ith the release of 140 NICKELS by the roots americana band JANGLING SPARROWS, front man and songwriter PAUL EDELMAN has found himself in an exciting place creatively. Music making, even in these lean musical times, is a painstaking art that comes with an equally painstaking process. With all of the work that goes into creating songs, it's easy to forget that one needs to make some money and more importantly - connect with an audience. On 140 NICKELS, we don't feel that EDELEMAN and the JANGLING SPARROWS will have any trouble connecting with an audience that is hungry for music that speaks to the good, bad and ugly that goes with the dodgy territory of love and life. EDELMAN is a committed pro both vocally and on the lead sheets and proves, even in a time when music is a taken-for-granted commodity, that there are troubadours out there that are worth the time and attention given to such dearly departed rockers as TOM PETTY. File the album 140 NICKELS somewhere in between PETTY'S WILDFLOWERS and JOHN HIATT's BRING THE FAMILY.http://www.janglingsparrows.com
ROCKWIRED had a chance to speak with PAUL EDELMAN of JANGLING SPAROWS regarding the band's latest album. Here is how the interview went.
140 NICKELS is an album that is getting some favorable notices. Now that the album is out there for everyone to hear, how do you feel about the finished work?
I like it. I'm proud of it. It truly represents where I'm at in my songwriting. It's a place that took me a long time to get to. When you're an artist there is always this wrestling match between art and business and some of that struggle goes into the music itself. Some people are born pop starts while others are focused on the craft more than the presentation. I always wanted to play my music in front of people but the idea of doing so always felt like an abstract concept because I was more into the craft of songwriting. I was always wondering if what I was doing was really reaching out to people. It took a long time to get to the point where I feel like I'm doing it and still being me and not "selling out". People often live their lives in a corner that they don't know where they're going to do next, but I've been doing this for so long that I can't do anything else at this point. I can't start a new career. This album is something I'm proud of. I'm really focused on the music and keeping it authentically me, but I've learned to make it concise in a way that reaches outto people more.
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And how many years are we talking about when you say you had to struggle between the business side of music and the actual artistry that is involved?
I still do it. I have an unreleased catalog of music that amounts to about five albums worth of stuff. I'll go back over old songs and see what can be used and what needs to be changed. All of that is part of the process. The cool part about that is that it frees me up. There is a song at the end of 140 NICKELS called POP'S COMING UP and that song was a choice that I felt free to make. It's a six minute song, and while I could've shortened it, I felt it was important to keep it the way it is. Sure I could've shortened it to four and half minutes and got the song radio-ready, but I was good with it being six and half minutes long. This process has freed me up to write other things. I'm getting better at sitting down to write a song. Now it's a matter of attack. It's about walking the balance between reaching out to people and being authentic. I feel like I've got a handle on it now and I'm excited about it.
And who helped you behind the recording console for this album?
DAVE BAKER was the producer. He doesn't have a studio name yet. He runs a mobile studio. He came to our rehearsal space and recorded a whole bunch of stuff live. On the album, there were also some acoustic driven tracks that I built up from a single track. DAVE recorded the full band stuff live. Over the past few years , he's been getting more serious about producing. He's been buying some really nice mics and equipment. Instead of paying him, I do a work trade with him. I'll give him free guitar lessons and work on his house and build amp boxes for his studio.
What was it that got you going musically, in the beginning?
I grew up with it. My whole family was very musical. My mom sang and my dad played guitar and piano. My Uncle was musical as well. My parents gave him a Volkswagon and he roadtripped to Nashville . He was trying ot make it as a Nashville player. He was insanely talented. He could pick up the banjo and play BATTLE HYMN OF THE REPUBLIC and DIXIE simultaneously.
But what was it that made you decide to pick up the guitar and start writing songs and playing in front of an audience?
It started early on. I ended up doing it because I always played. I always had a guitar. I always wrote songs. I never really had to think about it. I've always surrounded myself with people who were songwriters. I was always going to open mics. I was always in that circle. I pissed a lot of the time away in my early years. I didn't capitalize on anything. You see these kids today and they are totally aggressive and are totally dialed into how to make the most of an opportunity. I was nothing like that. At some point I was just in it. I lived my life into a corner and got into a couple of good bands and doing great shows. I fell in love with it but I didn't realize what I got myself into. I fell in love with the right group of people. We were winning contests and giving tours and then I found myself quitting. Everything fizzled out and I realized that quitting made me more miserable than doing it made me miserable. I couldn't quit. It was in my blood so I started my own band. I have an artist credo. I used to be avisual artist. I went to school for visual arts. I've always had the artist gene in me. I had realized that I was getting good at songwriting but I knew nothing of the business side of it. I figured that if I was going to do thais I've got to figure it out. I was going to have to be more observant and learn from the people who are doing it right. That was what I started doing.
Have there been any reactions to the music of JANGLING SPARROWS that has surprised you or that you didn't see coming?
One night I was hanging out at the bar with firend of mine and she had a friend with her who all miserable and had just broken up with her boyfriend. My friend suggested that she should listen to my albums. She even asked me ot get one from my car. Her friend was like "Why? Is it going to make me feel better?" and my friend said "Not neccessarily, but it will make you feel understood." I was like "Wow!" That has been my mission statement ever since.
And explain the songwriting process for you. How do you go about it?
There are three primary methods. You do lyrics first and then the music or you do music first and then the lyrics or you work on both the lyrics and the music at the same time. I do it in all thre of those ways. I've got no preference. When I write a song, I want people to be able to smell it and live inside of that song. That is my goal for my music. Sometimes it takes a really long time. Once I get going into what I'm singing and writing about, it's a matter of honing it down to exactly how I envision the song. If I'm writing a love song I'm not simply going to say 'I love you". I'm going to say something more obscure, more abstract, to where you as the listener is going to know that feeling. I get my inspiration from the darker side of human nature. I don't know if you picked up on that becasue this album is a little peppier, which I like. I like exploring that dark area that people tend to ignore because it's not pretty, but that's my motivation.
With that being said, what songs off of 140 NICKELS stand out for you the most and why?
GREAT AMERICAN LIMBO has been around for a while. For years I didn't know what to do with it but when this new body of work (140 NICKELS) came up, I found a really good home for it on the album. Sometimes two people like each other but the circumstances don't permit it, but the attraction is there. It's one of those goofy things as you get older where people let circumstance dictate what their hearts do. ONE GOOD PIECE OF ADVICE is about jumping off the diving board and doing this music thing for a living but it takes a tongue and cheek look at doing so. There is that old saying "Opinions are like assholes." That is kind of what I'm trying to say with this one. LOOK AWAY TWICE has been aorund for a little while also. It's been in our repertoire for a while and over the years I've experimented with different rhythms and on this album, it has come to life as a song.
With the album 140 NICKELS behind you, what is next for you and JANGLING SPARROWS musically?
I've got a whole body of work that I'd like to go through. I've also got a lot of songs on the current set when we're playing live. I may get around ot recording those. I've got plans to go bck intothe studio in early December but then I plan to hit the ground running with tours in 2018. My goal is to do 250 shows a year if possible.
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