Soulful Bones

St. Paul and the Broken Bones
St. Paul and the Broken Bones

The up-and-coming Alabama band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, recently played at the USNWC. The sang songs from their album, Half The City, as well as classic covers from the likes of Otis Redding and Sam Cooke. Frontman Paul Janeway’s powerful voice, dramatic stage presence, and agile dance moves soothe the soul. His accompaniment of brass – including horns and trombone – as well as a tight rhythm section and deft guitarist – complete this religious experience. Meet the band that is about to blow your mind.

The first time we heard you guys, I could immediately hear the strong Memphis Soul and Stax records influence in the arrangements and the lyrical content. What is it about that sound and dynamic that speaks to y’all and where else do influences come from?

I think the sound we’ve tried to create is built around trying to really showcase what we think our strong suit is, or at least what makes us different than a lot of bands, which is Paul’s voice and obviously the way he sings is similar to lots of those vocalists that recorded in Muscle Shoals and Memphis in the 60’s. I think we really looked to the bands in the recordings that came out of FAME and Stax and places like that as kind of a guidebook as to how to prop up a dynamic frontman like Paul.  Since Paul had been brought up with a lot of gospel and soul that some of us hadn’t really been around growing up, we had a little bit of catching up to do, so I think when we started writing the songs that ended up making up the album, a lot of other things seeped into it, because we’d all played in rock, pop, country, or jazz bands but never really a soul band, which is definitely the way we wanted to go.

How long have you been playing together?

Paul and Jesse were in another band for a while several years ago and having been playing together a lot longer than the rest of us, but this group of six guys has been together for about a year and a half.  And of course, we’ve also had Al Gamble playing organ with us since this summer, and he’s on the record too, so that’s a welcome addition.
Even though all the members of the band have a pretty diverse background in genres and personal experiences, you seem to all have great chemistry and have the passion that is required to convey an authentic Southern soul sound and dynamic. In the beginning stages, was it hard to all get on the same page?

Even though we all played very different music when we met, I think everyone was struck by the songs Paul and Jesse had already written, and once we’d played our first show together, there was no question in my mind that I wanted to be on board with the band.  We really meshed very well from the beginning, and when we started writing songs together, you definitely felt everyone’s different influences seeping in, but that wasn’t really a problem, because I think we really were on the same page as far as what the end goal was and we were all stepping outside of our musical comfort zones together.  It also helped that we had to write most of the album in less than two months, so there was very little time to worry about whether what we were doing was “authentic.” We just knew that we had to get it done or miss an opportunity to make what we thought was going to be a really cool record.

Being that you are all a bunch of young white guys doing classic southern soul roots music, was there ever any concern with being taken seriously by audiences, and the industry in general as far as commercial viability and appeal?

It’s fun music to make, and you can make it whether you’re green, blue, red, or whatever.  I think Louis Armstrong said, “If you ain’t got it in you, you can’t blow it out” and that’s really true in music like this where a lot of it is more of a feeling you have to discover as opposed to anything anyone can tell you how to do. We’re totally still discovering it.  I hope everyone who hears our music enjoys it, and they don’t even have to take it seriously if they don’t want to, but I think and I hope that if you hear the album, or see a show, that you’ll feel what we felt when we were playing it.
For your first full length and newly released album, “Half The City” how would you describe the sound, theme, and message to our readers?

The sound is something that’s really hard to describe. It’s soul, but it’s not your mom and dad’s soul, and its some other things besides just that, too. I can’t speak much to any sort of unifying theme or message because I wrote exactly zero of the lyrics for the album, but I’d say it’s a little bit about love, and a little bit about heartbreak, and a lot about just trying to figure out this life we’re all living.

Since you guys are a fairly new band and still getting to know each other in general, time on the road together can reveal a lot of different things. What are some funny quirks or annoying habits that y’all have started to notice about one another?

Haha, there are nice little things that we all have to get used to about one another, but I think we all let them just slide by because we have to be good friends to each other in order to do what we do.

In touring with the new album, what regions of the country do you think you most resonate with?

So far, the southeast, which is home, has been very warm to us, but as we start going out west and hit the east coast a couple more times this year, I guess we’ll see if it’s just a southern thing or not.
When you guys first step on stage in your bow ties, blazers, and vests I think that audiences have an immediate first impression of what they are about to hear and then when you actually start playing I can imagine that a lot of audiences are probably like whoa, didn’t see that coming. Is that strategic from you guys and do you have some funny stories on audience reactions?

It’s not anything we gave a lot of thought to until recently when we have to tour a lot and find a way to clean all these suits and shirts.  We just kind of did that from the beginning to look a little more tidy on stage and it just became a thing, so we kept doing it.  When you’ve got 7 or 8 guys on stage, its hard to look like you’re serious about what you’re doing if everyone’s wearing a different concert tee or someone’s got a flannel shirt on and some other guy’s got a three piece suit on, and we like to feel like we’re going to work when we get up there, so dressing up a bit helps with that.  

There’s definitely always that element of surprise, especially when we play in a new town, that hits when the intro to the first song ends and Paul hits that first note.  It’s shocking and you can really see on people’s faces when they’re getting something they totally didn’t expect.

You are coming back to Charlotte to perform at the Chop Shop on Friday March, 21st. Will you be performing ‘Half The City” in it’s entirety or will you be performing other songs or covers as well?

The album, front to back, is less than forty minutes long, so when we do a live show, you can expect to hear just about every track from the record and some covers that we enjoy doing.

Where can our readers buy the album?

You can buy CDs or our vinyl record in fine record stores across the country or at iTunes has it as well, as does Spotify.  And of course, you can buy a copy at our show!