INTERVIEW: Paul Michell

Hi Paul, welcome to VENTS! How have you been?

Hello! I have been fantastic! Thank you for asking!

Can you talk to us more about your latest single “Nothing”?

‘Nothing’ is one of those tunes that was written in one sitting and in roughly 20 minutes. I actually didn’t have any intentions of recording the song, but after playing the demo for my co-producer Owen Sartori, he convinced me to record the tune. Sometimes songs feel too personal and you think they’re going to be songs you write for yourself and they feel super precious and that was kind of how I felt initially when I wrote the song.

Did any event in particular inspire you to write this song?

Haha…well, I was in a relationship that had a lot of uncertainty. I think a lot of us have been in these situations where you know someone isn’t good for you but you can’t let them go and you fool yourself into thinking having someone that’s emotionally unavailable and unstable is better than having no one at all.

How was the filming process and experience behind the video?

I worked with Alyssa Kristine Photography. We go back over a decade. Funny enough, the video was actually filmed in my old high school out in Victoria, Minnesota. It was a super easy shoot– the former principal of the school and founder actually let me shoot the video for free which was super awesome. I hate being in front of the camera…but I had a great time working with Alyssa. She’s fantastic, talented, and a great hang!

Watch here

The single comes off your most recent album Break The Fall – what’s the story behind the title?

The title comes from a tune called ‘Still Breathing’. I feel like a lot of times…we humans try to break our fall or protect ourselves from getting hurt because getting hurt or burned really sucks. The title is about letting your guard down– a lot of beautiful things can happen when you’re vulnerable and open up and trust someone, but you have to be a careful. It’s a tad bit cautionary.

How was the recording and writing process?

The writing process happened during the end of the recording process of 2014’s We Keep on Dreaming. Along the way, I was also creating some really intricate demos and a lot of the arrangements and sounds and whatnot actually made it to the final product! The tunes always start with me behind the piano. I did try experimenting with writing to tracks but it just felt a little inorganic but it was something I had to force myself to do to know that wasn’t a direction I was going to go into.

The recording process was about a 2 year process. It was a combination of tracking in both Minneapolis and New York City. I would be composing string parts and sending them over to my co-producer Owen Sartori who would then get live strings tracked in Minneapolis. He’d also fill in with some guitar or live drums or fill in some programming. He put so much love into the record. No one is going to love the record more than me, but Owen played a crucial part in the making of this album.

What role does NYC play in your music?

I think of a song like ‘Walk Through the Noise’. It was my third or fourth week in New York and I had gotten back into the writing process. If you’ve ever been to NYC you know that it’s a vibrant, beautiful, stressful, and chaotic place to live. I would think about walking down the busy streets of Manhattan amongst all the walks of life and the fact that New York is made up of so many dreamers and talents trying to be heard through the noise of everyday life. ‘Walk Through the Noise’ was definitely inspired by being in a city where you feel like you’re always trying to catch up and survive…but then you realize that you and 8 million New Yorkers are doing the same thing. We’re all in it together.

Did your music perspective change as you move from Minnesota?

When I was in Minnesota, I think I was still honing my craft and figuring out who I was not only as a musician but also a person. I knew I was the guy that had an ear for pop music but I felt like I was kind of in a bubble. I think I was open to really “going for it” sonically and just doing things I never thought I’d do. I think of songs like ‘Always Be This Way’– the piano version that’s released as a single was actually the demo track that was done before I moved to New York. The album version kinda of gave it a sonic makeover and we went glitchy and electronic…something I was kind of hesitant to do due as I always saw myself as being more or less “the guy behind the piano”. I didn’t realize I could do more than one thing under the pop umbrella.

How has Bon Iver and Imogen Heap influenced your writing?

The melancholic aspect of Bon Iver…the glitchy vocals..same with Imogen Heap. They’ve both had an influence on my writing…more on the sonic side. I think about the “swelling” and sense of dynamics they have in their music and the heart that you can hear in their work. Think about ‘Hide and Seek’ by Imogen Heap. Totally glitchy and electronic but there’s something beautiful and artistic in the way of the production and execution. It’s still musical. It’s not just noise. I love it.

Where did you find the inspiration for the songs and lyrics?

For this record in particular, I found inspiration from my move to New York City, some of the health issues I’ve had, daily struggles of surviving, breakups…every day life.

Any plans to hit the road?

I would love to hit the road in 2020!

What else is happening next in Paul Michell’s world?

I’m working on two records: one is a covers record, the other is a record of original material. Stylistically, I’m musically painting with a different palette and taking my time doing so.

RJ Frometa
Author: RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

About RJ Frometa

Head Honcho, Editor in Chief and writer here on VENTS. I don't like walking on the beach, but I love playing the guitar and geeking out about music. I am also a movie maniac and 6 hours sleeper.

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