By Kevin Zimmerman
Ellis Paul: Transitions & Transformations
Transitions are very much on the mind of Ellis Paul these days. The Boston-based folk singer/songwriter explores the whys and wherefores of transformations throughout his sixteenth album, knowingly titled The Day After Everything Changed.
“Using that as the title sort of summed up what some of these characters go through,” he affirms. “Most of them have reached some kind of crossroads, and I wanted to explore how they got to that point, what their situation was, and how sometimes, maybe, they got through it.”
Thus it is that, in the best tradition of his longtime hero Woody Guthrie, Paul is able to take notable events of the past – “Hurricane Angel” tells of a Hurricane Katrina victim; “The Cotton’s Burning” represents the point of view of a Confederate colonel at the end of the Civil War – and comment on them in a way that’s applicable to the problems and issues of today.
Tackling a situation as large as Katrina took time, Paul says. “With something like a 9/11 or a Katrina, they’re just too overwhelming for me to write about immediately. I have to wait until enough time has passed and some level of objectivity is possible.”
The Day After also represents a new way of going about recording for Paul as he decided to set up a system on his website where fans could contribute to recording costs. With different donations resulting in different rewards, from exclusive information about upcoming shows and events to an acknowledgment in the CD booklet to, for $10,000, a specially written song, a guitar, a home concert, and a lifetime pass to Ellis Paul shows. The strategy eventually netted some $100,000.
Paul also turned to some friends for help in creating the music, most notably Kristian Bush of country music duo Sugarland. “He and I have been friends since the ‘90s, when he was with [folk/rock duo] Billy Pilgrim,” Paul says. “We loved each other’s music almost from the very beginning, and we’ve collaborated a bit over the years.”
As he gears up for another round of shows, Paul says, his support system remains critically important – including the support shown him by SESAC. “They’ve been great,” he declares. “They’ve got their toes in so many different areas – Nashville, touring, movies, and so on – that they’ve always got something going on."