Paul Foster and I have a lot in common. Balancing a wife, babies, and our inner-most passion….music. Usually, the real work is in finding a balance.
I sat down with Paul for a few moments to discuss his music, his influences, and finding that balance.
For starters, who are you? Where are you from? What style of music do you create?
I’m a mid-western kid from a farming community absorbed by suburban sprawl when I grew up there. Since leaving home I’ve lived in big cities and small towns and rural spaces miles from the nearest gas station. I’ve studied music informally and formally and as such I’ve been exposed to many different kinds of music. And by ‘exposed’ I mean forced to learn and play overandoverandover until it begins to grow on you. So, I don’t write in any particular style. Unless I do and don’t know it. Which is very possible.
Music has been in your family for a while…did you just go with the flow or were you as drawn to music as those before you?
Some of both. I remember being drawn to rhythm very early in life. I’m the oldest grand-child on both sides of my family so I didn’t have siblings or cousins as sort of peer mentors. For a number of years I remember music was always around; people playing guitar in the living room, the radio and records, singing at church, at school and in a extra curricular choir I was in. I thought everybody played guitar.
I briefly read elsewhere your explanation behind the title Photographs, Epitaphs, and Frosted Glass. Can you reiterate for our readers the meaning behind this title?
The title’s meant to suggest ways we try to mark time and/or the work we do in life. It comes from the song, “Deaths and Epitaphs” where the character who singing is so busy making a legacy for himself as a songwriter he doesn’t realize he’s become a failure at human relationships.
You are a father, husband, lead of the National Guard rock band, as well as doing your own songwriting. How do you find a balance?
A big help for me is admitting the balance is never going to be perfect. Something is often neglected for something else. But all of these activities have important places in my life — without one of them I’m not fully serving as I know I’m called to serve.
I noticed one of your songs deals with the dynamic of trying to work on a song while your toddlers yell at each other in the background. You also have to maintain a healthy relationship with your wife. I bring this up because I have this same problem…errr…issue.
Often I have to re-record talking points during our podcast up to 10 times because 30 seconds before I finish talking either the toddlers run in screaming or my wife yells out demanding my attention…
My creative process has had to adapt and evolve. How does this affect your process?
I feel for you! I had to allow this very real frustration at an admittedly poor creative situation to effect the creative process on as many levels as possible. So I wrote about the frustration and I reset my standard for back ground noise on my recordings and I work for balance.
It’s too easy for me to say to myself, “If I only had _______ then I’d make great art.” That’s a creative death trap. Years ago my main hindrance to making good recordings was poverty and primitive technology. I found a way around that by doing things like tuning my guitar down to sound like a bass and making goofy percussion sounds on pots and pans, all recorded on a 4-track tape recorder. Not ideal, but better than throwing up my hands and giving up. Now I have profoundly better tools but a profound lack of quiet time to focus and work. There are ways around this problem too.
What inspired you musically growing up? What do you listen to now?
When I was very young it was the folk music my parents liked; Judy Collins, Simon & Garfunkle, The Mama’s & the Papa’s, Everly Brothers. Plus stuff like Wilson Picket, Elvis Presley, and some jazz. We got the St. Louis radio stations so when I was old enough to work my own radio I listened to country music for about a year because that’s what my friends were into. Then I listened to an R&B station faithfully for about a year when I was twelve. Then a top 40 station came to town and I listened to that. All the while I was in choir and band and took lessons on piano: These are influences too, although sometimes I think artists are ashamed to mention any formal training they’ve had. In high school it was Yes, The Beatles, Van Halen, Toto.
Today I like listening to things that challenge my ears. About a month ago I saw Barnaby Bright at a house concert in Chicago and they were brilliant. The Decemberists are great. I love Lily Allen, Aloe Blacc, Dolly Parton, Jude, Medeski Martin & Wood, Neal Morse.
What are your goals for 2013? What should we be looking out for?
Goals are good. I try to hold them loosely, not wanting to allow them to take me out of balance as we talked about before. I’d like to gig more and grow a following both live and online. I hope to network locally with musicians — I’d LOVE to gig with a band. If there’s time I’d like to begin recording another collection of songs. I want to grow into my voice as a songwriter and performer, to be honest with myself in the process of continuing to become an artist and not get lost trying to be what I guess other people want me to be.
How is the Internet helping (or hurting) your promotion and marketing? Is it helping you connect with new fans?
The internet is absolutely a huge help. I won’t pretend I understand how best to market myself and I don’t think I’m alone in my desire to work the music side and have others help with promotion. But art isn’t really finished until it’s been understood and appreciated. In five years I’d like to have a fan base of about 2500 people who get what I do creatively and follow and support me in my artistic efforts. The internet is a big part of building that fan base.
Where can people buy your music? Where can we connect with you online?
Any last thoughts or shout outs?
Special thanks to my 4-year-old son Ben who’s with me at home today as I do this interview. He’s been very patient.