin sisters, Charlotte Kay and Deborah Faye.

“We were never rich, but we were never poor,” he said. “We never went without anything. We always had what we needed.”

As Paul recalls, the family lived a religious life — 24/seven. Somehow he never felt a burden growing up in a house surrounded by women while his father often sacrificed hours every day to parishioners.

When he advises fans to “Get You a Healing,” for both their bodies and their souls, he prescribes one simple rule with the lyrics “just let your lovin’ show.”

Though Thorn does not ascribe to any single dogma or religious theology; his spiritual message comes through loud and clear nonetheless.

On one of the songs on the album, “Old Stray Dogs & Jesus,” Thorn identifies with one of the lowest denominators in society. The song tells the story about a drug addict who finally seeks help and rehabilitation after his life bottoms out.

“That’s what makes it a positive song. I’m not perfect by any means. I’ve never been a drug addict, but I’ve known a lot of people who have been. I sort of combined stories to make that song,” he said.

“I surely don’t believe that when somebody’s in the clutches of addiction that they can quit by themselves. It’s really rare that they quit by themselves. The test really comes when they surrender and go to rehab. Those are the only ones that I’ve ever seen get better.”

   The song’s lyrics “Why’s everybody judging me when the good book says judge not/old stray dogs and Jesus are all the friends I’ve got/I’ve never felt so lonely, I’ve never felt so blue/my world keeps getting smaller, it’s down to a chosen few” channels the thoughts of someone less fortunate.

“You can surrender to whatever you want to, but I chose Jesus because that’s the culture that I grew up in,” he said.

“I don’t think anybody knows for sure who God is because every culture just kind of provides their own design of what God is and they all believe they have it right. There’s nothing wrong with that. As humans we are really kind of arrogant to think that because it’s a big ‘ol world with a lot of people in it. None of us know too much.”

On stage, Thorn often expresses humility through words that soon sound and feel infectious.

“I pray to a higher power, but I don’t get up and proclaim to know what that higher power is,” he said.

Though he admits that his songwriting has been at times divinely inspired, he has borrowed professional insights from some fairly impressive musical peers.

A turning point in Thorn’s songwriting career followed his first cover performance of the 1981 hit song, “Don’t Let me Down Again,” written by Lindsey Buckingham, for Fleetwood Mack’s Live album. That’s when Thorn discovered the importance of creating “hooks” in songs.

“I like songs that you can hear the first time and remember them. That’s what a hook is – it hooks you and it keeps you singin’ along,” he said.

     “I like to make my hooks be things that are helpful to people – things that can give them a little courage to move forward, like the title track ‘Too Blessed to be Stressed.’ We all need to realize that because if you weigh out your life in the balance, there’s probably more good than bad in it, though sometimes we dwell on the negative.”

He combines country and rhythm and blues in a seemingly new genre that speaks volumes of truth and self-awareness through the song, “I Backslide on Friday.” The “backslider” term represents for Christians someone who practices being good, but who lapses into bad habits for a brief period of time.

“One thing we humans consistently do is procrastinate. Whether it’s a new year’s resolution to quit eatin’ a honey bun late at night, or whether it’s a resolution to quit cheatin’ on your wife, or to quit drinkin’. Whatever we struggle with, we all seem to have a hard time followin’ through with our plans,” he said.

“I think every human does it.”

The song “Everything’s Gonna Be Alright” mesmerizes with the familiar and soothing words of promise as they transport the listener visually to a new ethereal place — on the back of a dragonfly.

Thorn also took a long hard look at consumerism and it’s impact on people when he wrote the song “Mediocrity is King.”

Mediocrity is “not good for you, but it’s easy, it doesn’t require much effort and it doesn’t require much expense,” he said.

He said the business world caters to the weakest link in the human population — a community of passive listeners, viewers and readers.

Thorn shares those views with his friend and filmmaker Mike Judge, who wrote and directed the 2005 movie, Idiocracy, staring Luke Wilson and Maya Rudolph. Wilson plays the part of a man of average intelligence who after being transported 500 years into the future becomes the smartest human being on Earth.

Judge, of late, has been developing the hit HBO television series, Silicon Valley. Season two premieres April 10.

However, even Thorn admits to liking disco, though he doesn’t write in that genre.

He began writing the song, “This is a Real Goodbye,” after listening to Gloria Gaynor’s song, “I Will Survive.” Gaynor’s double platinum song released in 1978, but has since become an anthem for society’s underdogs.

   “I always liked that song because it’s a song about being strong after a breakup and moving forward after your former relationship, so I wanted to write something that had the same sentiment,” he said.

   “I made up a shuffle song that talks about finding happiness once someone’s gone. A lot of people have poisoned relationships. They may love them, but they’re getting treated like dirt. After a while you need to get enough of that and move on start fresh.”

The song, “What Kind of Roof do you Live Under?” makes listeners think about the relationships they share with the people with whom they choose to live.

“I know married people who are living their house together for one reason and that’s because their kids are still there,” he said.

“Instead of looking at your neighbors and pointin’ at them, we all need to examine our own lives and ask ourselves about the relationships going on inside the dwelling.”

The song, “No Place I’d Rather Be,” focuses on Thorn’s domestic life that he shares with his wife, Heather, and daughters Kit, 21, and Bella, 10.

“I enjoy my work, but nothing can compete with the enjoyment of being home,” he said. “Leaving them is a heavy price that I unfortunately have to pay.”

Meanwhile, bookings through June keep him far from home; recently Thorn entertained fans on the Sandy Beaches Cruise until Jan. 17.

Please see my story posted to the website for The Alternate Root at: http://thealternateroot.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=2961:pt-dmm&catid=208:what-s-trending&Itemid=268

To order Paul Thorn’s music on his official website at: http://www.paulthorn.com

 

 

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: