Paul Janeway (St. Paul & the Broken Bones): 5 Albums That Changed My Life
Paul Janeway, lead singer of the Birmingham, Alabama, soul group St. Paul & the Broken Bones, took some time out from the road to talk with TIDAL about the records that impacted his life and his career.
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Marvin Gaye, What’s Going On
I was probably in my mid-teens when I first heard it. My mother wouldn’t let me listen to anything post-I Heard It Through the Grapevine Marvin Gaye. It was around the time I started to come out of my cocoon, especially with soul and R&B music.
I’ve noticed a lot of the records that I am into are always shifts, for the group or the singer. They are shifting sonically. [Gaye] wanted to make socially conscious R&B and everybody at the time was saying, ‘This is a terrible idea.’
I think Berry Gordy was worried a bit because Marvin was making love songs, but he started having a conversation throughout this record and it was just stream-of-consciousness. It’s really a record that needs to be listened to in full.
It definitely wasn’t what I expected, and it blew me up. Now, I get obsessive with it and I listen to the isolated tracks of James Jamerson playing bass on it and I’m like, ‘How does that fit?’ Then, I hear isolated Marvin Gaye vocal tracks and it’s honestly frustrating. You hear it and you say, ‘There’s no way in hell I can achieve that.’ He did it so effortlessly and, as a singer, that’s really the goal.
Radiohead, OK Computer
I hadn’t really listened to Radiohead [when I was a kid]. I had a fairly religious upbringing and you could only listen to gospel and a little bit of soul.
It was a shift in taste for me. It’s like mixing Aphex Twin with rock & roll. I felt like a child and I was nineteen years old. I was just starting to listen to music outside the region. It blew my mind and changed my trajectory.
Otis Redding, Otis Blue
I listened to that the most as a kid. It probably had the biggest influence on my early years. When we were first cutting our teeth, we didn’t have enough songs to play the show. We’d learn old records, so we’d do this album in its entirety.
You listen to that record and it’s a lesson in emoting. Anyone who listens to him feels something. His voice, the music and how it builds. ‘I’ve Been Loving You Too Long’ gets the hairs on your arm to raise. That really represents our past and what we grew up on.
The Redding family reached out to us to play a charity event, which was incredible, and we played some Otis Blue songs. They were blown away we played that record, which is entirely intimidating.
Prince, Sign ‘O’ the Times
When I first heard him, it was the first time I realized: ‘This is what I want to do. I want to perform. I want to be a singer and make music.’ He’s a great example of an artist. He did that to a lot of people, probably. I had gotten out of a fairly serious relationship and Prince was the guiding light, kind of.
Prince records are like jazz records in a lot of ways. There is a pop formula to it, but they are not going back to the same melodies. The way the melodic lines run are different. He felt like a jazz player and you could tell. He did what he wanted to do.
Arcade Fire, Funeral
When I first heard this album, it was a time where I wasn’t really turned on to ‘indie music.’ I was older at that point, but I was not a musician yet.
[I saw them at] the Bottle Tree Café. That place changed my life and I started getting into all sorts of weird shit. It was this weird time. Seeing a show at a cool club in Birmingham, Alabama was like an oasis to me. You start sharing music and developing relationships. It was a very important time in my life.
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