One of the most intriguing artists of the year is a rising musician by the name of Paulo Franco. His release this year, the blissful, "The Last Card," takes a step in a charming direction that sees him taking center stage on the release. As we head into the New Year, we are hoping to except more from Paulo, as he covers the bases with his musical endeavors. Recently I had the honor of catching up with Paulo Franco for an interview that is ever most insightful, which you can read below.
When you are writing music, what comes first, the music or the lyrics?
It depends. The usual process is to pick up the guitar and wait for something musical to take shape. The next step is to listen for something to pop into my head lyrically.
I think I'm better at putting music together than writing lyrics. That's why I enjoy co-writes and collaborations so much!
There are times when something will pop into my head out of nowhere and a song is born. That happened to me on my last day visiting my mom in Medellín. I was walking up a the mountain thinking about a tragedy that struck here a few hours before (a plane crashed killing an entire Brazilian soccer team scheduled to play a match against a local team for the South American championship).
By the time I was done walking I had a few verses and a chorus banged out along with the melody in my head. I picked up a guitar as soon as I walked into my mom's house and recorded it on my phone so I wouldn't forget!
What is the inspiration and aspirations behind "The Last Card"?
The inspiration was the unexpected death of my best friend at the end of 2014. As I was recording the record and thinking about a title that quickly became the obvious choice.
As far as aspirations I hope to reach a wider audience not only geographically but demographically as well. There are three songs in Spanish on this record. I hope to build on that. I'm coming back from my trip to Colombia with a new Spanish song and a sapling of a second one.
What is the meaning behind the title of the record, and what does it signify?
As I mentioned before the title track is about the death of my best friend. I love playing cards especially poker and blackjack. It's a metaphor I use often.
There are specific people that the card characters represent in the song.
With slick lyrics, that read like poetry, how do you write the lyrics? What is the ultimate inspiration when penning the tracks, especially on the new record?
I appreciate that characterization of the lyrics!!
I tend to do better with story songs than more poetic and abstract lyrics. The inspiration comes from all sorts of places. Some of it things I've lived through or care about and often times about my family. On this last record, Rolling Back to Raleigh tells the story of taking my daughter to school for the first time. Anything for you is a song I wrote for my wife. We had been together for a while and got married during the recording of the record.
Run Rene Run was a song I wrote in a dream. It's about an illegal immigrant that is running from the Texas Rangers because of a crime he didn't commit. He tried to do the right thing but winds up getting blamed for the crime.
Immigration is a hot button issue right now. My parents immigrated to the US from Medellín, Colombia (legally) and my sister and I were born here. My dad came here to finish his medical training (he was a general surgeon) My dad became an illegal immigrant by over staying his visa. That ultimately got sorted out but not until after he had to leave the US for a short while. A decade later he and my mother formally became US Citizens. They retired for good in 2006 and went back to Colombia but sadly my dad passed way in 2007.
So the idea in that song is to put someone that you might not automatically identify with due to him being an illegal immigrant. But it's hard not to sympathize with him due to his predicament. My objective with the song is to get people to think that no matter what a person's immigration status is they are still a human being. Each with a unique story. Some are running away from something, others simply running for a better life. They stay for a host of reasons. My parents promised theirs they would come back. And they did. Only my father was told if he wanted to be a doctor in Colombia he would have to do his residency all over again despite being Chief Resident at Georgetown University and despite being named to to the medical faculty at so young an age. He wasn't willing to do another four years of residency, and he realized my sister and I would have better opportunities in the US.
As for Rene, his happy ending came by the good fortune of a phone call. I was finished with the song except for the last verse. I happened to be talking to my songwriting partner Shane Cooley and asked him what should become of Rene. I already had three songs in which a character is killed. So he told me, "too many people die in your songs, Paulo. Let him live." So I guess Shane deserves a credit as the Deus Ex Machina for Rene!!
Do you produce and record your own records, or do you head into the studio? How did you record The Last Card?
The Last Card was recorded and produced by Bob Rupe, who was a founding member of the Silos, one of my favorite bands that I had been listening to since my days in law school in the 80s. He is also a friend and a neighbor. He recorded my last effort which was the Green Porch EP I did with Shane Cooley. The record was recorded in his amazing studio called P&P Studios located in Richmond.
Bob and I enlisted the help of some great musicians for this record. Stephen McCarthy who plays with the Long Ryders and has played with the Jayhawks contributed lead guitar on Leaving the River City, Daniel Clarke who plays in Ryan Adams backing band The Shining and also with kd Lang plays keys, Johnny Hott of House of Freaks (another law school fave) fame plays some drum tracks, Dusty Simmons who is playing in the Cris Jacobs band also plays drums, local session legend Charles Arthur, who is featured on several Slaid Cleaves records, Dan Sessler who plays in my band, and Shane Cooley helped me out on one of our cowrites (One More Night).
We hear you have a video in the works! What can you tell us about the theme of the upcoming piece, if you can spill any details of course.
The video is for Leaving the River City. That song is something I wrote as a response to Chris Knight's Rita's Only Fault, a sad song about domestic abuse. Rita goes to jail for killing an abusive lover or husband. I didn't like that ending and I figured Rita could have used a better lawyer. That's where I come in. A songwriter with a law degree and license to practice law in Virginia (I hold down a day job prosecuting lawyers for ethical violations for The Virginia State Bar). The heroine in my song gets away with it if you read the words literally.
The idea for the video was based on a review from Amy McCarthy at The Boot. She suggested the song was about a woman who may or may not have iced an abusive lover.
So in the video we leave the issue of whether the girl actually kills the man or simply dreams it up to the viewer. We don't show what happens.
It was a fun shoot because my daughter Camille stars as the heroine and a good friend of mine Andy Vaughan plays the antagonist. Andy has his own awesome honky-tonk outfit here in Richmond called Andy Vaughan and the Driveline. He and I also play together in a 70s Country Rock/Gram Parsons tribute band called The Burrito Riders League. He was kind enough to play the bad guy even though he's as nice as he could be. Bob Rupe provided his awesome early 60s Ford pick up! My friend Nick Baker who is also a great songwriter in his own right did the filming, directing and editing.
What are your key musical goals for 2017? (It seems like you are off to a running start!)
To tour a little behind this record and possibly record another one soon. I Have tons of new songs!!
I also plan on playing in Colombia again in 2017.
Thank you so much for your time, and I appreciate you taking time out to answer these questions.
All the best, Jeremy
Thank you for asking the questions Jeremy! I appreciate you and Ethnocloud taking an interest in and liking of my music!!
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