My Random Jukebox: Now and Then . . . . .

originally published at My Random Jukebox

I received an email from Canadian singer songwriter Paul Federici who asked that I have a listen to his music. He informed me that his music has been compared to City and Colour (especially his vocals). Being a fan of City and Colour this statement made me curious to find out if this was true.

You must be thinking ‘if he is blogging about this guy then he must like his music’! You would be right, I enjoyed his music so much that I ordered his cd the very next day after listening.

Paul’s first album Relative Importance is a great debut and has built the foundations of the sound that we hear today. His music centres around his gentle vocal tone and his mesmerising guitar technique, both of which I will go into more detail with later in the post. I have added the video below for my favourite track “Without You” and I can also recommend that you listen to the track “Conveniently Yours.” Both of these tracks really stand out and showcase Paul’s great talent.

Paul’s newest release is an 8 track EP called Now and Then. The first track “Sail Away” is a great start to the album with lyrics of carrying on through life when things get tough.

The album is open and honest and I feel some of the songs are written from personal experiences. The details in the lyrics feel personal which make them easy to connect to. I like musicians who are not afraid to share their emotions in their music as I think it takes the music to another level. These lyrics are delivered by Paul’s wonderful tender vocal tone that has an irresistible quality. I like how he has added additional layers of vocals to his music to create some great harmonies that gave his music a natural depth.

The highlight of the album and Paul’s music is definitely his guitar. His compelling guitar technique drew me in when I first heard his music and it continues to do so. I like his delicate but intricate style that at times, makes me focus so much on it that I don’t hear the lyrics. I have read that he uses unconventional guitar tuning, maybe this has something to do with my love of the sounds he creates with his guitar.

Stand out tracks off this album include “Please Don’t Break” and “One Day You’ll Be Right” which both sound so good. My favourite track off the album was easy to select, as from the moment I heard it I knew, the track is called “Strange Disease.” I like the lyrics which talk about how some of our priorities in life are misguided.

While listening to Now and Then and his debut album Relative Importance I can hear some similarities to Dallas Green (City and Colour) but Paul still has his own style. While doing my research I became tired of other articles/reviews comparing Paul’s music to Dallas. However it is wrong for me to complain to much about the comparison as it was the reason that I listened to Paul’s music in the beginning.

Paul was kind enough to let me ask him a few questions, here are his replies:

What made you to want to be a musician?

It’s funny, a while back I had an article written about me and the opening line of the story was: “Paul Federici has a sort of complicated relationship with music.” I laughed when I read it at the time, though it was quite fitting. My transition to being a musician was far from smooth or typical I guess, and I was, as with most things in my life, a late bloomer. I always loved acoustic music and became fascinated with the guitar but it wasn’t until the end of high school and the beginning of my university years that I actually got into it though. It quickly became an obsession and I spent countless hours teaching myself chords, progressions, scales, tunings and basic theory. I pretty much spent my entire third year of university strumming the guitar alone in my room writing, and trying to piece together cover songs.

Music was always a solitary pursuit for me and very therapeutic but I had a lot of anxiety around performing in front of others and I felt very insecure, especially with my own songs – I always felt they were terrible and I was way too self-conscious to play them for others. After university I gathered up the nerve to play a local open mic night and after that performance I was offered a weekly gig there, which shocked me. I went on to play cover gigs there fairly regularly, but after a year or so I continued to battle the nerves and self-doubt which led me to stop playing for over 7 years. I ended up completing a Master’s degree in clinical social work, only to find myself burnt out emotionally on the job – and it was only when I bottomed out and realized how unhappy I was that I found music again and decided that I had wasted enough time pretending to be something I wasn’t.

When you are writing new songs, which musicians do you look for inspiration when you get writers block?

I’m always listening to different artists, meeting and performing with other singer/songwriters, trying to expose myself to new approaches by seeing what others are doing. I don’t generally get into a “writing mode” per se – I just like to be around music and let new ideas develop naturally. If I had to mention a specific artist though I always seem to come back to City and Colour – I just love the acoustic based nature of the records and I admire his honest, personal approach to song writing – it just seems to be a style that really resonates with me. As far as writer’s block, I usually take that as a sign to back off a bit and maybe fill my mind with something else like reading a book, watching a movie, working out or just getting away from music in general for a bit.

Song writing is a very spontaneous process for me, and I like keeping it that way – I definitely don’t like to force it. I know some people try to write every day, but for me it takes the enjoyment and magic out of the whole process. Writing for me happens in spurts and I never really know when a song will hit me, but it’s always a great feeling when it does.

When writing new songs, does it start with the lyrics or with your guitar?

The roots of all my songs come from a combination of voice and guitar together. I usually start with a chord progression, and then I’ll sing something over it, maybe random words or no words at all. Eventually I’ll latch on to a phrase or a mood, and work out a melody line. Once I have that, I go back and fine-tune the words and overall structure. I do a lot of writing on my phone—if I don’t record an idea right away, I’ll often forget it. I try to keep it all as honest as possible – I never sit down with a theme or idea in mind, I try to let it come out the way it wants. I don’t want to edit it too much either or force it to be something it doesn’t want to be. From there once I have a song mostly arranged in my mind I’ll create demo recordings where I really finish writing by adding harmonies and other parts to try and make the songs as “complete” as I can on my own, but each song takes on a life of its own in the studio after that.

What is your favourite track off the new album?

Did I mention I’m horribly indecisive?? Haha Ok, I’ll say my favourite track on the record is the lead single called “Sail On” (you can see the video HERE) which is a song about moving forward even when things aren’t perfect. I really hit an emotional low two years ago (you can read a local news story about it HERE) and this song is about me turning the corner after making a big life change by quitting my job to pursue music full time. It’s also a departure from anything on my first album Relative Importance which had a much more sombre tone, so I think it reflects some growth as a person and as a musician. However if you ask me tomorrow I’ll probably change my mind…

What is planned for the future?

In the short term I have a lot of gigs booked throughout the rest of the summer, then in the fall I’ll be touring in the US and Canada for about six weeks beginning in September with my good friend and fellow full time singer/songwriter Mike Vial (www.mikevial.com) which I’m really excited about! In the long term I’m just going to keep grinding away every day trying to keep my head above water, growing my fan base, networking with other artists and continuing to improve as much as I can. I’ll also be filming a new music video in the fall and I’ve already written a bunch of new songs so who knows, a third record could be in the works down the line.

I love the detail that Paul has put into his answers and I think its a great reflection of the work he puts into his music. I also admire that he is honest about his personal life that he has had tough time but he has learned to survive and become the man he is today. This honesty comes across in his music too, and this is one of the many reasons that I am a fan of the music that Paul creates.

I could tell you many more reasons why I think you should listen to and support this music, if you like what you have heard/read then check out the links below to find out more. Paul Federici is a talented musician and I am sure this won’t be the last you will here about his music on this blog.