When Paul Burch’s not busy creating new music or playing alongside his band, WPA Ballclub, he’s a stay-at-home dad.
His days are full tending to his young son, but he still found time to complete his breath-of-fresh-air, modern-country album, “Fool for Love,” released Oct. 21 on Bloodshot.
He even found time between his son’s naps to answer Pause & Play’s e-mail questions about his life, music and other topics.
Pause & Play – As a stay-at-home dad and helping your wife run a restaurant, what’s a typical day like for you?
Burch – “My wife is the one who really runs the restaurant. I do visit daily to test the bacon and the fruit tea, but she’s the thoughtful genius behind it all.
“My typical day begins with my son jumping on my chest and beating me playfully about the head and shoulders while simultaneously reaching for forbidden objects that I have thoughtlessly left in his reach (picks, nail clippers, checks, new songs, pistachio shells, receipts, etc). We then eat a breakfast of champions consisting of pieces of bagel and waffle, a sippie cup of juice, and a jar of banana oatmeal, all of which are soon liquified into a puddled mass of swirling yuck.
“From there, we get dressed, and I attempt to try to get something accomplished while my son watches Baby Van Gogh of the Baby Einstein series. This works for a half hour, unless I forget to fast forward past the scary Van Gogh puppet which sends my usually unflappable little one into frightened hysterics.
“When TV has been exhausted, we play a little piano together and then I whisk him to the Red Wagon to say hello to the mum before setting out to visit a number of attractions which might include the zoo, the bookstore, the park, the bank, Grimey’s used records, the mall, the swings, and other such places before he naps off, giving me a small window to continue composing my life story in short brief, staccato bursts until the mid-morning nap is over. I repeat this for the next 10 hours until bath, book and bed.”
P&P – Tell us about the restaurant.
Burch – “It’s located at 1112 Woodland St. in Nashville. We were voted Best Brunch recently by the Nashville Scene. We serve lunch four days a week and dinner Thursday-Saturday. As I said, it’s my darling’s creation, an attempt to bring ‘world comfort food’ to Music City. It’s located in East Nashville – down the street from Woodland Studios now owned by Gillian Welch – in an old Victorian house. Organic foods are used as much as possible. Applications accepted during regular business hours. Call 615-226-2527. Reservations welcome.”
P&P – Amid your hectic day, how do you find time for music?
Burch – “I listen and sing all day long. I don’t get to be as hands on as I might like some days, but I’m writing in one form or another all the time. My day is not hectic, really. If I had a miserable job and was not able to see my boy and write all day, then it would be hectic. New York Times Magazine says that stress is No. 1 killer today. I strive to not be stressful.”
P&P – What your manifesto for “Fool for Love”?
Burch – “I’m not sure my goals were any different than in the past. I’m always trying to sing the best I can and make the music sound as beautiful as possible. I recorded much of the basic things for the album on my own because it was easiest considering my time constraints, and also I wanted to create a mood, a feeling, that was unconventional. Most musicians do not excel at being original, especially in a studio atmosphere. ‘Fool For Love’s’ sound is dense, personal and moody. Ultimately, the musicians who contributed to the record – some of the WPA Ballclub – I think of as being very deep, moody and personal players themselves. They are unconventional in practice but respectful of the musicians who excel at melody and timing. Some of the playing had to be delicate and strong at the same time.”
P&P – Contemporary country music just isn’t country anymore; it’s more adult contemporary. How is Nashville responding to your back-to-roots country?
Burch – “I’m very widely supported by many people known and unknown who have opened doors for me I never thought possible. But Nashville as a community has always had a great deal of ambivalence about country music artists and their fans. I think fans all over the world are worried because Nashville to them is obviously a city unsure of what it stands for. Today, there are deep divisions in the music community – the Opry, publishers, writers, producers and museums – about what country music is and even what it was. Is country music Garth Brooks? Is it Jimmie Rodgers? Is it Willie Nelson? Is it the Waco Brothers? This is a dialogue in-itself that is healthy.
“But the concerns are being raised because there is a palpable sense that the friendship between artists and fans is being breached and eroded by big business. Because of the huge success of label heads like Mike Curb and Jimmy Bowen and others who have made a virtual institution of bland, predictable music, we have endured a generation of country music that is not only disconnected to its roots, but has thrived on eliminating the spontaneity and sense of community that fostered the business for almost 40 years and replacing it with a marketing sensibility that makes a quick dollar for a very few with no real chance for longevity for the artists this business model ‘sells’ or the people behind the scenes who made it possible.
“The scratch-my-back deals and promotion deals made behind the scenes to foster this predictability has stifled the most talented members of the mainstream community in Nashville to a degree that has made many give up on playing and writing all together as it’s virtually impossible to be played on the radio or to have a hit without going through a major label or specific promoters and marketers.
“If I keep playing and getting better, I hope that there will be other performers who follow who truly dig the music and see it as the folk voice of the United States, much loved in other parts of the world. But as things are now, I might be flipping pancakes.”
P&P – Out of leftfield, nonmusic question: George W. Bush – should he stay or should he go?
Burch – “This is no place, really, for political discourse, but I will vote in 2004 as I did in 2000 for a president who reads the newspaper, respects dissent, and is articulate without a prompter.”
THE FIRST RECORD I EVER BOUGHT: “I think the first record I ever bought new was ‘Revolver’ by the Beatles. I had all Beatles records as hand-me-downs and presents, but that’s the first one I remember buying on my own. I can see the record store, but it was in an out-of-the-way place I never returned to. At the time, ‘Revolver’ was on the Apple label and I was 9 years old, probably which would be ’75 or ’76.”
THE FIRST CONCERT I EVER WENT TO: “I went to the Cellar Door – one of D.C.’s great old music nightclubs – several times as a young kid and there I saw Gram Parsons and John Prine, which would probably be when I was 4 years old. This would be 1970 or ’71.”
THE WORST JOB I’VE EVER HAD: “I worked at McDonald’s for four hours where I was told ‘if I had time to lean I had time to clean.’ I also was an assistant sound man for porno films in NYC briefly, but I wasn’t in the union so I couldn’t keep that very long.”
ON THE WEB: www.paulburch.com.
BWF (before we forget): The Paul Burch album discography – “Pan-American Flash” (Checkered Past, 1998); “Wire to Wire” (1998); “Blue Notes” (Merge, 2000); “Last of My Kind” (2001); “Fool for Love” (Bloodshot, 2003).