Musician Paul Thorn was gracious enough to spend time speaking to District Fray about his tour, new album and the life experiences inspiring his writing.
This month, in his return to the D.C. area, Thorn will be showcasing his new album “Never Too Late to Call,” which will be released on August 6, with shows at both Rams Head Tavern in Annapolis, Maryland and The Birchmere in Alexandria, Virginia. The acoustic album is going back to Thorn’s roots. He got his start opening for singers like Sting, Mark Knopfler, Bonnie Raitt and Jeff Beck.
Thorn — who, in addition to being a musician, is also a former professional boxer with a 10-3-1 record, a painter and even a skydiver — and his producer Matt Ross-Spang made the decision to build the album around his acoustic guitar, which represented a foray into new creative territory for the artist. It’s a decision that started with demos shared via iPhone between the two, before they decided to run with the heavy acoustic vibe.
“One difference between this album and other albums is that, [in the past], I would come in the studio and play on an acoustic guitar to give the band an idea of what the song was, and then I would put my guitar down,” Thorn says. “On this record, I played rhythm guitar on every song.”
Thorn, the son of a minister and nephew of a pimp, gets his outlook and song inspiration from life experiences. They are personal, humorous, and can be as deep as the listener wants them to be, Thorn says.
“People think it’s a joke, but it’s really not. My father was a Pentecostal minister and his brother was a pimp. I was around both of those men a lot growing up, and I learned from that experience that there’s good and bad [in] everybody. My dad is retired from the ministry, and he still preaches a little bit. My uncle drives a van for an old folks home and hands out free meals. So you know everybody has a shot at redemption.”
The title song on the album was inspired by his sister Deborah, who passed away a few years ago. Thorn would call her after shows when he couldn’t sleep. Deborah would always say, “Don’t worry about it, it’s never too late to call,” whenever he apologized for the late calls.
“She said those words more than once. I can’t call her anymore [because] she’s gone, but her memory will always be in my mind.”
Although his songs come from a personal place, he likes to write songs that are relatable.
“It can mean different things to different people. I guarantee you probably have somebody in your life who never lets you down, somebody you could call at any hour. I hope [everyone has] a special person, whether it be your spouse, parent, sibling or friends, who’s always there for you. “
The song “Here We Go” was inspired by Deborah’s surviving twin sister Charlotte, who is comforted by her belief that she’ll get to see Deborah again on the other side of life. But, Paul says, it doesn’t have to be about somebody who has gone, it’s all about going through eternity with someone you love.
As a musician and performer, Thorn is happy to be back on the road. Covid was a hard time for musicians both financially and emotionally. As with many things in his life, Thorn found the silver lining.
“Obviously, I’m happy to be back on the road, but to be honest, I actually enjoyed being home,” Thorn says. “When you are away for a living, whether you are a truck driver, a musician, or soldier overseas, you have to be away from your loved ones and family. So in a way, even though the pandemic was rough on me with no income coming in, I enjoyed my time at home. I got to go to a bunch of my daughter’s high school soccer games. I mean, I got to be in the mix of things that I was never getting to be the mix of before. It was a real treat.”
Thorn wrote the love song “Breaking Up Again For Good Again,” which is about the struggles of being in a relationship.
“Anybody who has been in a longterm relationship will get this song.”
The premise is that you have spats, but when you truly love each other, you always come back. Everybody has blowups in a relationship, but love brings you back. Weirdly enough, Thorn says Heather would walk around the house singing it, while he was writing the song. And, he liked the way she sounded so much, he convinced her to record it with him on the album — her first time on an album. They will also be performing it together at The Grand Ole Opry on September 21, which will also be Heather’s (a non-professional musician) first time playing the Opry.
The song “Apple Pie Moonshine” is about his struggles with drinking [Ed. note: Thorn admits during the interview its been five months since he’s had a drink].
“The song is about not being able to quit when you know you should. I wrote that song when I was drinking pretty [heavily],” Thorn says. “That’s why I say, ‘You damn apple pie moonshine.’”
With his latest record, Thorn feels he’s created something that will really speak to others on a personal level.
“With ‘Never Too Late to Call,’ I tried to put an album together of things that will last. A lot of things happened, they gave me life experiences, they gave me songs. I know how to put a song together but the subject matter life gave it to me. Fortunately, I have the ability to put it on paper and sing it. I feel like this new record is going to resonate with a lot of people.”
“Never Too Late To Call” can be ordered here. To learn more about Paul Thorn, visit here or follow him on instagram @paulthornmusic. Catch him on August 11 at Rams Head and on August 12 at The Birchmere.
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