On Thursday, April 16, singer and songwriter Ellis Paul will perform at Madison’s High Noon Saloon. After releasing 14 albums, a DVD and a book of short stories and poems, Paul returns to Madison for a performance sure to be a memorable foray into folk-music expression.
Well-known for his intuitive songwriting, Paul borrows much from the American folk tradition in order to create his own poetic statements. In an interview with The Badger Herald, Paul says what he’s learned from American artists, like Woody Guthrie and Peter Seeger, who help define the folk music genre. “They remind me that my music isn’t meant for any commercial success. The way I measure success is the same way they did … how well I can capture what I’m trying to say.”
That being said, Paul has most brilliantly captured some significant critical acclaim. According to his website, between the years of 1993 and 2004, he won 13 Boston Music Awards, and his songs were featured on both television shows “Ed” and “The Real World.” He’s also been included on the soundtracks of several Farrelly brothers’ films, including “Me, Myself, & Irene,” starring Jim Carrey, and “Shallow Hal,” with Jack Black and Gwyneth Paltrow. Director Peter Farrelly has deemed Paul “a national treasure.”
Paul’s songwriting is infused with social awareness. His song “Hurricane Angel” sounds reminiscent of Eric Clapton, and the lyrics tell the devastating tale of what happened in the South as a result of the Hurricane Katrina. It is along these lines that Paul investigates what it means to experience suffering.
His songs have a narrative structure, which is a quality he continually espouses as being most important to his career as a musician.
“I’m like a literary writer. I’m trying to capture real people’s lives. There’s sort of a literary aspect. … You know, I’m trying to be a journalist and a musician at the same time,” Paul said.
Paul claims having grown up on a small farm in northern Maine, he is able to perceive human activity and culture in a different way.
“It makes me a little bit more wide-eyed,” he said.
Additionally, his connection to the natural world gives his songs an earthier, gentle quality that is listenable in a time where the economy is affecting everyone in ways that make his insight and subtle introspection very welcome and necessary.
Paul enjoys playing in the Midwest, and Madison particularly.
“I come through about every year. It’s a great town. In the Midwest, people tend to be …? slightly more reserved as far as listening is concerned. Really respectful. There’s people [who] really commit themselves to the music out there. It’s always a thrill for me to come out and play,” Paul said.
By coming to the High Noon Saloon on April 16, listeners will experience a performance from a tested and gifted songwriter. Yet, despite his vast experience, Ellis Paul’s infusion of a mindful response to current events and problems gives a fresh, salient quality to his performance.