Interview with April Bands & Bites Winner: Paul Saint John

Hailing from the suburbs Philadelphia, Paul Saint John is a modern day example of the old school folk artist. John’s crackling voice and rhythmic guitar work together to create a “Bob Dylan meets Mumford and Sons on their first album” kind of sound. I remember hearing someone say that Bob Dylan was a brilliant solo artist because he used his guitar as a drumbeat. Paul Saint John practices the same technique, allowing the one-person-band to emit a more full sound. After a long break from music, Paul Saint John has returned and is determined to spread his music with the release of his album The Eleventeen. Being the winner of the April edition of Bands and Bites, Paul Saint John is Rock On Philly’s Artist of the Month.

So you are originally from Scotland. Can you describe your time there?

When I first started getting into music, I was a teenager. I started playing live when I was about 15 and its been downhill ever since (sarcasm). I played in a few different bands in my teenage years and by my mid 20’s I started a two-piece band called The Cottonfield. We recorded a few EP’s, and went on a couple of tours, but reached a point where we wanted to be bigger. We added two more members to the band and signed a record deal. It seemed that we were right where we needed to be in order to break we just never broke. By 29 I was kind of disillusioned with music and thought if I hadn’t made it by now I probably won’t. So I gave it up.


What made you pick up music again after you had given it up?

Well I’ve always kept a guitar around the house, and one day at work I tore my meniscus. I had to get surgery on the knee and was laid up for about six weeks. With nothing to do I thought, “why not pick up a guitar”. I started playing some old Scottish and Irish tunes and began thinking “maybe I could get back into this”. I was having fun. I went back to some of my material from the 90’s and realized that my voice had transformed quite a bit. I began tentatively writing again and once those flood gates opened that’s all I did. Last year I wrote 44 songs and this year I’m right around 15.


What prompted your move to Philadelphia?

I was vacationing in the states back in 2000 and I met my future wife. That’s what happens when you get drunk in a bar, you make promises you have to keep. But it was love at first sight so I decided to move to Philadelphia with her.


Where do you plan on taking your music career now that you live in Philadelphia?

Right now I’m in negotiations with a Midwest music company who are in the process of pitching my songs for TV shows, movies, and commercials. I’m hoping that one of my songs will break through them. I’m also working on an album, The Eleventeen, that’s about 60% completed. I plan to go in today and lay down the last 4 tracks. It should be ready by the end of June. I plan on either releasing the album myself or contacting small labels to see if they would be interested in releasing it. The Midwest company can also get me radio time on small stations so maybe one of my songs will be picked up from there. I’m also playing live as much as I can. I’ve done a couple music festivals this year, and I played quite a lot on South Street. I’ve got two more gigs coming up on South Street, one at the Lickety Split on June 14th and one at The Legendary Dobbs on July 6th. Ultimately I hope to play the Philadelphia Folk Festival. I don’t want or need to be a rock star, I just want to find an avenue to get my music out. My aim is for every song I write to be better than the last.


Do you feel like Philadelphia is a good place to find that avenue?

Oh yeah, Philly is a great spot for that. I remember the first time I came to the states, I was in San Francisco, its big and its overwhelming. Same with Philly, there’s just as many people who are just as talented if not more talented. It makes it a tough fight, but you just have to persevere. When I watch other people perform, I always think, no matter how good they are, that I’m better. It might sound bad, but that’s the attitude you need. If you see someone and think, “I’ll never be as good as them” then you’ve given up. You can see all sorts of different people and there’s a lot of different talent in Philadelphia. There’s also plenty of venues to play and plenty of places to be seen. Really there’s only a few better places in country to be situated.


For more information on Paul Saint John, including upcoming shows and a preview of his new album, visit his website here.

1 Comment

  1. Pat DeSario

    May 30, 2013 at 7:14 pm

    Great interview!
    Pat D

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