BATH

Folk singer-songwriter and Maine native Ellis Paul will perform at the Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath on Friday, April 28.

Born and raised in Presque Isle, Paul broke into the music scene in 1989 after attending Boston College and making a name for himself in the city’s open mic circuit with a sound and style inspired by artists like Bob Dylan, James Taylor and Paul Simon. Paul has toured every year since, releasing 20 albums along the way.

Paul makes a point to return to Maine each year for multiple shows, and The Times Record recently caught up with him to talk about what it means to perform in his home state, who inspires him musically and what we can expect from him going forward.

SINGER-SONGWRITER ELLIS PAUL seen here in Winnsboro, Texas in January.

SINGER-SONGWRITER ELLIS PAUL seen here in Winnsboro, Texas in January.

The Times Record: How often do you return to Maine? Is this your first time performing at the Chocolate Church?

Ellis Paul: I usually try to play three to four venues in Maine per year. Along with the Chocolate Church, this summer I’ll be playing the Stone Mountain Concert for Art in Brownfield, and I just got a gig in the fall in the Portland area.

This is probably my fourth or fifth time playing the Chocolate Church. It never gets old. It’s a beautiful venue. It’s going to be a great night.

TR: What’s happening with your current tour?

EP: This is my 25th year on the road. I’m celebrating that milestone with this tour all year long. I’m going places, telling stories and playing songs about the history of being on the road and the changes I’ve seen in the world since I began performing. Changes like the internet, cell phones, no more folding maps in the car. I’m talking about how those things have changed my touring life. I’ve been all over the country and have done a lot of shows in Canada, but nothing overseas.

TR: Tell us about growing up in Presque Isle. How was that different than the Maine coast?

EP: My grandfather was a farmer, and I did a lot of farm work for him growing up. I liked it up there. It was quiet and safe, but very cold. I didn’t much like the cold, but everything else about it was great.

It’s pretty different than the coastal areas. You’re dealing with a bunch of farmers as opposed to a bunch of scrappy fishermen. I love the coast, though. I lived in in Edgecomb for awhile, about 10 years ago. My sister still lives nearby so I’m going to see her after the show. I just love crossing the Wiscasset Bridge and getting near the coast.

TR: When did you realize you wanted to be a singer?

EP: Not until I was around age 20. But I was very creative growing up, always drawing and writing, so it made sense that my art would evolve into music. I was an athlete and got a track scholarship to Boston College, but then I got injured. During my year off someone loaned me a guitar and I took to playing acoustic. It didn’t take long to know I wanted to play and write music for a living.

TR: Who are some of your inspirations, both musically and for your writing? What is your creative process like?

EP: That crew of people from the mid 60s early 70s. Dylan, James Taylor, Paul Simon. I was aspiring toward that one voice, one guitar theme, or one piano and one voice.

I always felt like the lyrical writing was there from the very beginning. Tom Robbins and writers like that influenced me. A lot of it has to do with how they use words, not so much as writers but almost as thinkers. How the words sound first in your head, and then out loud. Not like Hemmingway — who is sparse — but more like a stream of consciousness. When I’m writing I often start with that and then clean it up when I’m done. It’s amazing how deep that well in your mind is when you get going.

TR: Will you be performing any new music on your current tour?

EP: I don’t have anything new with me on this tour, but I’m working on some new songs now. I’ve only written three or four that will be on the new album. One of them is about a soldier in Oklahoma. That song is really about trying to support people who are coming back from abroad, and there are some social issues attached to it, too. Then there’s a love song, that sort of thing. So there is no theme popping in yet, but with what’s going on in the world today, you never know. There’s a lot of source material.

TR: What’s special about returning to Maine?

EP: I do well up there, mainly because I’ve spent so much of my life there. I’ll always be from Maine. I live in Virginia now, but I’m definitely feeling like a Mainer down here.

I’d love to move back some day. I think about it all the time. My kids are down here so I have to wait for them to get to at least high school, but I’d love to get back. I’m excited to be playing there again and looking forward to seeing old friends and fans.

Ellis Paul takes the stage at the Chocolate Church Arts Center on Friday, April 28 at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20 in advance and $23 at the door. To learn more visit chocolatechurcharts.org.

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