Interview with Paul Janeway (St. Paul and the Broken Bones)

A tight ensemble with a gospel-tinged, retro-soul garage sound complete with horns and a dynamic lead singer, Birmingham’s St. Paul & the Broken Bones’ stirring live shows quickly garnered them a fan following when the band was formed in 2011. Led by vocalist Paul Janeway, an impassioned soul singer with James Brown-like stage moves and command, and also consisting of Browan Lollar (guitar, vocals), Andrew Lee (drums and percussion), Jesse Phillips (bass), Allen Branstetter (trumpet), and Ben Griner (trombone and tuba) .  St. Paul and the Broken Bones is one of the best bands you will see Live, in this Country, Period.  They are playing Sunday, Sept. 11, at Evening of Respect, the 75 year celebration of Otis Redding. Brad Evans caught up with front man Paul Janeway this past week.

Hey Paul.  Hope you guys are doing well.  We are so happy to have you coming back to Macon. I know last time you were here ya’ll took a ride out to the Big O Ranch, and ate some good BBQ at Old Clinton.
Yeah. We love those mac and cheese balls, man. We all still talk about that BBQ joint.  Reminds a lot of the guys of home.  And we talk about that show in Macon too.  That was a hell of a show in Macon, too.  People came unhinged.

Well, they had never experienced anything like you! People were throwing their bras on stage. I was like, God almighty! Well, I know you only have a few minutes, so I wanted to spend our time together talking about Otis Redding.  I know he was a big influence.  I know coming back to celebrate 75 years is a big deal for you.
I’ll put it to you this way. It was terribly inconvenient for us. You know, we’re in the middle of an album release.  We release September 9.  We’re going to be all over the country.  If anyone else anywhere else had offered any amount of money, we’d have probably said no.  But when Zelma Redding calls you, you say yes.  I wouldn’t be anywhere else.  We’re all over the country this week – Late Night with Stephen Colbert, travel is crazy. But Zelma sent me this beautiful letter, and I will treasure it for the rest of my life.  I told the guys “I don’t care what we have to figure out, we’re doing this.” They all were 100 percent behind it, and we’re very excited about it.

Chris Robinson was in our studio at The Creek 100.9 FM a few weeks ago, and we were talking about Otis Redding. He was talking about Otis as a vocalist. One thing he said was that Sam Cooke was a vocal acrobat, and Otis was more of a ditch digger. He just got the work done.  Do you agree with that assessment? Yeah.  I mean, Otis, to me, is an extremely emotive kind of singer.  Otis had some range, though, but he didn’t really focus on that a lot.  He knew what to sing and when to sing it, and there’s a desperation to it that can’t be replicated. It has that Southern grit.  When you say Southern soul singer, you think Otis Redding.

bn-ps201_stpaul_p_20160906160508I just saw that YouTube video of you singing Otis in Paris.  That was pretty intense.  Gave me chills watching it. That was a crazy day in Paris. We drove all night. We hadn’t had any sleep – they just threw us out there and we did it.  We’re out on the street in front of the Louvre.  We were trying to perform there and got kicked out.  There was a girl there that asked if we knew any Otis songs.

Man, she asked the right guy, didn’t she?
Ha! Yes, she did.  It was this amazing moment. I was really into the song.  When I looked up, that girl had tears coming down her face. There we were, in Paris, singing Otis Redding, making people cry.  It was a moment, that’s for sure.

When you first started performing –  I know you have a background in religious music, but when you started doing what you’re doing, how long was it before you knew you had something?
I actually didn’t think I was much of a singer at first. I know that’s kind of silly, seeing as how that’s what I do for a living now.  But when I first got together with Jesse, and we starting writing, he told me he was going to write songs around my voice. The first song was “Broken Bones and Pocket Change.”  It was a ballad.  We didn’t combat my voice.  And I knew from that song on that I had to give it a shot.  Our guitar player tells this story – when he first came in to record with us, he hadn’t met me. He saw me and didn’t make the connection.  He thought I was just a hanger-on at the studio. When he heard it come out of me, he was like “Wait, what’s going on?!”  You know, I don’t exactly look the part, but I did take it seriously. I quit my job for this. I was a bank teller. I was in school, and I quit.  I believed in it enough to do that. I love singing, I love performing.

The bill that you are playing on Sept 11 –  have you heard it? It’s remarkable.  I don’t know if this is public knowledge, but William Bell is going to perform “I Forgot to be Your Lover” with us.  He specifically asked for us.  That’s one of my favorite songs.  I’m so excited about this show.  It’s crazy right now, because we have so much to think about.

It will all become clear on September 11.
To me, that’s going to be a celebration.  I can’t wait to get back to Macon. Find me a Macon Whoopee Shirt!

 

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