Ellis Paul

Nov 5 2009 - A Night at Sander's Theater

Was anyone at the show last night?

updated: 3 years ago

Nov 5 2009 - The Night The Lights Went Out on Christmas

The Night the Lights Went Out on Christmas by Ellis Paul

Every Christmas since 1950
the Johnsons have filled their yard
with nifty blinking reindeer,
Santas, Frosties, dwarves and stars

It started oh so simply
just lights within a tree
then the mailbox got all strung up
then the chimney, then the eves

and then the half-shell Mary
got draped in neon blue
then the hydrant, then the doghouse
then they freed a petting zoo

with electric reindeer,
llamas, horses, donkies, camels, mules
and a life-sized baby Jesus
sparkling like a desert jewel!

The lights so rattled the neighborhood
that the Smiths planned a revolt
led by a neon Santa Claus
that buzzed and sparked one thousand jolts

The Williams rolled out cotton snow
the Wheelers pinched a Grinch
Mr. Greenburg lit a menora
with eight foot flames and did not flinch

The Jackson's inflated a Frosty
inside their manger scene
the three wisemen all stood confused--
A desert snowman! Is this a dream?!

Things got so darned cluttered
that every house along the street
vanished beneath the twinkling junk
like pajamas beneath the sheets

With each new year, this competition
gave each family a Christmas mission
to see who could outdo themselves
with barking penguins, sleighs and bells

Pretty soon from miles around
strangers came to Medford Town
to see the sights on Christmas block
the lights come on at six o'clock

The cars lined up in droves and droves
driving slowly at their leisure
they'd gawk and squawk and stare in shock
while their children had near seizures

Even up in outer space
the cosmonauts could see the place
the Christmas lights atop the trees
made them homesick for their families

But then one Christmas it all would change
there was no space left to arrange
in all the Johnson's neighborhood
except the tip where one tree stood

So Missy Johnson took a star
and on a ladder reaching far
put it on the the last tree's top
while all the neighbor's chins did drop

Then Johnny Johnson switched the switch
Santa's hands clicked six o'clock
and every light in Medford Town
blew out block, by block, by block

Then Boston, Providence, then state by state
America turned black as slate!
Then Canada, then Mexico
fell into the deep shadow

Then the Kremlin, then the Eiffel Tower
were soon to be out of power
London, Rio, Tokyo
were in the dark, but in the know

And in this blackout, all did stand
heartbroken down to every man
till Missy Johnson's eyes looked up
and her little voice did there erupt

"The stars! The stars! Above our heads!
They've never been so clear!" She said.
And everyone was quite amazed
to see the Milky Way ablaze!

Ten billion stars for every eye
stretched across the new born sky.
Satellites and meteors
each were counted by the score

Who would have thought the sky would know
how to put on a Christmas show?
Without the plastic, blinking stuff
the sky itself was just enough

See, all it took on Christmas night
to guide three kings was one star's light
The people stood on Christmas block
and held on to that simple thought

Christmas could be neon free
with no Santas, Frosties, reindeer, see?!
The people round all sighed relief
cause tangled lights can cause such grief

The next year out on Christmas block
they lit a candle on a rock
and gathered round it merrily
and sang a Christmas melody

And noone seemed to even care
that decorations weren't even there
though maybe they could steal the scene
on the holiday called Halloween

updated: 3 years ago

Nov 10 2005 - A Night in Richmond, VA

11-10-05A train rips by the window and the building shakes and the patrons quake and Robbie Schaeffer is singing about Independence, Indiana. I'm in the back room tapping away at an internet connection sipping on the best damn cup of coffee I've had in ages. I am doing a Virginia swing this weekend, and having the Eddie from Ohio guys swing through on the shows with me. Can't beat playing music with friends.Last weekend I was traveling with Don Conoscenti and played four shows in Chicago, Madison, St Paul, and the little wee town of Mankato, MN. This is a great time to be ripping through the upper midwest, the cornfields are standing tall against the plow, and the sky gives us those long aching sunsets that go on and on. I listen to Don philosophize and to the music of Sam Baker on the radio.I've come across a couple songwriters I would like to tell you about. Sam Baker is a Texas songwriter with a gift for phrasing and story telling that I can only compare to the great Bill Morrissey. He just put out one of my favotrite records, and he knows how to do those little three minute movies in your head songs... He drawls and slurs and creaks along vocally, but it is all like a good ale, I generally talk funny too after listening to him too much. It's infectious and might actually require some speech therapy, or some kind of mental massage to bring me back. His voice rolls on like a prairie tumbleweed.
Click here for his website

updated: 3 years ago

Nov 5 2009 - Greetings from Utah

Hey y'all...

It seems like there must be two hundred beautiful little kids playing outside my window.

I am sitting in the bedroom of Montana Jackman, songwriter Shane Jackman's son. The sun is bright today, and the mountains are looming large outside the window. Absolutely gorgeous out here. The Blue Ridge are beautiful, and older than these, biut not quite as dramatic. Bringham Young knew where to plant a culture.

I spent three days touring around Utah in the company of friends here, and was pleasantly entertained by the cultural differences out here in the land of the Mormons. Shane and his wife Linda took me to a service today, I believe it was called a Sacriment. I like the way the service was very communal with members from the community offering prayer. I had never been to a Mormon church gathering before.

The LDS church goers don't use caffeine or alchohol, so finding a good cup of coffee in town was slightly more difficult then in NYC where there is a Starucks on every corner. I can do without the alchohol for the most part, ( a good merlot with a meal here or there) but after a few days on the road, coffee becomes a much desired commodity. Kids are running rampant in the neighborhood and the community here seems very family orientated.

The shows here were small, but the`crowds were very vocal. And the good news was the album came in! I signed the first copy to Shane and his wife, and was very happy to have it in my hands. It's a life time of work.

You may be interested, if you are a fan of songwriters, in a new company that Shane helped to create called Apeus. They hosted a show for me in Provo on Thursday. Apeus.com

They are a networking internet site for independent music, where fans of the artists create an online community based on there personal taste in music, and generate income from sales of their favorite songs by their favorite artists. Check it out!

On Tuesday the album hits the stores... please check it out! This is definitely the one I am most proud of and worked the longest and hardest to put together... I hope you enjoy it!

See you soon!

updated: 3 years ago

Nov 5 2009 - The Dragonfly Races!

Nov 5 2009 - The Dragonfly Races

Sept. 26, 2007
8:45 AM
delta flight
headed to Colorado

At last, The Dragonfly Races is finished!
Flynn is putting the final touches on the mastering and I am listening through to proof the order of songs and watching the artwork go to the designer Jan Lindy Boyce.

This is my first recording project focusing on children and families. After the birth of my daughter Sofi and a six week stay at home helping with her arrival, I realized my oldest daughter, Ella, closing in on three at the time, was spending hours listening to the music of a strange cast of characters, right beneath my nose. The likes of Barney, Elmo, Dan Zanes, Robbie Schaefer, Billy Jonas, and others had snuck into our house and stolen her ears with the clang of their joyful music. My music was lost somehow as an after thought.

And so, I began writing these tunes, gathering ideas with my wife and friends, songs I could add to Ella's (and soon, Sofi's) already wonderful knowledge of music, but with the ideas and notions that I wanted her to hear coming straight from me, her Mom, and the gifted community of friends I have gathered around me.

Suddenly, Ella was singing my songs around the house again. Her voice was carrying our words, and what a joy that was to hear. Collaborating with Flynn, Antje, Billy Jonas, and Vance Gilbert brought even a greater sense of community into the process.

I've also been a visual artist for most of my life, and was thrilled to finally have an opportunity to join my music with my illustrations. We hope to further this project with actual books of many of the songs. To see the fulfillment of such a complete concept coming to fruition has been the most thrilling album birth for me since Stories came out some fifteen years ago.

Since it's my first attempt at a children's/family CD, I am hoping that the broad sweep of songs, stories, and characters will manage to entertain a very broad age group including
parents and grandparents. I know one three year old who loves the songs already, and she was the target audience.

I've always considered myself a folk singer, despite the fact that I am clearly
not putting out folk albums. They have always been singer-songwriter records
with pop, rock, country, jazz, folk-rock over tones, but many of them include folk themes, social commentary, story songs of people struggling with the day to day issues of being a human being.

I am in love with great songwriting. Cole Porter, Willie Nelson, Cash, Dylan, Mozart, the Beatles, Joni Mitchell, John Prine. I love a good jingle. I'm serious. If it captures its intention, and was written with any kind of Zen clarity and thoughtfulness, then I am a fan. I love listening to School House Rock, and some of the brilliant writing on Sesame Street and the Muppets.

But in my work, I've always written for myself, and taken my perspective, using my writing as a personal process to understand my world better, my friends experiences, etc. I've never written purely for a target audience as a goal, I've really only written for myself with the hopes that people would enjoy it. The result with this CD is that the songs waste no time meandering through my arguments of what, and where and why. They were written to hook the person listening and entertain them, not to explain myself, not present an argument, or the song to someone as my adult work has been over the years.

These songs are for my kids. What does Ella like? So I wrote a song about swinging.
What themes should this generation of kids grow up with? Peace is all over the album.

This is also an independent recording. The best way to spread this music is through you, and your friends and family. Please spread the gift of this music! Please sample some of the songs and a sneak peak of some of my artwork on the new Dragonfly Races Myspace (Click here to go to the Dragonfly Races Myspace!) Keep a look out for pre-ordering the album in the next week or two!

The order may change here, but consider this a working order for now... Check out the myspace site below as well! To hear some of the cd...
Many thanks to you all,

Here are some brief song descriptions:

1) Wabi-Sabi
Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese concept of beauty and fragility. I have an adult song regarding this as well. Sharon spent a year in Japan and studied Japanese culture, and has always been pushing me to write about this concept. We shared in the writing of this song, with Mary Lu Toren out in Big Sur, California who helped me finish the last verse on her kitchen table beneath the giant red woods. It's about taking care of things that bring soul to your life, despite the fact that they've lost the shiny luster of newness.

2) Because It's There
I think it was the famous Everest explorer Edwin Mallory who was credited with saying this when asked why he climbed Everest. I always thought that comment summed up the brilliance and the stupidity of exploration of any kind. Every hero must combine courage, faith, fearlessness, and a nearly perilous amount of recklessness to take on the kind of adventures that lead us to the fringes. I admire them. I like the simplicity of the concept.

3) Abiola
Sue Ellen, a fan of mine who frequently posts to the discussion board, started a one woman lobbying campaign to turn Dusty from the Dragonfly Races into a girl. "There are no female heroines in children's music!" She said, "They are always damsels in distress!"
and she insisted in repeated e-mails that I should castrate poor Dusty and have the new female Dusty win the race, save the day, and promote the woman's movement in the same three minute song.

I have some identity ties to Dusty, though I don't literally picture him as me, he is enough of a part of me and gets involved in the kind of racing I used to do that I felt the sex change to be a challenge for me conceptually. Castration was denied.
Sue Ellen would not stop lobbying, heckling from the crowd.

Then, one day Antje Duvekot brought a wonderful new song idea to me about a girl and a monster, it had great potential, and she invited me to help her finish it, and that we did, as we were driving along the coast of Florida on tour together.

Suddenly, the album had its female heroine! And we named her Abiola after Sue Ellen's daughter, as a surprise to Sue Ellen and a gift for Abiola and for my girls as well. And fortunately Abiola is a beautiful name for a song and a protagonist.
And I would like to thank Sue Ellen for not naming her daughter Gertrude.

The song has some very present political over tones. Flynn really came to the rescue production-wise, as this is a quick but rambling story song with no chorus or bridge, other than a LA, LA, LA here or there. It was my first LA, LA, LA chorus,
It was also my first chance to write with Antje, and sing with her on a recording.

4) Road Trip
I wrote this with Sharon, and Flynn added a bridge to a very fun buddy road trip song of landmark stops across the United States. I really enjoyed Flynn's production here, especially the drum beat, and the visual bell tones that sound like wind on the bridge.
This song sounds outrageously catchy to me, much to my chagrin, and sticks in my head at the most inconvenient of times. I couldn't shake it this morning at 5am driving to the airport, and had to throw on some news to clear my head.

5) Dragonfly Races
The Challenge of Dragonfly Races was to make it believable. It is so clearly a fantasy piece that we wanted the listener to feel like he's there in the crowd in the forest with the creatures and the Great horned Owl watching the race unfold. Dusty, the hero of the race, is a major theme in the artwork and the title track, so it was important to me that the song has special magic cast upon it. Flynn and I were throwing ideas and horn parts and sha-la-la's all over this one to try and create a real three dimensional scene for people listening.

6) The Bed Song
This was the first song I wrote of this batch for Ella and Sofi, and it convinced me to do a whole album. It's my first whistling solo.

7) The Little Red Rose
My Dad is in Barber Shop quartet, and I decided to honor him with this one. It's got three of me and one extra me trying to be Barry White. It's a metaphorical argument
for nurturing peace. Though Ella thinks it's about Sofi, who we often call by her middle name Rosie.

8) Pinwheel
I tried writing two versions of this, one an up tempo story song tale of a boy blown across
the world with a pinwheel, and the other more of a dream state lullaby. The lullaby won out.

9) The Star Inside the Apple
This is a brief poem, about the universe inside an apple when you cut it side to side.

10) I Like to Swing
This is a song I wrote for Ella, whose favorite children's artist is the wonderful Billy Jonas. Billy was kind enough to play his recycled percussion kit on this for us, and Ella was thrilled to have him playing on one of her Daddy's songs. Thanks Billy!

11) The Million Chameleon March
Consider this your kid's first protest song. Vance Gilbert sings with me on this song about a Million Chameleons Marching on Washington, demanding change.

12) 9 Months to fix this World
This is clearly a song for parents, my manager lobbied hard to include it here, and hopefully it will be a centerpiece in discussions between parents and kids. I wrote this when Sharon told me Ella was coming, and it gets requested frequently at shows. I didn't know what CD would be right to record it for, but this seemed like a good opportunity to share it with people who need to hear it-- parents. Hopefully the kids will hang in there for it as well!

13) I Lost a Day to the Rain
While I was in Colorado I recorded a version of this song which I wrote with Darryl Purpose a few years back, it is a nice addition to the songs, and has a great live feel.

14) a hidden track--
Ella takes a solo here, and argues with me while doing so; And wins the argument. You will have a new appreciation for the word "blue" after hearing this one.

updated: 3 years ago

Nov 5 2009 - "The Day After Everything Changed" musings part 2

The songs here all could have been done acoustically and it still would of been a decent record. But we decided to follow through with what the songs were asking from us as far as mood, tone, and production goes. They were all little screen plays. We had to think how to present each one cinematically; We wanted people to see the songs in their heads, not just hear them. Rose Tattoo is an intimate song about a man and his wife struggling financially. So we wanted it spare-- sparse acoustics, hushed vocals, a single female voice singing with me- accordion and gentle guitar lines. Something like the Lights of Vegas was more dramatic because it's a scene of desperation. So Big drums, loud electrics sweeping vistas, sparse lyrics, image driven rather than literal. We weren't afraid to make it  stadium anthem big. Then comes the dilemma of how do you place these sparse songs against a stadium song?

We relied on my vocal. Having it always on top of the production so its tone would carry into each song and you wouldn't feel a whiplash effect from the genre hopping. Most listeners are breaking the albums down into an i-pod mp3 player these days, so maybe that wouldn't matter as much. But we wanted people to enjoy the whole CD as a single listen, so continuity was important between songs.

The main thing when recording songs is that they be emotionally real- you can lose that in any part of the process from the lyric to the melody to the performance and production. You have to bring out the best in the song in the studio, and I feel like I've never had so many songs on one recording do that.

Balancing light and dark: I wanted people to have joy be the predominate reason for putting the CD on- so I started it with the more uplifting songs. Every  album that I respond strongly to brings people to the darker corners of their lives and so, we eased into the heavier songs as the record went on. "The Day After Everything Changed" is poetic-about a fading relationship- so the imagery is about that- cracks in a window pane, leaves falling, iron rusting, it was cathartic to write and I hope people can apply it to the tough times in their lives. A song can partner with you, like a mantra, of sorts, an affirmation to move on and that you're gonna be okay.

updated: 3 years ago