On the Road: St. Paul & The Broken Bones

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We sit down with St. Paul & the Broken Bones frontman, Paul Janeway, for a quick chat before they hit the road in support of their album Half the City. 

Thanks for taking some time to talk. How's the tour been so far?

PJ: You know, it's actually been pretty easy. We're already starting to write the new record. Half the City came out in 2014, and was recorded in February of 2013, *laughs* so it's been a little while. Now it's kind of just on to the next one for us. We're still touring off the first record, but in the next couple months we'll be throwing in some new songs that we're really excited about. 

So, are you guys still a seven-piece outfit?

PJ: We just turned into an eight-piece, actually. So there's just way too many people in the band *laughs* — luckily we've moved up a bit, stage-wise, so venues can accommodate us. But there's no way in hell that we could have started off with eight people.

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Who did you listen to growing up?

PJ: For some strange reason, my mom had me only listen to gospel, Christian, and soul stuff. The Stylistics were the first band I listened to that wasn't sort of Christian-based or gospel music. That got me into Sam Cooke, Otis Redding, and Marvin Gaye.

That soulful sound definitely comes through in your music.

PJ: Yeah, you know, it's one of those things where it's like, "What else am I gonna sing?" I can't really do the radio hit stuff  it's not the way my voice sounds.

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You guys just opened up for The Rolling Stones. That must have been a pretty surreal moment. 

PJ: Yeah. We did a show in Atlanta and another in Buffalo, New York. It was surreal, there's no doubt about that. We got to meet everybody and they're all super down to earth, super great people. You think, "They're The Rolling Stones," they're a huge name, so you'd expect that not to be the case. But they're the coolest dudes on the planet.

Playing football stadiums is a little different, of course. But it was a lot of fun.

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How were you first invited to go on tour with them?

PJ: Their managers saw us at Coachella and they came up to us after the show and asked, "Hey, how would you feel about opening for The Rolling Stones?" I laughed. I thought they were joking. I said, "Sure, yeah, we'll do it. Just let us know when." And it was one of those magical things where it just kind of happened that way. Which is sort of old school, you know? Someone comes and actually sees you. When does that ever happen anymore? It's usually just over the Internet or something.

But they saw us and said they'd run it by Mick and Keith, but if they liked it, they were gonna get us to open up. Which is pretty remarkable, not gonna lie. It's weird meeting people at that level — you know exactly who they are, you listen to all their music, and you meet 'em and they're the nicest people in the world.

We met Elton John recently and it was the same thing. You realize that a lot of people at that level still had to get there, so they're still really easy to get along with. It's really refreshing.

You'll probably be seeing Elton John when you play at Outside Lands next weekend, right?

PJ: Yeah. Definitely. We've played San Francisco before, but never at Outside Lands so we're pretty excited.

Well, we're excited to see you guys play. 

PJ: Oh boy, you're going to be terribly disappointed.

I find that hard to believe. Thanks for taking the time to chat, Paul. See you in a couple days.

PJ: Sure thing. Come say hi!

Thomas McDermott