Music, Writing, & Art
Making Music Meaningful (Ellis Paul)
Transcript from our Interview
QUESTIONS FOR acclaimed artists Ellis Paul. Check out Segment 2 or click above to here the full radio segment.
When you look back at your life’s work, what do you want to have be the impact of your life and your music?
I’d really like to leave a legacy of well-written songs that went out to the world and did good in their own way. A lot of people like Johnny Cash recorded a thousand songs, Bob Dylan has written about a thousand, Woody Guthrie wrote about three thousand, Dolly Parton wrote about three thousand, and it is really about amassing a collection of good material.
What is a “good” song for you?
One that makes the listener feel like they are looking into a snow globe and then they suddenly find themselves inside of it looking around and interacting with the characters. The people I’m writing about tend to be filled in by people from the listener’s life, this person is their girlfriend, this person is their wife, and so on.
What is the emotional impact you hope for with your songs?
I think it is escapism; you want to emotionally connect with the listener in such a way that they are really being part of the whole meaning of the song. It is sort of like looking at a painting and drifting into it. Everybody that looks at the painting is going to be feeling it and experiencing it in a different way. It is as if you are co-writing with whoever is listening. The listener fills in the details of their own life into the song.
How often do you find that what people take away from the song and what they think the song is about, is really what you originally intended when you wrote the song?
Sometimes when people explain to me what they think the song is about, I am sorry I didn’t write it that way. Some of their stories are so great. But, that is what art is. Art is in the eye of the beholder and there is a reason for that. It’s supposed to be an interactive experience. I want people to claim the song as their own, it’s a sign that you are connecting.
I was listening to your song 3,000 Miles and there is a line in the song that “we were put here for the learning” and I was wondering when you think about your life and your music what do you think the learning is for you?
I think music is a great learning experience for me, it is where I deconstruct what I am seeing in reality and put it into sort of a fictional place on a recording. I am constantly trying to figure out the world through songs, figure out people through music, my relationships, and some of the stories of the world. It has been my education.
INTERVIEW HAS BEEN CONDENSED AND EDITED – For the full interview click on media player above.
About Our Guest
Ellis Paul is one of the leading voices in American songwriting and one of the top songwriters to emerge out of the fertile Boston folk scene. He helped create a movement that revitalized the national acoustic circuit with an urban, literate, folk rock style that helped renew interest in the genre in the 90’s. To continue