Paul & The Tall Trees leader Paul Schalda seems to embody the unexpected overlap of The Band’s Americana, Ian MacKaye’s unhinged emotion and the doo-wop melodies his father, Will Schalda Sr. (a member of Brooklyn vocal group, The Montereys), raised him on. A former guitarist for soul-man Charles Bradley, his voice can be hauntingly harsh, raucous and gravelly one moment, smooth and intimate the next.
What you can hear in Schalda’s music, no matter which song you hear, is that the road hasn’t been easy. His voice can be hauntingly harsh, yet hopeful and tender, raucous and gravelly one moment, smooth and intimate the next. In his cadences you can feel elation and life–performing on the road, tours funded out of his own pocket, and the hardships it all brought to family and loved ones.
Going back two decades, Schalda has been a part of projects like the ’90s Staten Island hardcore group, Three Steps Up, and Awek–his early-2000s, Brooklyn-based rock band. By 2005 he had Pablo, an acoustic-folk-rock affair that nodded more toward Neil Young than the alternative music scene that was king at the time.
Schalda had left music, only to have it come back. This brought new perspective and approach. And it takes the name of Paul and The Tall Trees, whose debut album from Paul & The Tall Trees “Our Love In The Light” out worldwide October 21st via Big Crown Records.
Glide Magazine is premiering the video for “Once in a While” (below) a song that shines with the magnetic voice of Schalda that echoes with a free spirited charm and haunting melody. Our Love In The Light makes for one of the most fascinating full album listens of the year, where each track is its own entity and Schalda allows his versatile and powerful vocals provide a unique look into a revolving door of sounds, images and beats.
Glide had the chance to find out more about this Paul & The Tall Trees project from the man himself – via interview…(below)
What can you tell us about the song and video for Once In A While?”
This song is based around the idea that we all have a good conscience and a bad conscience and the decisions we make control our emotions, our physical form.The angel and the devil on our shoulders, so to speak. The video was shot around 5:00 am in Queens, overlooking NYC. The mime is the devil. He’s always creeping around to steer you in the wrong direction. Made sense to have NYC as the backdrop. I’ve made many a late night decision on her streets.
Looking at your musical resume- its wondrous how many different genres and styles you’ve partaken in during your travels. Is this more by happenstance or on purpose and looking back what styles or musical outfits came most naturally for you?
This must be happenstance. It’s never contrived. Whatever comes out comes out. I’m not a trained musician. There’s no math involved. If it sounds nice to me, I play it. Especially lyrically, I can’t tell anyone else’s story. Only my own. And it’s constantly evolving.
Your music has been described as a sum of your experiences -in what ways have your life experiences and musical experiences transferred over to your music?
It’s a ride. We all have ups and downs, and mine have never been as high or low as many. I think maybe the feelings behind the songs and expressions vocally change as much as our lives do on a daily basis. Maybe because I learned to play guitar myself keeps me on a certain level songwriting wise.
From the first song on Our Love In The Light, we immediately hear a singer with a voice that is unique and distinctive and carries over just as interestingly to “Crack of Dawn.” How has your singing voice and delivery become your own? How would you best describe it?
Thank you. I guess if you’re not trying to sound like someone else, you have your own voice. I honestly can’t explain it or describe it. Best I can say is it’s my own. It’s all emotion and where the music takes you. Then what comes out of you. It is fun to manipulate your voice, to break up the monotony, but not to sound like someone else’s. This happens and then I’m confused as to who I’m listening to.
You stepped away from music and came back to it again. Looking back now. is there anything you would have done differently prior to walking away?
I wouldn’t change any of it. And I don’t mind the “day job” thing. When I come home from the road I still work a “day job”. NYC is expensive man. I was given the gift of becoming best friends with my Pop during those years, something I wouldn’t give up for the world. I think it helped me with music at the time because before then, I was trying to make music a way to pay the bills. I lost sight of why I decided to play and sing in the first place, which was because I loved it.
Can you tell us about the Tall Trees some? Who is in the Tall Trees and what do they bring to you musically?
The Tall Trees are always changing. I try and bring in a new group every record, with the exception of my Pop and my brother William. It keeps it fresh. Regardless of who they may be they are always folk dear to me. People I feel close to, like family. On OLITL, there’s Sergio Napelatano on guitar, Chris Edwards on drums and James Mignone on bass.
As a former guitarist for Charles Bradley- how did working with him make you a better musician and performer?
I’m so lucky to have spent that time with Charles. He is such a great man and a true inspiration. I absolutely had the best seat in the house every night for three years straight. Charles is one hell of a performer too, and I guess that is what you have to do some times. Perform: I don’t know if I can do that. Put on this thing night in and night out, in terms of a “performance”. I just love playing and it comes from the heart. If I’m not feeling it, I have a hard time pretending. Charles would say though as long as you give them all you got, you’ll be ok.
Any stories about him or touring in general you want to share?
I don’t remember where we were. Sometime between soundcheck and the show Charles decided he was going to name all of the Extraordinaires first born children. Regardless of if you had already had one or not. In no particular order: Unity Deboe, Divine Chakour, Cerveza Sanchez, Shilvesta Schalda, and Softfetus Chiarito. A couple of the guys weren’t in attendance.
If you were to curate your own festival – name five bands you’d have to invite to play
Neil Young/Alabama Shakes/Built To Spill/Charles Bradley/Dinosaur Jr.