Whenever he’s writing one of his main-catalog albums, Ellis Paul tries his best to prevent any compositional crossover with his sideline career making children’s music, and he succeeded with his latest, Chasing Beauty.
Paul says he spent about a year and a half composing Beauty, which was released in early September — at the same time, as it turns out, that a re-release of his 2012 children’s album, The Hero in You, arrived in stores, paired with a hardcover illustration book.
When the songwriting styles comingle, the singer-guitarist says, “it can boggle the brain a bit.”
“With children’s songs, you have to use primary colors and a big paintbrush,” Paul explains. “With adults, you need subtle coloring and shading and a tiny paintbrush. It’s a little wacky to go back and forth between the two, so I try and keep them separate.”
Sometimes that’s easier said than done.
Paul says, “There have been a couple of really beautiful guitar riffs on the children’s records where I’ve thought, ‘Whoa, I should save this.’ And then I’d think to myself, ‘You’re an artist. You’re supposed to have an endless stream of great ideas, so don’t sell this thing short. Just trust that you’ll have another idea come down the pipeline that will serve you for whatever moment it’s supposed to.’ So I have done the battle in my head, and then I’d stop thinking and just let it be what it is.”
The 14-track Chasing Beauty was co-produced by Kristian Bush (one half of Sugarland) and brother Brandon Bush (a onetime keyboardist for Train). They had “sort of defined roles,” according to Ellis, with Brandon “in the engine changing out parts, trying to make it efficiently follow the course that Kristian and I [had mapped out],” while Kristian handled “big brush stuff — overseeing direction and overall approach.”
“There definitely was a brother dynamic; they didn’t come to blows,” Paul adds with a laugh. “Occasionally I’d sense ‘Wow, this is really a 40-year-old relationship at play.’ I love them both, and I feel like a brother to them both because I’ve known them for more than 20 years. They treated it like they were producing one of their own records.”
— By Chris M. Junior
Ellis Paul on tour (schedule subject to change):
* Oct. 9: McGonigel’s Mucky Duck — Houston
* Oct. 11: The Bugle Boy — La Grange, Texas
* Oct. 12: Cactus Café — Austin, Texas
* Oct. 24: Soho Restaurant and Music Club — Santa Barbara, Calif.
* Oct. 25: McCabe’s — Santa Barbara, Calif.
* Oct. 26: Normal Heights Community Center — San Diego
Photo by Jack Looney