Paul Thorn to Perform in Chico
By Phil Reser
Photo courtesy of www.PaulThorn.com
Growing up in Tupelo, Miss., the son of a Church of God minister, singing and playing tambourine in Southern revivals, is what prepared Paul Thorn for a life in front of an audience.
The area was rich in music tradition, and his hometown is the birthplace of Elvis Presley. His interest in music developed after he got into a school talent show and sang Lionel Ritchie’s “Three Times a Lady,” and won first place.
He remembers that one of his biggest stylistic influences was popular Italian-American singer and performer Dean Martin. “As a kid, we didn’t have but three channels on our TV and the one show we always watched was the Dean Martin Variety Hour. Dean Martin was a great singer, but he was also an incredible entertainer – he would pretend he was drunk. He would sing a real serious song and right afterwards he might tell a corny joke or throw a funny expression at the audience that made them laugh and feel like they were having a collaboration together. The way he did it really influenced me a lot. He would sing, but he would also entertain. If you just sing, you might as well go on American Idol and let them run you through the meat grinder.”
As a teenager, he became fascinated with boxing. Coached by an uncle who was a former boxer, he began winning fights and ultimately turned professional. In 1987, he fought and lost to middleweight champion Roberto Duran on national television.
A year or so after the Duran fight, he quit boxing and began working in a furniture factory by day, playing in area clubs and restaurants at night.
Today, he makes a living with a musical style that combines folk, blues, country, gospel, R&B and rock and roll. He was discovered singing in a pizza restaurant by legendary rock manager Miles Copeland, who helped get his debut LP, “Hammer & Nail,” released on the A&M label in 1997. He left A&M soon after and followed that first album with 13 more, all self-released and self-produced.
All of Thorn’s music incorporates what he is best known for: Stories about life and love, along with interesting characters and witty story lines.
“Writing good songs, that’s the challenge, man, because every time I write a good one, I think, man I’ll never be able to write another one. I feel like man, I don’t have any more ideas, and that’s the challenge. If I can write great songs, I’m off to the races. But those good songs cost something. They aren’t free because they usually come by something pretty heavy happening in my life or around me. Something big has to happen for a good song. Even in observation songs, there’s pretty much something in your own life that happened like it, because the frustrations and pains we feel as people are pretty common. Whatever problem you’ve got, somebody right across the street has one just like it.”
Thorn’s humor and anthemic messages of joy and positivity have certainly made him successful, and his latest album, “Too Blessed to be Stressed,” balances this with the rock and roll of his four-piece band of 20 years and a lyrical and uplifting perspective.
“The songs on this album are not stories. They’re more like positive anthems. I have to say I’ve probably gotten a better response at my shows singin’ these songs than any songs I’ve ever put out there. People want to sing the lyrics; the choruses are real simple, and it seems like they just start singin’ along right off the bat.”
He adds, “I’ve gotten into the habit of whatever the last track is on any album, I want to do something poignant and meaningful, to leave people with a thought. On this CD, the song, ‘No Place I’d Rather Be’ is about wantin’ to be home, and people who are truck drivers, people who are soldiers, people who are traveling salesmen, they all can relate to that song. I felt like it was worth putting on there, ’cause I think it might let some other people know exactly how they feel, being away from their loved ones.”
Thorn appears July 20 at the Sierra Nevada Brewery with his steady performance and recording band mates, Jeffrey Perkins (drums), Bill Hinds (guitar), Michael Graham, a.k.a. Dr. Love (keyboards) and Doug Kahan (bass).
Thursday, July 20, 7:30 pm
Sierra Nevada Big Room in Chico