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JP Paulsen Interview

JP Paulsen Interview by Christian Lamitschka for Country Music News International

Lamitschka: How did you choose the title
“A Cripple On The Run”?  Is there a story behind the name?
Answer: I had seen a documentary on Elvis
Presley, that focused more on his personal struggles than his career, so I
wrote down the first line, which goes: “Where do you go when there’s no
rock’n’roll?” – followed by a series of questions. I may have thought I wrote a
song about Elvis, but when I look back at my life back then, I really had no
clue where I was going. I’d gone through a divorce. I had stopped performing. I
was going through a deep identity crisis. I was clearly on the run from something,
but at the same time felt like a cripple, without the ability to move. So I may
have thought I wrote a song about Elvis, or to everyone out there who’s
struggling, but was probably just trying to find some answers myself. I was
probably the cripple on the run in the story.
Lamitschka:  How was the last year for you? What were your
highlights?
Answer: Last year was a year of big changes. I had been
in a group called Kelner for quite a few years, and halfway through 2016, we
had signed a big record deal, done a collab with the popular Norwegian group
Donkeyboy, written a song for an upcoming movie, and topped it all by opening
for Lionel Richie. Still something didn’t feel quite right. I went on a two
week long road trip in Europe, visiting a total of 11 countries. It seemed
everyone was having vacation at the same time as me, ‘cause there were no phone
calls, no mails, no need for me to be here and there, do this and that, and
that’s when I realized how little time I had had to breathe. I remember sitting
on a ferry, staring at the ocean, feeling calm and relaxed for the first time in
many years. Well, at least, without drinking. I had literally forgotten that
feeling. By the end of the trip, I decided to make some major changes. Some
careerwise, some personal. I quit some bad habits. I realized life had more to
offer than hard work. A few months later, we disbanded Kelner. I still work
hard, but I make sure to take breaks. I turn off the phone, head out in nature,
and songs happen to come out of it. Taking time off is not a waste, even if you
look at it from a career perspective.
Lamitschka: What has been the biggest disappointment in your life?
Answer: By the time I was 26, I had dropped
out of school, had married and divorced young, was taking all kinds of shitty jobs,
and was going through a major identity crisis. But more importantly, I had
stopped performing. And that was a huge disappointment, ‘cause music had always
been my first love. I remember one day, as I was coming home from work, I broke
into tears as soon as I got inside. I felt as lonely as I had ever felt. Then
the words of Leonard Cohen came to me: “There’s a crack in everything. That’s
how the light gets in”. I realized I had been digging my own grave for too
long, and decided to hold on to whatever tiny little ray of light there was
left in my life. I so needed something to hold on to, that I told myself that
one day I was not only going to work with music again, but I was going to work
with the best.  I even wrote down one particular name on a piece of paper, hid it
in a secret place, and never told anyone.
Six months later, I found
myself performing my own songs for the first time in years. Then many years
later, I even took out that old piece of paper, that had been lying untouched
in a secret place for so long, and wrote “check” on it.
Lamitschka: What was your big break that got you into the music
business?
Answer: It all started with the decision I made that
day, that – in the midst of darkness – I was going to hold on to that tiny
little ray of light. Then I knew I had to take a first step. So I called the
only person I knew in the local music biz, Paul Johannessen, a great
singer-songwriter. I didn’t even know him personally, so I felt kinda embarrassed
to contact him. But I knew I had to do something.
And it turned out to be the right thing to do, ‘cause he invited me to do a
concert with him, and one step led to another, and all of a sudden I’m being
the project manager of all time Eurovision winner Alexander Rybak’s comeback as
a songwriter in the ESC. And I get to work with legends like Morten Harket with
Kelner, and I think: How the heck did I end up here? And I know it’s all
because I decided to hold on to that tiny little ray of light, and dared to
take the first step – even if it felt like walking on water. It still does, by
the way.
Lamitschka: Do you have any interesting
stories about how someone has been affected by your music?
Answer: When I was only 15 years old or something, and
was playing the piano in some public place. I don’t remember exactly where. But
this homeless lady comes up to me, sits down and start listening as I play.
When I’m finished, she gives me a hug and tells me, with tears rolling down her
face, that I’m playing like an angel. Believe me, I’m no angel, and can’t play
like one either. However, that’s the kind of effect music has on people. And
that’s the kind of response you’re hoping for. Always. More than any five star
newspaper review.
Lamitschka: What kind of songs do you like
to record the most?
Answer: I’ve been a songwriter for others for years,
having been involved in about 40 releases, but you haven’t seen my name or face
on the covers. When I finally decided to go solo, it was to record the songs
that – over the years – had been too personal to give to others. The songs I
felt I had to sing myself. The ones that were telling my story. And since that
story took a new turn last year, some new songs have been written as well.
Lamitschka: How much creative control do you have over your music?
Answer: Some people practice three hours a day on one
particular instrument, and become very good at it. I’m not that patient, so instead
of practicing hours and hours on one instrument, I’ve practiced a little on a
few instruments, not enough to be very good at one, but enough to be a little
good at a few. And since I do most of the instruments myself, I guess I can’t
complain over lack of control. My friend Jerry Geraldi from New York, who was
taught by American harmonica legend Adam Gussow – most notably known for appearing
on U2’s Rattle & Hum – came in and did a great harmonica solo, as well. Then
fellow Norwegian Eivind Kløverød, who by the way has the coziest studio I’ve
ever been to – MyTown Recording Studio – mixed the track and added some spicy
percussion. The song was recorded there as well as in my living room and my old
folk’s loft.
Lamitschka: What will your next single be?
Answer: It’s going to be even more country than the
current. I wrote it in a cabin high up in the mountains – in fact, in the very
same cabin as is pictured on the cover of my current single “A Cripple On The
Run”. The lyrics were inspired by last year’s events, which we talked about
earlier. The chorus hits off with “I’ll live for real this time.” And that’s
exactly what I’m trying to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had an exciting life.
But I’ve learnt that there’s a difference between outer and inner success. And
I’m glad I finally started to prioritize the latter as much as the first.
Lamitschka: What’s the best compliment a fan has ever given you?
Answer: My former group Kelner received a message from
the other side of the world, from a mother who’s child was autistic, and couldn’t
talk. Music was her only way to reach her. She told us how there were certain
songs her daughter would try and sing along to, and that’s how they would
communicate. She told us how our song “Nothing Is Real” was one of those songs
she’d sing along to, and it deeply touched my heart to know that a song you
helped write can have that sort of impact. That’s everything you can hope for.
Lamitschka: If you had the chance to change something about the
music industry, what would it be?
Answer: Bring
more honesty into it.

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