Some people say that variety is the spice of life – doing the same thing over and over can get pretty boring after all. Maybe that’s why Paul Wright, lead singer of the reggae dance rock band Rootdown and someone who has had a lot of success in the Pacific Northwest with his solo work over the years, likes to run the gamut when searching for lyrical content for the band’s songs.
“When it comes to songwriting I don’t think we necessarily talk about having one song be about God and then two more be about the sun and the beach or anything like that,” Wright says with a bit of a laugh. “Our music is for everybody, so I think they all just work together to share the perspective we have on our lives, and we’re just kind of reflecting on that.”
And part of the band’s expression of their perspective on life includes singing about everything from the girls they love to their love of a Mexican food chain in Oregon, from their devotion to God to something as trivial as a pair of flip flops. They embrace the profound and the simple with the same sense of joy and wonder.
“Our music is hopefully like a sunrise for people, you know,” Wright says. “Hopefully like a banner of hope and encouragement and joy. Especially our live show, we want to bring a spirit of joy. That’s our goal: to encourage people and lift their spirits.”
The band is very successful in this arena, as a Rootdown show is an event that will make you smile, jump up and down to the lively rock songs, and maybe even end up lying down on the floor at some point. The band does this themselves, so you almost feel like you have to do it with them because they make it look like so much fun.
“We usually have a dance contest during our set when we play one of our songs—“Karl Malone in a Cowboy Hat”—and we usually end up on our backs clapping with our feet at the bridge of that song,” Wright laughs. “We’ve played a lot of shows the last couple years and played like 50 colleges or so, so doing things like this helps to keep the set fresh, pushing the boundaries performance-wise, and finding what is the most entertaining and the most engaging way of playing these songs live. Sometimes that means playing on our backs!”
Thinking outside the box is something that comes natural to the band, so it comes as no surprise that despite their religious faith, they feel just as comfortable playing in a church as they do at a bar or anywhere else.
“I think a lot of times when people bring religion or the idea of something spiritual into music…with Christianity I think the perception is, ‘Oh, it’s in a church and it’s for the church,’” Wright says. “We’re not opposed to playing in a church—we’ve done that and have really been supported by playing in a church—but we don’t belong there, you know? We really don’t. That’s not our place, necessarily, or our only place I should say. Playing churches or festivals isn’t the wrong place for us, it’s just not the only place for us either. Our show is meant to just be a celebration of life and joy. So that’s kind of why it works everywhere.”
And since their music is meant to played everywhere, it makes sense then that their influences and inspirations for their material come from all over the place. Even songs like “Karl Malone in a Cowboy Hat” owe their creation to reasons that go beyond the obvious image in the title.