Over the course of 45 spectacular minutes, Brad and Barry talk to one of their favorite artists, Paul Janeway from St. Paul and The Broken Bones. In part 1 Paul tells one of the best Bonnaroo stories ever told, talks transitioning from the first album to the second, and talks about the time he almost quit music.
After this episode, be sure and listen to Part 2 with Paul Janeway here!
Guest: Paul Janeway
Journey through the stories that define the artists playing Bonnaroo. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The what? Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter. Now I don't know when you're listening to this, but is it a coincidence that we are talking about St. Paul and the Broken Bones at Bonnaroo 2018 on Easter Sunday? Pretty appropriate that we chose St. Paul and the Broken Bones for Easter Sunday service. Yeah. Serendipity. Yes, it is indeed. Welcome to the What Podcast. A Bonnaroo podcast for Bonnaroovians by Bonnaroovians. We being the Bonnaroovians. That's Barry Courter from the Chattanooga Times 3 Press. I'm Brad Steiner from Hits96 Radio in Chattanooga, Tennessee. Welcome to maybe my favorite moment of my entire professional career. Wow. I loved this so much. Yeah. When we started talking to him, as you guys will hear when we start rolling the tape, I thought I was going to have to separate Brad and Paul. Even though it was over the phone, it was a little fanboyish. I was tongue kissing the microphone. I love St. Paul and the Broken Bones so much, as you will hear. But the reason I love this so much is I had a conversation with a campmate of ours. We were talking, if you know anything about our camp, our camp is called Camp Nut Butter. We've had the same dozen people camp with us for a long, long time. One of our campmates, the guy that did all the graphics for the What Podcast, his name is Nick Turner, me and him almost share a brain when it comes musically. We could not be more tied to each other. He calls me up out of the blue the other day and he says, man, I just had... Well, he talks to me, man, I was just having this conversation, man. He was talking about how around the office they were saying, I wonder who's the most genuine loving artist that's out there today. Who's just a genuine good dude? He said, you know what I thought about, man? I bet Paul Janeway's a really great dude. I told him, I was like, man, I just got off the phone with him. There is no pretense with him. He's not faking it. He is legit maybe the nicest man I have ever talked to. He's awfully nice. Only because I mentioned it when I talked to him that just for people who don't know, I'm the entertainment writer here for the Times Free Press. I've done many, many interviews over a lot of years. Derek Trucks and Susan Tedeschi are sincerely nice, normal people, as is Warren Haynes. You're right. Paul, as you guys will hear in this interview, was so much fun, so funny, and just so genuine. I've talked to him now three or four times again because of the job. He's always been that way. Really? Yeah. The first time we spoke, he was just sort of taken off. He was just completely humbled and surprised that people were showing up, writing tickets. I think you hear that a little bit in our conversation with him. He's obviously, I mean, from touring with the Stones to being on the David Letterman show, one of the greatest moments. We talk about that. Just a super, super nice guy and so much fun to see. This is going to be a little different of an episode. We're going to break this up into two parts. Because he was so kind and generous with his time, he talked to us for like 48 minutes. Mainly because I think that it's just so good. I don't really want to edit much of it. I just want to play it. We thought the best idea was to break it up into two parts. The first part being today and the next week we'll do part two. Part two, we'll explain what he says at the end of the podcast because he gets into some breaking news in next week's podcast. I hope he doesn't break it before we do because if we wait a week, we might blow it. That's true. That's true. The reason why we want to talk to Paul today is because not only do we love him and not only love the band, but this is a great Bonnaroo story. He is an absolute great Bonnaroo story because he, like Trevor from Moon Taxi, loved this festival so much and it's meant so much to him. Playing the festival was a moment for him that he never thought that he would actually get. Yeah. You and I were both there. I remember that moment very clearly of them performing in that tent, wasn't it? It was this. This tent. An afternoon show. Thursday. Thursday evening. It was so hot. So hot, but you could just see on his face this was a moment for him. He has some great stories that you guys are going to hear. I can't wait. I haven't laughed that hard in an interview in a long, long time. We asked you a few weeks ago for your Bonnaroo stories. This might be the best Bonnaroo story I've ever heard. If anyone out there can top his, I'm not sure that I want to hear it. All right, let's do it. Paul Jenway from St. Paul and the Broken Bones. This week's featured guest on the What Podcast, a Bonnaroo podcast for Bonnaroovians by Bonnaroovians. Let's do it. Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul, Paul. How are you, sir? I'm good. How are you doing? I'm doing so great. It is such an honor to talk to you. I could not be a bigger fan of yours. Meeting you even at Bonnaroo years and years ago, your very first ever Bonnaroo. I was like a kid in a candy store and I just remember everybody on my Instagram when I took the photo with you back there in the media compound, they all said two things. It was A, who is that? And B, why is he holding a jar of honey? And I said, just wait, just wait until you find out about St. Paul and the Broken Bones. And that then turned into me following you guys around and seeing you guys 12 times in a year. 12 times in a year. Wow. I couldn't be a bigger fan. I love you guys a lot. Oh, good. Well, it's good to hear. Hi, Paul. Barry Courter here as well. I'm a big fan, but I'm going to have to try to keep Brad at bay here. I'm fanboying for a second. Allow me to fanboy. Hey, I'd rather be talking to someone that's a fan of ours than like, who the hell are these guys? Right. Absolutely. Well, I'll tell you, the first time I was walking off the stage at Bonnaroo two years ago, three years ago, and Billy Joel was walking onto the stage. And I don't know, there was a whole line of us walking off the stage and then Billy Joel was by himself as he walked up onto the stage. And I said, oh my God, there's Billy Joel. And I stopped dead in my tracks and I looked at him. I said, Billy Joel, great work. That's all I got. I then realized at that moment, I had nothing to say to Billy Joel. I had absolutely no material because I'm not that big of a fan, but I could talk to Paul Janeway all day if I could. Oh, good. Yeah. Well, I've had that problem too, because I didn't grow up with a lot of music and I've talked to people and been like, hey, yeah. You. I got to imagine you. Did you grow up with music that you could even maybe meet the artist? Because I feel as though you and I. Not really. Exactly. I feel like you and I have a kindred spirit because my selection at home is 60s soul, whether it be Otis Clay or Otis Redding or Syl Johnson. Those are the guys I listen to and those guys ain't playing Bonnaroo very often. No, no, no. No, it is weird because the good thing is like, though, when I get to meet like Booker T and Steve Cropper and those guys, that's when I'm like that's when I'm like a kid in the candy store. Who have you met that you fanboyed over? Actually, you know, the most starstruck I've ever been. I'm actually a huge professional wrestling fan. OK. And I sat next to Jerry the King Lawler. Jerry Lawler. That's awesome. Legend. And I could not talk to him. My wife started crying laughing. I've met Elton John, the Rolling Stones, all these people, and I could not talk to Jerry the King Lawler. I one time followed Booker T in an airport by accident, though, because we were on the same flight and his his band actually came out to one of our shows in Australia. And that was pretty. I have to say, I'm surprised that we've gone this far and Brad has not mentioned David Letterman. Oh, yeah. Yeah. Brad is talk about fanboy. Well, he's my hero in life. If not for Dave Letterman, I would not be doing anything that I'm doing or the person that I am today. He is my absolute hero in every regard and every piece of entertainment. He's the guy that changed not only comedy, but he changed television. He changed entertainment. The fact that you guys got such a big break from Letterman. I mean, I wasn't going to bring it up, Barry. But if you really want to talk about Dave, I can talk about Dave. I'm wondering if I'm going to get to speak during this whole conversation. That was pretty remarkable because they had told us that he was a fan of ours and I just kind of shrugged it off his lip service. You know what I mean? Because like, oh, such a big fan. Yeah. Says that to everybody, right? Yeah, exactly. Says that to everybody. And then they were like, look, he is a really big fan. He could ask for an encore. He rarely does it, but it is possible. Would y'all be okay with that? And we were like, of course, so. So then he goes into that long rant before the show, before our performance. And I was just like, surely they're going to cut this out. Surely. And they didn't. And it became a thing. And it was really quite remarkable. For people out there listening who haven't seen it, Google it. It's one of the most remarkable late night television moments I've ever seen. Because Dave just does. I went 20 some odd years without missing an episode of Dave. I watched him every single night for 27 years. It's a real sickness he has. I know. It's pretty crazy. But I'll tell you, the only time I ever remember him doing something like that was back in the late night days with James Brown. When James Brown did Late Night, that was the only time I remember him saying to somebody, I need you to keep going. Do it again. Keep going. It was one of those things where our career was doing pretty good. But the record cycle, as you know, was kind of winding down. And we were like, OK, we were getting ready to start to write the next record. And then that happened. And it took us another level. And we were like, it did. It changed our career. There's something about, and I hope that I can talk to you maybe as somebody who maybe is a little out of body experience with you for a second, but it's like Paul on stage is a different human being. And it's ironic that you are such a fan of pro wrestling because it is almost like a character that you're doing on stage that is just infectious. Yeah. I mean, it's when you hit the zone. You know what I mean? It's a different animal. I like to say it's my hour and a half of therapy. Let me go back because Paul, you and I, this is probably our fourth or fifth conversation, which is one of the things I love about my job is sort of discovering maybe a new band or seeing a band at the beginning and then sort of following them on the arc, so to speak. The first time I think we talked was after Scenic City Roots show that you did here at Track 29. Is that- Yeah. The video from that, you were right around the same time the Alabama Shakes played there and both videos became huge sort of sensations. It was like, where did these people come from? And then you were back. I don't remember which one, but you've been back for Riverbend. You've been back for two or three other things. But we also talked at Bonnaroo. You told me a great story, which is one of the reasons we wanted to talk to you. You actually worked Bonnaroo, right? Didn't you volunteer? I did. I volunteered. I had actually, the first time I went, slept in my car. I was working at a tanning bed. What? I'm the most untanned person on the planet. You're like a freshly peeled apple. Yeah. I think Radiohead was playing. It was the first year Radiohead played. And I was working at a tanning bed because I didn't have a car. So I had to drive. I had to walk through. It was the closest thing to go off to. And so I spent my whole month's paycheck on a Bonnaroo ticket to go see Radiohead. And I slept in my car and that was terrible. So the year that Jay-Z and Stevie Wonder played. God, that was my favorite year of Bonnaroo history. Yeah. I couldn't afford a ticket. And the whole thing that they dangle is like, hey, you can work security. We'll pay you like minimum wage. But guess what? You do a 12 hour shift and you get 12 hours off. You're like, this sounds amazing. This is an amazing deal. It's not an amazing deal. That 12 hours off is pretty good. Sure. But when I got sun poisoned on Thursday on my leg, I was just like, this is awful. So what is funny though, I was like, so the first night I was so tired, I was like, I can't go see it. But Stevie Wonder and Jay-Z were playing. And I was like, all right, I'm going to go. I got to go see that. So I just do you wonder, he gets off, Jay-Z is about to go on. I'm trying to get close and I feel something warm running down my back and I turn around and there is a giant man who was on some sort of drugs, peeing on my back. Oh my God. I am not kidding. Oh my God. I am not kidding. And I turn around and I just, I was like, what's going on right now? And by the, like, what has my life come to? And then I turned back around and the guy's already like shot out. And I was like, you know what? I've got sun poison. This is awful. I'm going to watch Jay-Z with pee on my back. And that's what I did. The delicate touch of Paul Janeway when a man is peeing on him, he turns around and he's like, Hey, so what's going on here? Yeah. He was a giant. What was I going to do? What was your post? What did you actually have to do at Bonner? What was your job? I was there. There was like a VIP or the VIP, like I was at the door or at the gate or gate and it was right. And so there was two things I had to do, you know, check credentials and then also, also make sure that hippies did not stay in the road because there was trucks going, you know, 40 miles an hour back there. And people just like, man, just chill out. I'm like, you're going to die. That was right around the same year the guy got hit by the porta potty cleanup truck, wasn't it? That's my point. And so, and so what was so magical for me, I even get like kind of emotional thinking about it because doing that and Bonner being so close to Birmingham and me, you know what I mean? Like spending all my money on a Bonnery ticket and then in 2014 getting to play it, it was honestly like I, I, there are a few points in my life or professionally in this that I vividly remember and that's one of them because it was just, it felt like a dream. It felt like I can't, I remember being a patron and sitting and going, I think I sing better than they do than having a moment and then being on stage. I just tried to soak it in all day. Thank you so much Bonneroo. We are St. Paul and the Broken Balls from Birmingham, Alabama. Brad and I mentioned last week talking about you coming on that 2014 and the fact that you guys came out about 15 minutes early to do a soundcheck and he and I both commented, we remember you standing in the middle of the stage staring out at the crowd, just sort of smiling, taking it all in as you just said. Yeah, it's still, I mean still to this, you know, it's like you have a few moments in your career and in this that you go, it could stop right after this and I would have accomplished everything I initially went out to accomplish. It was a dream. I never, I mean, that's why, you know, Bonneroo will always have that special place with you. I don't want to put words in your mouth, but like I said, you and I have talked before and I just love this whole progression of things. You were actually thinking you were going to become a pastor, right? Or a preacher while you were working at the tanning bed. But that was the goal. Well, before that, that was the goal. The tanning bed era is not a good time of my life. I was not doing so well. But before that time, that's really what I wanted to be. I wanted to be a preacher. I wanted to be a pastor. Like this whole idea of playing music for a living was not something I ever thought I was going to do. Like this isn't for me. Doing this is not a dream, dream, dream that I've accomplished. It's a realization. They're like, oh, this is what I'm supposed to be doing or feeling like this is what I'm supposed to be doing. But I want to, I mean, my whole goal from like when I was like eight till about probably 21 was I wanted to be a preacher. And that was my work towards that. I would speak in church when I was like 12 or 13. And how to work a crowd. And I thought that's what I wanted to do. Another place where me and Paul almost run parallel tracks. I don't know if Barry even you even know this, Barry, one of my best friends in the world doesn't even know this. Do you know when I was 16, I won a preaching competition? I did not. I was going to I was going to be a preacher. And I realized that it wasn't the message that I was giving. It was the power of a of a crowd that I had that I liked so much about it. And I wonder like, when was that moment for you? Was it had you already had a band? Did you just take some guys from from the church band? When did it when did it make that turn? Well, I always played music in church, but I never really thought I actually had I actually had a pastor or a preacher who was kind of a mentor. And he kind of I think it was his idea of humbling me because he could tell I really was attracted to being on stage and that kind of thing. He always kind of said, you know, hey, you're not that good of a singer and you're not that good of this. And and so I always I still it's really bizarre. I still to this day struggle with even though I do this, you're living, struggling, going, I'm not good enough. Did you figure out later that he was probably trying to keep you? He wanted to be the front singer. He was trying to keep you down. Part of it. Yeah, it was part of it. And so it took me a really long time to gain any sort of confidence to play in front of people. So I started, you know, once I kind of was like, all right, this preacher thing, not really for me. You know, I was kind of understanding, like I love the performance aspect of it. I still playing guitar and writing songs and singing. So I'd go to I'd go to open mic nights in Birmingham at some, you know, some bar somewhere. And I'd say, hey, you know, da da da da. And they started being like, man, I'm getting a reaction out of these people. So there's something to this. I'm doing something right. And so then I finally was like, well, maybe I should record it. And so I started, you know, I take I had this old camcorder that I would just place on the on the bathtub and I would just sit not not naked on the toilet. But I'd be I'd sit on the toilet and play my guitar and sing. And that's how I hear myself back. And I was like, man, that's obvious. That's how it's like I figured out. All right. I start writing songs that way. And then I got in a band because I just needed friends. I didn't have any friends. And that's that's how I ended up. Well, you're not going to meet a lot of people at the tanning bed. That's for sure. Paul. Not well, I was always an old lady that would come out in underwear like, I don't know how this thing works. And so and you're just like, all right. And that's how I met Jesse, who's the bass player in this band. And we've managed been it's been almost a decade now. We're we've been best friends since then. And he's he really truly is the reason this band exists, because he he heard something in me that I wasn't confident enough about. And he was like, man, we got to push. And he if it weren't for he knew everybody and if it weren't for him, this this wouldn't have happened. I had a conversation. So before I get a little bit OCD. I get obsessive with with artists. And before I followed you guys around the country for about a year and a half, I did the same thing with the Alabama Shakes because I fell deeply in love with Brittany Howard. And I love that band so much. And they still to this day, my favorite band of all time. I had a conversation because I saw them maybe 15 times in a year. I had a conversation one night with with Ben Tanner, who's the keyboardist for the Alabama Shakes. This is maybe 2013. Right. I mean, 2012 right after Boys and Girls was released or something like that. I can't remember exactly the timeline because he was the only one of the band that would talk to me. So I would just I was without police. Right. I was just I was just shooting the shit with him for a little bit. And he's like, I was like, so what are you doing? What do you do when you're not doing this band thing? He's like, well, you know, I've got this project that I'm doing right now. It might be the best thing I've ever done in my career. And I'm like, oh, cool. What is it? He's like, well, I'm producing this album for this band called St. Paul and the Broken Bones. Cool. And I said, no. OK, sure. See you later. And then turns out. Yeah, that's cool. He's got you got half the city. You got half the city. Yeah. Yeah, I don't know. I mean, it's all incestuous in Alabama. There's something that happened somewhere in 2010, 2011, 2012 with Alabama music culture. And it just blew up. It's like a band that came out of Alabama couldn't fail. Yeah, it was you guys and and the Shakes and the Secret Sisters all sort of hit. We had you had you had John Paul, the Civil War. You've had you know, you've had Jason Jason is right. Yeah. And it's it's I think what's bizarre for me, it was one of those things where I for me, this is just me personally, like I'm a competitive person. We were working on this stuff and then the Shakes showed up and we were like, oh, shit. This is this is like, yeah, all right. You're just like, man, because, you know, those guys, those folks are I love those people. And but for me, it's like, man, so we you know, we kind of just so we we had we'd all kind of known each other and bro and his guitar players from Muscle Shoals. And for me, I just this state is too small. I just pull for everybody. You know what I mean? Like it's not I'm competitive, but it's a it's a friendly competition. You know, like when they make a great record, I want to make a great or you know what I mean, when I hear all these musicians and I want them to I want them to succeed. And so what's bizarre is that we had known Ben and we weren't sure Ben was playing. We had heard that Ben, you know, Ben kind of said, you know, because Ben was he was kind of a not a later he was later edition playing keys. And he was not part of the original Shakes lineup. He's not. Yeah. And so he was like he was doing that. And we were like, you know, they were starting to record label him and John Paul and a guy named Will Trapp start single like records. And we were just like, you want to give us money and we record a record? Hell yeah. You know, we didn't know. I mean, nobody nobody cared about us. And and he did. And it changed our lives and it changed Ben's life. You go make see of noise. How did that process change? Because obviously you change producers and you try you try to do a little bit different and try and grow as an artist. What was the change? The big change for you, at least artist wise, from one album to the next? I started making money. I mean, that's one thing. And which was difficult because I was I was I was so used to making minimum wage. And for me over a decade now, I have money and I have people caring about what we do. I almost quit, to be honest with you, after after half the city, because I was just I was just so I didn't I didn't like I didn't have money. It was just so weird for me. I was trying to figure out what I need to do with my life. And it's not what you know, my wife, my first man, I went back to school and I was going to be an accountant. You know, I went back to school late in my life or later. And she didn't sign up for that. And I almost quit. But for me, it was one of those things I was like, I have to kind of keep pushing forward, you know, because if I just if we it's like we make half the city, too. I think I would have been done. You made one of the best albums of the decade. And then afterwards, you said, I don't know if I can make any money on this. What am I? What am I? It's not that I could. I was making money. That was the problem. It made me incredibly uncomfortable. Oh, right. Yeah, you didn't like, you know, it made me just feel like I was. I was feeling. And it happened. I could see that. It happened pretty quick, right? And it happened quick. Exactly. So you start going, all right, what kind of artists are we going to be? You can start to see those changes, though, in Sea of Noise. Like I don't know a song that you guys made half the city that had, at least to me, the societal impact and an acknowledgement of whatever is happening in the world. Like Is It Me? I think Is It Me is the best song you guys have ever written. I actually, I actually kind of, I think that or I'll Be Your Woman. It's just so different than anything else that you guys have written because it is about something that is outside of you. It's about society and it is, boy, you could, you can pull whatever sort of threads of current day politics out of that song if you wanted to. Right. And I think that was the point is to, so for me, so I'm going through this identity crisis and I read a book by Bryan Stevenson called Just Mercy. And it's a beautiful book about a thing called the Equal Justice Initiative that started in Montgomery, Alabama and started in state Alabama. And it moved me to a way that I was like, I have to work through this. I have to work through this Southern identity and these modern times. And I don't, I don't, I don't think I am not a philosophy major. I am not an expert at a lot of things. So for me, it was a situation where you ask a lot of questions and not give a lot of answers. And that's what that, that's that song, songs all over that record are that way. And it was a risk. It was a risk for us because I didn't want to alienate anybody, but at the same time I had to do it. It had to like, if I, I, we're actually getting done. We're actually like, I think we'll be done with the, like with the photo, you know, the cover and all that stuff. And about a couple of weeks with the new record, it's so interesting talking to like, we're, we're on Columbia now. And it's so interesting talking to them about the commercial, like Hapocity was commercially more successful than Sea of Noise. And Sea of Noise was critically more successful than Hapocity. They talk about, you know, oh, you know, sales and all this kind of stuff. And, and Sea of Noise has done well. It's not done as well as Hapocity, but for us, and I have to tell them this constantly, we don't exist as a band if Sea of Noise does not come out. If we don't go through that process. And now I feel incredibly liberated and like, it's weird, but that was a, having hindsight now with that record, that was a very difficult record to get through because I mean, some of the guys are just like, oh my God, we're about to commit career suicide. Kind of a tackling societal thing where Hapocity was not that. It was kind of a heartbreak, you know, let's dance record. Next week, part two of our conversation with Paul Janeway from St. Paul and the Broken Bones. This is the What Podcast. That's Barry. I'm Brad. I just love him so much. I just want to be his best friend. Wasn't that fun? I, I just like, he's my Oprah. Yeah. I just, he's just got that thing that I want to be around all the time. He does. I loved, I loved your comment about him looking like a peeled apple. That's pretty hilarious. That's a peeled apple, yeah. Well, that's what mom used to call me. So I can relate. So next week, this is what we're going to do next week. It's going to be part two of this conversation with Paul. So not only does he break news in the conversation that we had that we'll play next week, but he also has some big news about the show at Bonner. You asked him a great question about what's the new show going to be like. Right. So we're going to do that and I wanted to mention too, we've threatened to do this for a while and I think this would be a good time is we hope to call some of you guys, listeners that have reached out and said you'd be willing and happy to. And so we'll set up some times to have you guys call and we'll record those and we'll probably run some of those next week. Yeah. If you'd like to be featured on the podcast, drop us a comment, the whatpodcast.com, leave us a, your, your comment and we'll try and get in touch with you this week. Yeah. You want to do that? That's fun. You know, I brag about it to you all the time. I think we're now in 26 countries. Oh, it's 26. Yeah. You're starting to sound like Bazzy. You know the numbers. I just think that's so cool. I love looking at the stats and the emails and I mean, you know, we didn't know where this was going to go. Honestly, it's because it's, it's not because we don't like a pat on the back. It's because the people that interact with us, they love Bonneru. Yeah. And for some reason it all ties us together. It's like being in NAMM. Yeah. You know, it's like, you just know a vet. Just by looking in their eyes. It's a survivor syndrome. Yeah. The comments are great. I mean, the one we got the other day, somebody said they don't think they'll ever again experience anything like 90,000 people singing Hey Jude. It was a great moment. Which was unbelievable. Yeah. And I don't remember, I think it was Randy who said it, but absolutely. As soon as I saw that, I was like, yep. That was- Took me right back. Took me right back. You speak the language. I can talk to you. And he woke up that next morning sitting around the camp at Camp Nut Butter and just talked about it. We literally had a guy at camp after the Paul McCartney show. He packed his stuff up and left because he said, plop, nothing more I can do here. I don't need to see anything else this weekend. Yeah. Literally just left. I'm done. I'm done. And so are we. We are done as well. Give us your comments at the whatpodcast.com. You can find Barry on Twitter. What's your Twitter handle there, Barry? BarryJC. All right. We'll see you next week. Thanks. The whatpodcast.com or the what underscore podcast on Twitter. We'll talk to you and Paul again next week on The What. Journey through the stories that define the artists playing by the rules. Who are they? What are they? What will you see? The What. Which bands? This year? That matter? With Brad Steiner and Barry Courter.