“Paul’s music explores themes of spirituality, our place in the ‘Post-Modern Society’ as well as explorations of the intimacies of relationships and love, weaving these through a range of influences; from basic folk to classic jazz , from country rock to ambient pop.”
Paul J Penton is emerging as one of Australia’s dynamic new breed of craft based singer songwriters. His music is steeped in years of singing and strumming the guitar, anything from 12 string to Classical and lately Resonator guitars and Ukulele! Musical disciplines began early with a father who played trumpet, violin and piano as well as the occasional cameo in the Navy brass band. With brothers and sisters playing instruments in local ensembles, music was in the blood.
Paul’s first band experience in country Victoria was as a part-time member of the ‘Scorpions’, a long time before the heavy metal band of the same name. Along with Fitzy, Prouty, Weavo and Swayney they practised in a milking shed for gigs at weddings, tennis club fundraisers and other local events. Moving to the city, Paul formed garage bands with other former school friends and colleagues. There was plenty of youthful enthusiasm, even if some of the band names – ‘The Monumental Masons’ [carving their name in rock!] ‘The Orange Experiment’ and the ‘Mars Watchers’ were somewhat unfortunate.
This was the time when Queen was hitting the top ten with Bohemian Rhapsody, Countdown ruled Australian TV and the Little River Band was touring to sold out stadiums in the United States. Meanwhile, back in Melbourne, the Monumental Masons were singing about nuclear disarmament, alienation and young love, trying to get gigs in local pubs and meet girls. Oh and believing world domination of the music industry within five years was also a real possibility.
In the early Eighties Paul played solo for a few years at venues like the Green Lantern, Fat Bob’s Café and the legendary Green Man, where the Seekers got their start 20 years earlier. Paul’s solo songwriting continued with occasional, loose collaborations with talented friends culminating in the release of his first album ‘In the Name of’, in 2001. The CD reflects a clear musical progression over the years . Titles include ‘Better World’, a little ahead of its time, it’s a stinging critique of casual consumerism and a media frenzy where the medium is definitely more important than the message. Then there’s the slow burn acoustic number ‘I Need You’, addiction in all its forms.
Everyday is upbeat rhythmic, eclectic and hopeful,
while ‘I Don’t Understand You’ expresses confusion about a love that could or should have been.
An EP is slated for release before the end of 2010. Already the songs recorded show the results of a new phase in Paul’s practice and a serious commitment to the discipline of songwriting. For the past three years he has been studying through Berklee Music College learning lyric construction with Pat Pattison and Andrea Stolpe – exploring mechanics of meter . With Jimmy Kachulis he has learnt about the construction of hit songs and has also added audio production in Pro Tools to his toolbox under the tutelage of Jeff Baust.
Seminars with hit songwriters Jason Blume (Dear Diary- Britney Spears), Steve Seskin (Grown Men Don’t Cry- Tim McGraw) as well as Grammy award winning producer Steven Webber have offered an insight into the writing and production techniques that work for some of the best in the music business.
This formal training has built on Paul’s idea that like all good writing, music must come from a central understanding of form and subject. And it helps if you’re writing about something that matters to you. . Paul’s musical influences go back to mid seventies folk heroes such as Cat Stevens, Carole King, James Taylor as well as the Eagles and Beach Boys. The casual insouciance of stars such as Brad Paisley, the edginess of Lily Allen, and Keith Urban’s down home attitude have also been influential in Paul’s later writing.
So while he’s a keen observer of what’s new in contemporary, pop, country and folk, discipline and integrity are the heart of his own music making these days. Writing lyrics is a skill hard won. Each day Paul completes an object writing exercise. The idea is simple, take a word, chosen randomly, sit down and write for ten minutes ,without interruption, without correction and without review. It’s the stream of consciousness stuff that William S Burroughs and Jack Kerouac elevated to an art form but when practiced. Paul is so committed to the value of Object writing that he has set up a website for the benefit of others who wish to practice and become involved.
As a qualified sound engineer, Paul regularly record and mixes Symphony orchestras and smaller classical ensembles. He also constructs sound design for radio dramas and documentaries, recently being recognized with a 3rd prize at the ‘New York Radio Awards’ for his work on ‘Spooks’. Paul also received a United Nations Media Peace award for his work on a documentary about the recent Indonesian elections.
In recent years, Paul has started to work collaboratively with like minded writers and performers. This has inspired a range of songs from club to Reggae and is a great way to pick up new ideas and techniques. It can also be very challenging.
Right now Paul is working on an EP with the fabulous Tessoriero brothers and bass player extraordinaire Xane. Three studio tracks have been recorded – Perfect Morning, Myra, and Act Naturally. These will be supplemented with new versions of Buried and Dead and Sunset Over the Bay. A sixth song is yet to be selected. Look out for the EP later this year. Here’s a sneak preview of an almost finished track
Another Perfect Morning © 2009 P J Penton
And another CD is also planned. It’s a broader mix than his first release, there are tunes about love and loss but there’s also a hint of jazz, some blues, a touch of country, even pop folk, wrapped around Paul’s insightful and often humorous lyrics.