theaussieword.com speaks with Paul from Nashville’s Canyon City.
Tell us how it all started. What had you first interested in music? My parents were in a folk trio together when they were in college, so for my sister and I music was always very encouraged and accessible as we were growing up. We used to practice harmonizing together and once I could fit my hand around a guitar neck I started learning to play. I took lessons from the pastor at our local church in Fargo, North Dakota, through most of my childhood, then started playing in bands in middle & high school, eventually catching the songwriting bug around 15. Looking back I was incredibly lucky to inherit influences like Jackson Browne, Neil Young, Tom Petty & other great folk/rock artists from my family early on.
What motivates or influences you in your quest to make great music? This is something I think about a lot. I used to be very “impression based”, in that I wanted to make music that somehow brought people a moment of presence or communicated a valuable moral or idea. I guess I wanted to make sure that what I was doing was meaningful. The issue was you could hear the weight of that consciousness; listening back I could tell that I was saying what I thought was “good” to say instead of what I was really going though. It felt kind of surface level. A turning point was when I sincerely thought I was maybe working on my last “professional” record and just decided to just let go and play whatever I genuinely connected with and enjoyed creating. All of a sudden these stories started falling out, I started learning things I didn’t know before they came out as lyrics and saying what I otherwise couldn’t. In that I re-discovered why I loved this in the first place.
For me spirituality plays a very central roll, and just finding and recognizing the beauty in honest, imperfect life reminds me that the cracks are part of the art, of both the song and the person. Then when other people can hear that and say “me too”, if feels like there’s somewhat of a healing in that. Basically these days I just set out to enjoy the creative process itself, and try to let the rest be a side-effect.
What are your biggest goals you hope to accomplish as an artist? I would love to tour more. Right now I spend a lot of time in my studio and I really love that part of it, but it’s an incredible feeling when it all connects with people in a live environment and you’re all just in that moment together. Basically if I can spend half the year making stuff in my studio, and the other half traveling around playing it for people I’d be a pretty happy dude. As far as a “made it” moment, playing the Ryman here in Nashville would do the trick.
Success, what is the secret to it? Living and working from a place of joy rather than obligation. I think that’s easy to hit or miss regardless of what you do for a living.
What has been your biggest career highlight so far? I think Canyon City as a whole has been so far. I’ve played music in a lot of different forms for a lot of different reasons, but Canyon City was something I started in mid-2015 just as an outlet for the music I love to make. I had to do something outside of industry pressures just for the simple joy it. I didn’t really know if it’d make it very far out of my living room, or really need it to for it to feel like a success. That this albeit imperfect, yet very honest stuff has gone out and resonated with some people is hugely rewarding.
Which stars of the music industry do you find inspiring? Man, so many. I love great writing, Jason Isbell, The Avett Brothers, The Milk Carton Kids, Jackson Browne, Neil Young, and I also am hugely inspired by guys like The Tallest Man on Earth who just set up shop in their own studio and make great records. Taylor Swift is pretty catchy too 😉
The music industry is huge, where do you see yourself a few years from now? Hopefully making another Canyon City record, getting ready to take it on the road with good friends. I’d love to build out my studio a little more, and build out my audience a little more too if possible 🙂 There are a lot of elements of the industry that come and go and certainly help fuel the continuation of making stuff, but for me it always comes back to the joy of creating and sharing with people.
The shape of the music industry has changed significantly over the years, including the use of social media, how do you feel about the industry as a whole and what does it mean to you in getting your records out intothe public eye? I may be in the minority opinion for this but I personally think it’s the best time in history to be making music. With the progression of accessible equipment & technology, a variety of meaningful income streams, and (some) social media, there are fewer barriers than ever for the music in your head & heart to make it into another’s. There are certainly challenges with that, a lot of noise to sift through and rise above, and no one loves getting too hooked into social media, but I think the opportunity far outweighs the negatives. I think being able to do what I do now, decidedly independent from a label, is something that is unique to the last few years or so and only getting better.
Name a few of your favourite Aussie artists. Vance Joy, Boy & Bear, Matt Corby. You guys have given the world some good ones!
What can we expect from you in the coming months? Any plans to tour? A few shows around the southeast states, but most notable thing is a full length coming this fall that’s being recorded right now. Hopefully a lot more shows after that!
Tell us a bit about your latest record, how would you best describe your music? I’d say it’s a deeper dive into storytelling. It has a more honest feel to me with carefully placed instrumentation yet still an emphasis on creating something both very lyrically & sonically inviting. I guess I can’t be the one to say if they succeed at this but I want the songs to take you somewhere while showcasing the beauty in the details of where you already are, however messy, sad or happy that place might be.
Do you have any new projects in the pipeline? I want to get better at poker. I’m always so transparent.
Thanks for the interview! What final message do you have for us today? Just a genuine and sincere thank you for taking the time to listen to this music, and for the opportunity to talk a bit about it. I really can’t express how much that time investment means to me, and I hope to never take it for granted. Thanks for the honor of being able to chat with you guys!