Interview by Harry Kaplan
Paul is one of the most intelligent and insightful people I have met in a very long period of time. It is almost incomprehensible that someone of his age has the wherewithal to write such deep, soulful, and contemplative songs. Even though we met for the fist time on September 28th, Paul made me feel like we had been friends for years. He is an incredible songwriter and musician and he is also a born leader with charisma leaking out of every pore. These are my words, not his, because the other trait that Paul effuses is humility. Let’s read what Mr. Cauthen had to say:
PC: = Paul Cauthen TL = TwangriLa KW – Kyle Waller
TL: Well sir, it’s a pleasure to meet you.
PC: It’s a pleasure to meet you.
TL: I just saw you were at Americana Fest. So, just other than playing late, how was it for you?
PC: Man, people came out, a lot of industry folks were out and people were blown away by the good show. That’s all we’ve been getting from everybody that’s been coming to shows there. Man, it’s one of the best shows I’ve seen, so we’re thrilled that people are taking a liking to it.
TL: That’s great. Do you enjoy doing those showcases, or is it kind of like a chore?
PC: You’ve done one, you’ve done a million of them. It’s the same kind of thing. You rub elbows, shake hands, kiss the baby kind of situation. But, you always come to play, man. You don’t want to screw up at one of those things. You don’t act a fool. Those are moments to shine and all those people do is they help tilt the scale for you, and they help move your success as an artist along, so you want to make them happy and keep their fire stoked.
TL: I know some of the artists complained that they didn’t like playing the short forty-five minutes.
PC: No, I Hate it.
TL: You’re just getting warmed up.
PC: Yeah, it’s like foreplay with no sex.
TL: Kissing your sister?
PC: Kissing something.
TL: So, I would describe your music as gospel, country, soul. How would you describe it?
PC: Man, I think it is country, funk, soul, gospel, roots, definitely. But a lot of funk in it, too. There’s sort of an element of funkiness that I love. I’ve always have been a funk fan. Say that 50 times—funk fan, funk fan……
TL: Funk fan.
PC: You might cuss. I just do what feels good. I love the rhythm. That’s what really gets me going is a good groove.
TL: So, when I listen I can hear there is definitely some Waylon Jennings.
PC: Oh, yeah!
TL: Some Elvis?
PC: Yeah, man. Those are my influences. Waylon, Elvis, Roy Orbison.
TL: I hear a little Dean Martin, too, though.
PC: I love Dean Martin, too, and Frank Sinatra. I love them both. Showmen. They know how to put on a show.
TL: They were the real deal.
PC: Real deal. For sure.
TL: They knew how to captivate an audience.
PC: Oh, yeah. Man, listening to those guys is just like going to church.
TL: Yes, it is.
PC: And you’re learning every time you listen to them that this is how it’s done. They’re some of the greats. It’s like one of these new running backs looking at Walter Payton run the football, and nobody will run it cooler than Walter Payton ran it, and that’s just how it is, but people are going to run like that. Nobody’s going to hurdle people like he did and totally dominate the field. So, I’m just thankful that they wheel me into that whole circle, but I’m one to create my own avenue. I want Paul Cauthen to be remembered as Paul Cauthen, and I believe we’re on our way.
TL: Oh, yeah, definitely. I don’t mean to insinuate that you were copying.
PC: Not at all, but I’m trying to just—I’m thankful for all those comments, but I just want to be known as an artist that was true to himself, trying to put out art that’s good for more than just one type of audience that’s got a 180 degree palette.
TL: I asked this question of Jesse Dayton. You know Jesse Dayton?
PC: Oh, yeah.
TL: And he said there’ll never be another Waylon, there’ll never be another Johnny Cash, and there’ll never be another Sinatra. I don’t want to be them. I love them, but I want to be me.
PC: Yeah, I am me.
TL: You are.
PC: There’s no other me, like I can’t even wash that shit off with Babo and a wire brush.
TL: Texas Gentlemen were your backup band, is that right?
PC: Oh, yeah. They’re my guys.
TL: Did you get to see them at the Americana Fest by any chance?
PC: No, man, I didn’t. Well, I hung out with them for a bit, we partied late-night together because those are my boys. I mean, the guys I cut records with and drink a lot of beer with and get wild with, so I’m about to fly back here in a couple days to Dallas for the album release party at the Kessler Theater.
PC: I’m on two tracks of their album. I wrote two of the songs.
TL: I didn’t know that. That’s great.
PC: “Gone” and “My Way”, tracks five and six. I’m going play those two songs, and then I’m going to do “Still Driving” too, with them. Going to rip into one of mine, and it’s going to be a sold-out show. It’s going to be great.
TL: Of course. It’s going to be in Dallas?
PC: Yeah. The Kessler Theater.
TL: Oh, yeah, okay. Got it. Their new album is TX Jelly and it sounds pretty good from what I heard. I got to see them at the New West.
PC: Did you see them? What’d you think?
TL: I loved them. “Shaking All Over”, they stretched that out for like nine, ten minutes long.
PC: (singing Shakin’ All Over) They just bring it. Every time. That song—Daniel Cramer, he’s the piano player, his mouth is wide open, singing like Ray Charles.
TL: That was a great showcase. It was them, it was Lilly Hiatt, The Deslondes, JD McPherson.
PC: Nikki Lane.
TL: Nikki Lane was there?
PC: I don’t know.
TL: There might have been somebody else. I remember them, but after the beer started kicking in, the memory got a little hazy (laughter), but it was a good time and I was really impressed by them (The Texas Gentlemen). Well, you’re touring with them in October, too, it looks like.
PC: Yes, the boys are going out with me.
TL: That’ll be fun.
PC: Yeah, that’s going to be a wild, west coast run. I think we’re going to come into towns and it’s going to get wild, and then go to the next town and we’re going to start a fire there, and then we’re going to burn it down, man. These boys.
TL: It’s rock and roll.
PC: It is rock and roll, but by God it can knock your socks off — and put a hurtin’ on your brain and your liver. You have to just hold on, man, or my voice will go.
TL: Well, that’s true. You’ve got to take care of the instrument.
PC: Yeah, I stopped smoking cigarettes, or tried to. I’m not buying packs anymore, bumming every now and again and smoking one of those little vape pen things to see how that works.
TL: But, yeah, you’ve got to protect the voice. That’s your livelihood.
PC: That’s it.
TL: So, it looks like you’re on the road pretty much all the time, aren’t you?
PC: Yeah, full time.
TL: How many shows do you play a year?
PC: I think we packed in probably a couple hundred this year.
TL: That’s amazing. You must love touring.
PC: Yeah, I do. It’s funny, the disease of being who I am. When you’re at home you’re ready to get on the road, and when you’re on the road you want to go back home, so you always feel kind of restless. Feel like you need to be moving or doing or shaking.
TL: It reminds me of—you ever see the movie “Apocalypse Now”?
PC: Oh, yeah.
TL: Remember in the beginning he’s like, “When I was back home I wanted to be in the bush. When I was in the bush I wanted to be back home.” So, you’re like that.
PC: That me with the road.
TL: You’re a road warrior.
PC: One-hundred percent and I’ve put a million miles under my ass or more. The past ten years I’ve been on the road, so I’ve been cutting it.
TL: Ten years, wow. Now you’re starting to get noticed now, and—
PC: Oh, yeah, it’s all coming in.
TL: That’s great.
PC: Next year is going to be great, and the year after that will be better, and the year after that will be better.
TL: That’s good.
PC: And I’m living now, and I’m paying bills now, so that’s all I can ask for, and then you move forward. Keep on packing in the dates, packing in the folks. This is my first headlining tour, so we’re just testing the waters all over the country. In some markets I’m bringing 15 to 20 people, some markets I bring 500. Some markets I can probably bring a thousand, so it’s a wide range of emotion when you’re hitting and missing.
It’s kind of like playing baseball. You probably bat around three hundred in this game. Three out of the ten shows are just fricking magnificent. The rest, something went down, but guess what? Those three out of the ten keeps you coming back. It’s kind of like hitting a good golf shot. That one golf shot out of your two hundred you took at that 18 holes. It was flush and nice, and it brought you back the next time to pay sixty bucks to go play golf. That’s how this game rolls for me in my head, and I take it day by day. If I think too far ahead I get anxious, but I know that I’m going to be working all the way up until about mid-November and then I’m off. I’m finishing up my album, my new album, and Beau Bedford from the Texas Gentlemen and I did it all.
TL: Yeah, I was going to ask you about that. I figured you had new material for a new album, right?
PC: Oh, yes. It’s going to be called “My Cadillac”. It’s going to be released the first quarter next year, and it’s good, man. I’m all stoked about it. I’m really excited about it. We did all of it in Dallas, and in Argyle, Texas. All in Texas. We didn’t go to Muscle Shoals this go-round, but we got after it, man.
TL: Yeah, so, speaking of Muscle Shoals, I definitely hear that Muscle Shoals sound on “My Gospel”.
PC: Yeah, that’s where we recorded a lot of it, the heart of it.
TL: It definitely has that like R and B sound.
PC: All the background vocals tracks that have those girls on it. They were the background vocalists for Aretha and Etta James.
TL: You can’t get any better. I mean, that’s reaching the pinnacle when you got that.
PC: Yeah, man, I felt like I’ve done something, I’ll tell you that. God-fearing women and their singing. Can’t really mess with them. Powerful. Feel the spirit, man.
TL: I feel it coming right through the music.
PC: Thank you.
TL: So, it’s been about a year since “My Gospel” was released, so looking back, what are your impressions after you have a year to kind of let it sink in. I’m sure you were happy with the album, but are there things, I guess, that now you say, “Well, I might have done that differently”?
PC: Well, I wouldn’t do anything differently, really. There’s one thing in this business. You get to a point where you’re all in the same horse race, and if your horse isn’t fed the right grain and has the right trainers and jockeys, you see it after you run the race. You get the results. Now, I’m kind of coming up on those results, and there’s little bitty things that I probably could have changed or done differently, but we stayed with stoking the fire. We kept the flame lit. When the flame goes out, that’s when you have a problem.
One thing that I want to change from this last release to my upcoming release is to even stay on top of it even harder. That’s why I’m kind of going to do—I think we’re going to do three songs in February, three songs in March, and the rest of it in April, and then we’re going to release three videos in the first quarter of next year, and then we’re going to hit Europe in April, and then do some festivals over there, come back, do a whole American tour, touring the album, but we’re going to first tour Europe at the next go-round.
TL: Have you ever toured Europe before?
PC: Yeah, I did this year. Andrew Combs — I went on tour with him. I just played acoustic. They loved it, man. It was amazing.
TL: So, you didn’t have any nights where 50 people showed up?
PC: Yeah, there were nights when 50 people in a 150 person room that spilled out, and these 50 people were drawn to the music, so it’s like I don’t care if there’s fucking ten people there. If they’re about the music and they’re getting something out of it and it’s a full circle of me pouring my heart out with somebody feeling the music……that’s what the full beauty of music is for me……and yeah it’s a lot nicer when you’ve got ten thousand out there……but you’ve just got to keep on trucking through it. It’s just going through the fucking trenches. I tell anybody in this business, young aspiring musicians, “Get ready to get your ass kicked.” It’s like you want to be a boxer or an NFL football player just kind of this is a far-fetched dream. Far-fetched, so lucky to be in the race.
TL: Oh, you’re in the race. You’re definitely in. You’re in the front of the pack.
PC: Yeah, I’m feeling it, feeling it. It’s a slow build, but there we go. See what happens. See what we’re talking about this time next year when I come and see you.
TL: I think the important thing is just never to give up and just stick to what you believe in.
PC: My dad told me today on the phone, we had a conversation, and he said, “Son, remember the small people, and stay humble.”
TL: That’s great advice.
PC: Stay humble. He’s like, “I know this is getting wild for you.” He doesn’t understand totally—I let him know what was going on, let my mom know, and I talked to my family, but it’s a stressful situation, especially when you’re just a man. I’m just a songwriter, just a guy just like anybody else going and buying a Bud Lite in a gas station and going fishing. I’m just like anybody else, and a lot of people start believing and feeling, and when they become drawn to you and they have a connection to you, you’ve got to be open and be able to hold that and be a rock for those people just as much as you would for your family. Because these people are keeping a roof over your head, and at the same time you want to just walk outside and smoke a cigarette after a show, and now you’re going to be taking pictures and signing autographs and hanging out and meeting people.
I was talking with my buddy Cody Jinks, and you win this thing one handshake at a time. Just like politics, but it’s not so fucking political. You go and shake everybody’s hand. You get to know who these people are that love music.
TL: That’s a great philosophy. I wish other artists did that too.
PC: Well, I want to do it as long as I possibly can. If I get to a point of being George Strait or something and getting mobbed, then we’ll have to figure something out, but until then I’m going to love on everybody I can. Especially these small rooms that only have 30 or 40 or 50 people. I walk out front and I shake everybody’s hand and I take a picture with everybody. Spend an hour and a half or two hours with them. I drink with them, I just thank them, and move to the next gig, but if there’s 500 out there, I go to the merch booth and I sign as many stuff as I can……shake as many hands as I can……and then I have to get out of there just like anybody else……but you’ve got to pay your dues handshake by handshake, and we owe that to the people paying the 12, 15, 30, 50, 100, 200 dollar tickets to go to a concert. For the longest time people said, “Why don’t you just charge people for a meet and greet?” I just can’t charge people. I’ll just do a meet and greet.
TL: Yeah, I agree with you.
PC: I know some people do, and it pays their band. I know a lot of bands, some of my friends do it. It makes sense business-wise. It sure does, but what the fuck, I’m no businessman. I’m a musician. Broke as shit, moving down the road, (laughter) putting gas in the tank when we can. Fuck the business, man. I’m over it.
TL: But I think that if that’s not you, then you can’t do it, right? I mean, meet and greets aren’t your thing, you can’t do it.
PC: No, they are my thing. Paid? No way. Meet and greet, I would make them pay if like after the show we did a meet and greet and then I did an extra little acoustic set for them. I’ll do that, because my heart and what I need to get paid for is me on a stool singing with my guitar. The hours that I put in writing and rehearsing. I mean, that’s what I need to get paid for. I know that, but meeting somebody? Shaking somebody’s hand? I can’t fucking charge you for that, dude, I’ve got to sleep at night. Sorry. I feel like I need to sing you each a song. You know what? Probably here in 10 years or something my manager will slip a meet and greet that costs money under the wool of my eyes and he’ll piss me off and cause a big old ruckus, and he’ll be like, “Well, we made X amount of dollars,” and I’ll go, “Fuck your money,” and fucking let me meet the people that want to meet me, but I’m not at the point of George Strait. George Strait obviously couldn’t put on a free meet and greet. He’d have fifteen thousand people waiting to see him. They’d kill him.
TL: It’d get ugly.
PC: It’s just impossible. It’s like trying to meet the Pope or something.
TL: Well, that’s why—you know, Willie Nelson, his birthday parties, he used to do them for free, but they got so out of hand that he had to start charging.
PC: Weed out some people that don’t want to pay the ticket.
PC: I understand, man.
TL: So, I totally get it.
PC: Maybe those are problems I’m willing to cross if I need to.
TL: Yeah, I think you will.
PC: We’ll see.
TL: I definitely think the music is fantastic.
PC: Thanks, man. We’re going to be playing a lot of the record, most of it, and I’m going to be playing a lot of my new stuff, as well, tonight, and you’ll be able to get the taste of what we have going on. So how long has your company been going?
TL: Well, a year-and-a-half. Just me. I just started it because I’ve always loved music.
PC: Is this what you strictly do?
TL: No, I’m an accountant. This doesn’t really pay the bills. Hopefully one day it will, but right now it’s just something I do because I’m passionate about this kind of music and I want to try to support the artists that are doing it.
PC: Thank you man. That means a lot.
TL: It’s my pleasure.
PC: We need more people like you in this world.
TL: Thank you. So, this new album, I guess you’re going in in a little bit of a new direction as far as musically?
PC: It isn’t as gospel. This is more on the country soul kind of funky vibe. Country, though. I mean, hell, I can show you a track. Let you just hear one. It’s called “My Cadillac” and it’s kind of got I think a Jerry Reed kind of vibe.
TL: Who doesn’t love Jerry Reed?
PC: So, it’s kind of got that thing going on.
(plays track – honky tonk music)
PC: It’s really good, man.
TL: Holy shit! That’s the real deal. That’s honky-tonk, man.
PC: That’s the boot-scooting old school 70s cowboy.
TL: Love it. I absolutely love it.
PC: Shoot me your email and I’ll send you over the album and you can review it before anybody else.
TL: Wow. What an honor.
PC: Yeah, man. Cheers.
TL: Cheers. I’m speechless.
PC: I’ll send it over to you and you can get an early review on it.
TL: Thank you.
KW: All this honky-tonk shit took me back to my Nashville roots.
TL: He’s a Nashville guy.
PC: Fuck yeah. I love Nashville. I’m about to move there.
PC: Yeah, I’ve got to, man. I’ve got a publishing deal out in Nashville and they set me up with all these amazing writers.
KW: Sweet. Awesome.
PC: Yeah, it is.
TL: Nashville is growing like crazy.
PC: It sure is. Austin is, too, though, man.
KW: Is that where you’re from, Austin?
PC: I’m Dallas, Fort Worth.
KW: I was just in Austin a couple weeks ago.
TL: He’s in the beard competitions.
PC: Oh, yeah?
KW: I was at the World Beard and Mustache Championship at the Long Center.
PC: Tell me this, were you ever at a beard championship, not in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, but in Louisiana at all?
KW: Why? Because we all look alike, I know.
KW: You’ve seen one bearded guy—I hate it.
TL: Well, that was all the questions I had.
PC: Well, man, all I’ve got to say is thank you. We can’t have credibility without people like you.
TL: Thank you again, Paul. I wish you nothing but success in the future.