St. Paul and Broken Bones explore questions
Donna Isbell Walker , [email protected]:07 a.m. EST December 6, 2016
Paul Janeway, front man of rock-and-soul band St. Paul and the Broken Bones, grew up in a home where secular music wasn’t permitted.
He spent a lot of time in church, singing gospel music, and he didn’t begin to explore pop and rock music until his late teens.
At 19, Janeway bought his first secular album, U2’s “The Joshua Tree,” which “opened the floodgates” and led him into another world of music.
“Once that happened, I listened to everything,” Janeway said in a recent phone interview. “Anything that made my ears tingle. Like I really got into Tom Waits. You know, my parents didn’t listen to the Beatles, so I had to listen to Beatles records. It was bizarre; like it took a while to get into the Rolling Stones because I didn’t listen to them.”
But that belated education in classic rock brought an unexpected benefit. When the band had a chance to open for the Stones, Janeway wasn’t intimidated by the rock icons because he hadn’t grown up idolizing them.
“I knew it was a big deal, and I knew they were a big deal. I do, I 100 percent know, I understand the gravity of the situation,” he said with a laugh. “But to me, it was another day at the office. I didn’t care about the Rolling Stones, I thought, ‘I want to do our show.’ … You’re obviously enamored with the enormous crowd and the enormous stage and how they handled everything. But meeting them was cool as hell — I mean, there’s nothing wrong with it — but I couldn’t honestly tell them, ‘I have listened to you for years.’”
For his bandmates, however, it was another matter. For them, “this was it. That was the biggest opening spot you can ever get.”
St. Paul and the Broken Bones, who play the Peace Center Dec. 13, have made a name for themselves since they broke out of their native Alabama three years ago. They released their second album, “Sea of Noise,” in September.
The time between albums was a period of growth and evolution for the band, Janeway said.
“When we made our first record, we had only been a band for about four months, so you really couldn’t identify yourself as this or that. And little did we know that it would put us in the situation we were in for the second record. For me, it was a situation of (thinking about), ‘What do you want to write about? What do you want to talk about? What’s something that means something to you?’ Kind of exploring that a little more. We didn’t have time to think about it last time, with the first record,” he said.
One inspiration was a book that Janeway read on social justice: “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stevenson.
Janeway’s interest in the book led to songs like “Brain Matter,” which says, “That’s my daddy with the gun shooting someone else’s son. Is it over yet?”
“I’ve read inspirational books and so on and so forth, but this was just one of those that stuck, stuck on me, and for me it was just kind of a profound moment where I had to figure out, it just moved me enough to where I was like, ‘All right, I don’t know where this is leading … but if I’m going to write another record, if I’m going to put time into this, I have to do something that moves me. And that’s kind of what it led to, with ‘Sea of Noise.’”
The album explores a lot of profound questions, but ultimately isn’t able to offer answers or easy solutions.
“I don’t think there’s blatant answers on the record,” Janeway said. “I think we just need to redefine the question; I think that’s the whole point of life, is redefining the question.”
YOU CAN GO
Who: St. Paul and the Broken Bones
When: 7:30 p.m. Dec. 13
Where: Peace Center
How much: $35
For more: www.peacecenter.org