Featured Artist Interview | Paul McDonald
By Candice Anne Marshall
IMM – Hello Paul! Welcome to Indie Music Monday (IMM)! Let’s begin by asking you what your thoughts are on being supported by IMM on our website?
Paul – It’s always an honor to be supported by anyone that believes in the music I’m creating. My main goal has always been to connect with others and help bring people together with my art, so I’m very grateful for the good people at Indie Music Monday for helping spread the word and awareness of what I’m doing! Much love to the whole team over there and many thanks!
IMM – We have recently been featured in Huff Post and know that the kind of traction the artists we support will be well received by our readers and our new audience – what are your thoughts on media support though – do you think it’s important to align yourself with specific blogs and publications?
Paul – As I mentioned before, I’m super thankful for any outlets that believe in the music I’m currently creating. A bunch of major and indie outlets have been very kind to me over the years, so I’m equally thankful for all the blogs and websites that are spreading the love and awareness on the tunes! To me it’s all one in the same! I’m just grateful to anyone that helps spread the word and believes in what I’m doing!
IMM – I have read about your journey…it sounds like you had a moment in your career when you had to pull back the reigns and re-group. Can you tell us a little bit about that journey?
Paul – Sometimes you get caught up in all the craziness and life plays out in ways that you could’ve never imagined. I’m pretty positive that happens to everyone. Through all the ups and downs, I’m happy that my life has played out the way it has so far. Everything happens for a reason and there’s always a silver lining in every difficult situation. I wrote some pretty good tunes over the past few years.
IMM – With the recent passing of Chester Bennington and Chris Cornell, can you tell us what you think would help Musicians to help or cope with the demands of their careers from your viewpoint?
Paul – That’s such a tough one. I loved both of those artists. I think it’s really important to surround yourself with solid people that will always love you for the right reasons and will stick with you through the ups and downs. It’s hard for me to speak personally on this topic, because I was never fortunate enough to meet either one of those guys, but I know that we all have our own demons. Being an artist comes with a multitude of highs and lows, so keeping a close-knit community and support group by your side is very important.
IMM – What organizations are you passionate about?
Paul – Last year I did a gig in San Francisco with an organization called “Little Kids Rock”. I love what this organization does. It’s a non-profit with a mission to provide every public school student with a quality music education. It was also one of the most inspiring gigs I’ve ever played. I got to hang out with the kids all week and rehearse at their high school. We were out there for the Super Bowl weekend and we played right outside the stadium. We played Guns & Roses and Metallica songs. These kids could SHRED!!!! They were seriously unbelievable. We ended the night hanging out watching Metallica and Cage The Elephant at AT&T Park. It was most of the kids first real concert experience. It was real fun watching them see live music like that for the first time.
IMM – Let’s get into your music – your newest single ‘Call On Me’ is brilliant! Can you tell us what the song is about?
Paul – “Call On Me” was the last song I wrote for the album. We actually tracked that one 4 months after the initial tracking at Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville. I was writing more upbeat songs after the initial tracking and this one just popped up one day. It felt like the missing piece for the album that we had just finished tracking in North Carolina so we went back in the studio and tracked 2 more songs at Sound Emporium in Nashville. It’s an upbeat love tune and one of my faves on the album.
IMM – ‘Forever Young’ is another lovely song….what is behind the lyrics in this one?
Paul – You’ll have to ask Bob Dylan on that one… I was recently asked to record a stripped down version of that song for a RAM Trucks television commercial that was aired on during the Kentucky Derby. It’s always fun experimenting with other artist’s songs and trying to interpret them in my own way. Bob Dylan is one of the masters, so it’s pretty hard to mess that one up.
IMM – Then we get to ‘Hold On’, can you tell me a little bit about this song?
Paul – “Hold On” is a song I wrote with my buddy Lincoln Parish. He’s a killer guitar player and producer here in town & we’ve been collaborating a bunch as of recently. This was a song we wrote a about a year ago. I wrote it about co-dependency…but all my songs are open to interpretation.
IMM – This is a nice lead up to your new album ‘Modern Hearts’ which we are excited to hear! Can you tell us about the ‘theme’ of this album a little more?
Paul – I’d be lying if I didn’t say this album is a breakup record, but it’s more than that. It documents spiritual and artistic uplift. It’s basically my diary from the past 3 years.
IMM – I read that making this album ‘saved your life’ and that you ‘regained your confidence’. Can you tell us the back story on that?
Paul – When I started writing for this album I was going through a major life transitional period. I was going through a divorce and moving back home to Nashville from Los Angeles. It was starting all over again in every sense of the word. I felt defeated and lost. I needed something to help me find my sense of self again. The only thing I knew how to do was put my head down and work my ass off. It was the first time I’d ever tried making a solo album so I wanted to be over prepared and write as many songs as possible. I also needed to collaborate with other artists to really hone in my solo sound… I tested out far left and far right on the sound spectrum and really dialed in what felt like “ME”. When I found that sound, it absolutely saved my life. I felt like I was finally back.
IMM – Which radio or media platforms have been most supportive of your new music so far? Anyone you would like to give a ‘shout out’ to?
Paul – I’ve only released 2 songs so far, so it’s all still very fresh…but Billboard premiered “Call On Me” & Yahoo Music did the same for “Hold On”. Both of those outlets have been very kind to me over the years. As for radio play, one of my all time favorite stations, “Lightning 100 “ in Nashville, Tennessee has been playing “Call On Me” on full rotation which is still blowing my mind… but at the moment it’s still all local vibes. I haven’t hired a radio team or anything fancy like that quite yet and I’m still doing everything very independent…. so It’s all word of mouth and I’m super thankful for my friends over at “Lightning 100” for believing in what I’m doing and giving the music a proper shot!
IMM – What are the three things you will not sacrifice for your art?
Paul – At this point I’m pretty dialed in creatively and know what I’m shooting for internally. I’ve been doing it on my own for so long now that it would take something pretty catastrophic for me to sacrifice anything for my art. Plus, I’m really bad at “faking it” so having creative freedom is the sure-fire way to get the most honest music out of me. It might not always be for everyone, and can sometimes be a bit kooky or out of the box, but I prefer it that way. It’s ME and that’s all that matters. If it’s sincere then I can go to sleep happy. I’m pretty good at being myself.
IMM – What does ‘success’ mean to you?
Paul – I’ve always had big dreams when it comes to my music, but It’s never been about me. I have a vision and I believe if you put that energy out into the universe anything can and will happen. The answer to this question has changed for me over the years. At this point in life I’d love to make a living making music that inspires people. You can’t control how big or popular your art will get, but as long as I stay true to myself It’s a win. There is a great power in being an artist. It’s a real gift. I have the unique opportunity to help bring people together. People of different colors and faith and genders walk through the doors at my shows and for a couple of hours we are all one, enjoying the same experience and feeling the same connection. That’s the real magic and I want to try and spread that love and positivity to as many people around the world as possible. That’s success.
IMM – What has the family support been like for your career?
Paul – My family is amazing. They’ve been with me through everything. Not only career stuff, but through all the personal stuff as well. My parents have always been the most supportive. They know that how tough it can be being an artist and they have definitely seen some dark days along the way, but they’re always there to pick me up and keep me moving. Also, my sister just had a baby last month, so I’m really excited about this new chapter of being an uncle.
IMM – Can you tell us who your ‘go-to’ team is behind the scenes?
Paul – At the moment I’m still building the behind the scenes team, but I do have a handful of key players involved behind the scenes. My manager Dave Downey has been mega helpful in these early stages & my publicist Michael Moses at BWR has also been really helpful with some great looks premiere wise. “Lightning 100 has also been super helpful by playing the music and breaking the tunes here in Nashville. It takes a village for everything to take off properly and all the pieces have to be lined up at the right place and the right time, but I’ve been extremely fortunate to have a handful of phenomenal music lovers & supporters help move the project forward and help to make all the stars align.
IMM – Which social media platform are you most active on and why?
Paul – Probably Instagram….and only because it’s the easiest for me to operate. I’ve been so focused on the art and music that I’ve put social media on the backburner compared to most other artists. I try to be in the moment and always present when I’m in the creative zone. I know social media is very important in this day and age, and I’m learning to get more comfortable communicating with my fans and supporters via social media. When the new record comes out and I start touring more, I’m sure I’ll be on social media way more often. Shows, travel, roach motels, gas station food, truck stops, band pranks…all that exciting “rock and roll” stuff that happens out on the road.
IMM – What do you feel is the most important thing for artist to do when branding themselves?
Paul – BE YOURSELF.
IMM – Can you tell us about your best memory in your music career to date?
Paul – Wow…there’s so many. I’ve been very fortunate over the years to tour around the world and see some amazing things and meet some amazing people. I’ve performed in dive bars to arenas alongside some legendary artists. Playing Bonnaroo with my first band back in 2008 was pretty slamming. We were all super young and green & playing a festival like that was the coolest thing ever. I remember walking past artists backstage like Jim James from My Morning Jacket , and Zach Galifianakis and totally freaking out ha ha. I also sang with Stevie Wonder one time. We did a medley of his hits and then sang “Happy Birthday” to Steven Tyler from Aerosmith and they brought out a giant birthday cake. That was pretty epic…but I still feel like the memory that sticks out the most is a performance at Muhammad Ali’s “Celebrity Fight Night” in Phoenix, Arizona. They flew us in on a private jet from Los Angeles to perform alongside a cast of brilliant and legendary artists. After the show I was given the opportunity to meet Muhammad Ali. I had never felt that kind of energy in a room before. That was a night to remember… but I’m hoping this next chapter brings all sorts of new memories. I’m hoping to tour around the globe with this new record and meet all kinds of new people. That’s what I love about music. You never know where it’s going to take you.
IMM – Which instrument do you create all your music on?
Paul – It all depends. It’s mostly guitar or piano when I’m by writing by myself. I’ve been doing a decent amount of co-writing since I moved back to Nashville and a lot of those sessions depend on what my collaborators are feeling. Sometimes they have a track or vibe already built or dialed in, but other than that it’s pretty basic guitar and keys and the occasional drum loop.
IMM – How has the songwriting process changed for you over the years?
Paul – Even though sonically my process is always evolving, the overall birth of the song has always been the same. Most all of my songs come from personal experiences and when I’m inspired to say something or get something off my chest, they usually pour out pretty easy…but I’m always ready to reach out and grab them.
IMM – What is the most important thing for you when connecting with your fans?
Paul – To always be open, honest, and genuine. We’re all on the same team and I’m infinitely grateful to all the fans and supporters of what I do. It’s a family.
IMM – Final question: can you tell us three things about yourself that no one knows anything about?
Paul – I’m a pretty open book at this point in my life…but I’m very passionate about health, wellness, and fitness. I try and do kickboxing or yoga every day.
Social Media Links for Paul McDonald (click to view)