Eric Paul, singer and lyricist for Chinese Stars, just released his second collection of poetry, I Offered Myself As the Sea (Heartworm Press). Paul is a raw and tactile bard who speaks his mind and his heart in accessible, general terms. Occasionally, his poems hit pay dirt with gratifying punch lines, like in “My Love Is an Alarm Clock”: “I’m sorry/My love is only an alarm clock/that I shut off each morning/when I roll out of your bed,” or the somewhat kinky title poem. On “A Guy They Know That Can Get Some,” Eric talks with black humor about his nights on the town, “I keep finding myself/out late at night/in the backseat of fast-swerving cars/Drunk, desperate/With horrible music screaming into my ear.” Some of Eric’s work has been co-opted from lyrics he wrote for his bands Arab On Radar and Chinese Stars. Fresh off a successful tour with the latter to support their new album, Listen To Your Left Brain, he took some time to talk with me about his writing.
Can you tell me a little about your history as a writer and poet?
Ever since I started playing music I was drawn to being a vocalist so I could be the one to write the words. I think this is where it began. I joined Arab On Radar to be the lyricist. Singing was secondary. The guys were patient with my writing, so it was the perfect environment to mature as a writer. I have to admit that when I started I had no clue about how to write or articulate anything. But I kept at it and developed it over the years.
How is writing poetry different from writing lyrics? Do you put your poems to music, or are they two different things?Blues news
I think for me they’re both challenging in their own ways. With lyrics you’re limited by melody, rhythms, and choice of words. Not all words are easy to sing, so with lyrics there are a lot of factors that have to perfectly align. On the other hand, I think you can get away with a little more in lyrics because you have the safety net of music behind you — the lyric isn’t the only thing being judged. When I write poems the most challenging thing is you don’t have that safety net. The words stand all alone. So each line has to be solid and strong. You do have more freedom with word choice and form, but the words are still the only thing being judged. I guess I enjoy writing both and feel they’re equal in importance, which is why I include both in my books.
Lately, I’ve been worried about our blues scene. (Yeah, I think about these things.) Specifically, where the hell is everybody? I mean, we’re supposed to be famous for this stuff, right? But where did everybody go? Yes, I know that Roomful of Blues has been our sturdy backbone for a blues community that has been a major presence in Rhode Island since the early ’70s. Roomful’s tentacles — particularly Duke Robillard and Sugar Ray Norcia — solidified Rhode Island’s blues influence worldwide. But lately, our blues brothers seem to be fading from view and I have no idea why.
Still, let’s stay positive. Maybe it’s just a downturn in the cycle. TIM TAYLOR must think so. He and his blues outfit have been super-busy for a while; all that work has paid off in a new CD, Too Long Gone, featuring drummer Mookie Kane and young guitar hotshot Marlie Wanseth. Taylor and the gang will celebrate the release on Friday, March 28 at the News Café in Pawtucket and on Saturday in Newport at Billy Goode’s. Grab the disc while you’re at it.
Guitarist TOM FERRARO, who has been knee-deep n the blues since the early ’80s and is best remembered for his time with Dave Howard and the High Rollers, has a new act together called THE BLACKJACKS. The band features John Packer on bass (Radio Kings, Robillard), drummer Dave Armstrong (Radio Kings, Kim Wilson, Troy Gonyea), and singer/harmonica player Big Dave Beauvais (Big Dave and the Defenders). Soundwise, the Blackjacks play a roots-rockin’ joint with a healthy helping of country and rockabilly. The band will hit the Waterstreet Cafe in Fall River on Friday, March 28. Call 508.672.8748. Guitarist Ferraro has also been working with pianist KEITH MUNSLOW (Superchief Trio), every other Wednesday at Nick-a-Nee’s. Their next gig together is Wednesday, April 2. Call 401.861.7290.
And speaking of the blues, here’s some good news: The new Roomful disc, Raisin’ a Ruckus, recently hit No. 1 on the Billboard blues chart. This, of course, is a great thing for Roomful and a good thing for local blues. Let’s hope it stirs our dormant blues powers.
On Thursday, March 27, THE WRONG REASONS — with Zack Shedd (of Revival Preachers fame) playing the big bass — return to Jake’s for a night with their Northampton pals DAVE SMITH & THECOUNTRY REBELS. It’s an early start so don’t delay. Call 401.453.5253. On Friday, there’s the first of two Jason Swift benefits, this one at Cats with PHI, RHYTHMAFIA, KRIS HANSEN’S LEFT HAND BAND, and DOCTRINE. Admission is $10. Call 401.722.0150. The next night at Cats, JERI & THE JEEPSTERS play a benefit of their own for the American Cancer Society hosted by Relay For Life/Team Hope. There will be drawings and door prizes — and the first 25 ladies get a free feather boa.
On Saturday at the Church Street Coffeehouse, at the First United Methodist Church of Warren on Main Street, JOHN FUZEK and ED MCGUIRL will present an evening of folk and blues. Tickets are $10 and available at the door. Call 401.245.8474.
On Wednesday, April 2, at AS220, there’s a big show with HEALTH, TRIANGLE FOREST, MAKEUPBREAKUP, and DINOWALRUS. Call 401.831.9327. MUBU has a new EP coming out this summer, in conjunction with a lengthy tour. Check their MySpace site for more details.