As you might imagine, here at Last.fm, we listen to a lot of music. A whole lot. Some of it we like, some of it we love, and some of it gets turned off really quickly. In our series Discovery of the Week, we bring you our staff’s picks for their favorite up and coming artists who we know you’ll be hearing more from in the future. This week, Peter Grumbine brings you St. Paul and the Broken Bones.
Birmingham, Alabama’s St. Paul and the Broken Bones are a straight up soul band. No other qualifiers, adjectives, or extensive subgenre descriptions are needed. They’re a soul band, and they’re damn good at it.
Paul and the band have what, I believe, is technically described as “a shit ton” of soul. They have an uncommon ability to move you beyond your five senses or rational emotion. They can make a sad song danceable. Paul can hit a note that’ll make you bow your head, smile like you just won a rigged cosmic carnival game, and raise your hands to the heavens, whether you want to or not. It’s a rare gift. It’s soul.
We’ve got the exclusive video premiere of, “Half the City,” and we caught up with Paul Janeway to talk a little about growing up and singing in church, broken bones, and recording the band’s upcoming album with Alabama Shakes’ Ben Tanner in Muscle Shoals.
Here’s the premiere of “Half the City.” Click play and let it wash over you. Not to spoil it for you, but when Paul let’s loose at 2:46, something special happens.
“I populated half this city, child, but I still can’t find no love. Somebody has to heal me, from up above.”
Unlike some revivalists, Paul didn’t find his voice just by listening to and studying classic soul music, but rather by living the life. Paul started out singing in church, and I’m not talking about the type of uptight, off-key, repressed, Anglican, starched suit, congregation that sings out of fear of God. No, we’re talking about people singing for a reason, singing for healing, singing to purge your problems and pain by opening your mouth and unleashing a glorious and joyful noise. Suffice it to say, it’s different than taking a class.
I could go on and on about my perception of this, but it’s probably best just to let Paul speak to it himself in our brief interview below.
Last.fm: A lot of legendary singers started out singing in church. Many of these singers are known for having more soul or letting it all pour out when they sing. What is it about singing in church that lets vocalists sing so freely and hold nothing back?
Paul: I think there’s a since of desperation when people sing in church. It’s your moment of connecting with something beyond yourself. When you sing that way, there are times of really strong joy or really strong despair. Also, church can provide the non-judgmental atmosphere, so that you feel like you can lose yourself.
Last.fm: Was there a specific incident or turning point when you knew you’d be better off singing outside of church?
Paul: Not really. Church and I grew apart as time went by. Church music can move people in a real way and I don’t think I understood how much weight that music actually carries until I got older. If I am going to sing “I’ve Been in the Storm Too Long,” I have to mean every word that comes from my mouth otherwise it is useless.
Last.fm: As the band came together, did you have a specific sound or style you were looking to create, or did the sound just come about as the pieces were compiled?
Paul: I don’t think we went in thinking we have to make a specific sound. My voice makes a very specific sound, so I think Jesse decided to write songs around that. As the other guys came in, the sound started to develop into what it is now. The players in this band are just amazing. I am probably the luckiest lead singer in Alabama to have these guys playing in this band with me.
Last.fm: The band is named St. Paul and the Broken Bones, and you’ve got a song called “Broken Bones and Pocket Change.” Did you have some sort of bone crushing injury, or are the broken bones metaphorical?
Paul: Probably a little bit of both. I definitely had some physical harm come my way, but it leans more on the metaphorical side of things. The term “broken bones” has a certain desperate sound to it that I think fits what we do.
Last.fm: Who are you recording your upcoming album with?
Paul: We are recording the new album with the amazing Ben Tanner. He really does a great job and we feel honored that he wanted to work with us. We are excited that we will be releasing the record on Single Lock Records based out of Muscle Shoals, AL.
So far, Last.fm users are digging into the band’s first EP, and even digging up what appears to be a leaked demo copy of “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” as you can see from the top tracks on their artist page.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones full length debut will be out later this summer. You can keep up with the band on Facebook and Twitter. In case you need a little something more to tide you over, check out this acoustic video they shot with the good people at Shaker Steps.