One of the hardest things to do in this world is make yourself be heard. I’m speaking in the context of actually having people listen to what you have to say. I don’t know if there is a certain formula set in place that makes it easier, or if that formula requires you to be on a certain pedestal of notoriety, or even at a specific education level, but what I do know is that some of the greatest and most creative individuals are the ones who aren’t afraid to take the initiative to own the challenge.
Paul Royster is another North Carolina native who is out here pursuing his dreams. I want to get right into this because I believe Paul is a special individual. I remember listening to Paul back in college when he would do live performances at the bars we would go to.
I’d be at the bar ordering a drink and out of nowhere I’d hear a thunderous, soulful voice that made every head in the establishment turn. There’d be Paul Royster, singing covers to all of your favorite songs.
Paul showed interest in music at an early age and even recalls conversations with his grandmother about how she would be in utter amazement as she’d watch him (a toddler) try and emulate the current song playing at that time. He told me that he tried playing sports in hopes to figure out where he might excel. He “figured out pretty quickly” that athletics were not his calling, but around age 10 something else clicked for him.
“I can remember being around 10 or 11 yrs old, singing along with the radio, wondering if it was normal to be able to carry a tune like the artists I heard. I dismissed the thought, did whatever I was doing in those days… probably hopped on my bicycle, drank a sprite and cruised the streets. I really started to believe that music was my thing…or rather singing was my thing…when I entered high school”
He joined chorus in high school, because like any other adolescent male, he “heard rumors that was where the hot girls were” and that it was an “easy A.” But it ended up being more than just that. “Turns out it did a lot in boosting confidence in my voice, and somewhere around 16 I think I subconsciously decided…this…this is what I’m going to do,” Paul explained.
He did talent shows, won the senior superlative “most likely to get a record deal” and then ended up heading to college, where he would further cement his attraction to music.
“I went off to college, basically because that’s what one was supposed to do, hoping I’d find myself and that life would fall into place. Not knowing that’s not really how things work. Well maybe for some people, but I DID break out of my shell. I played in a cover band for a while, but I was always using MY OWN voice to sing OTHER people’s songs, and deep down I knew I wanted more than that. I felt like I was selling myself short, but I didn’t know how to go about it or even the first thing about writing a song.”
Paul Royster – Fine At 25
Paul just always knew that his voice would be the instrument to fill the void that was missing in his life. He explained to me that he never really knew how to play instruments, his voice was really all he had. Paul then went in depth about his later years in college and his influences.
Royster talked to me about his first attempt at writing a song. “I was around 20 and I remember knowing my attempt was trash and I threw it in the trash (fittingly) and didn’t really try to write any more music until I was 22 and a senior in college. My good friend Stace and occasional collaborator was a huge part of this and steadily encouraged me. The first thing I ever recorded was a hook for him that he had written. I started using websites like SoundClick to get instrumentals from or I’d go in over already established songs, and I couldn’t get enough. I finally found a way to establish my own voice. I finally found a way to be creative, in a way that I never knew possible. I was finally producing something in a world full of consumption. I felt proud. I felt different. It felt right.”
Eventually he would cross paths with his now good friend, Artem Smirnov, who provided Paul “the connection he’d been longing for.” Paul gives him all the credit for the productions and the inspiring mindset that he displays when they are collaborating in the booth. “He is an amazing producer and he has been my in-house, sometimes quite literally in-house producer/ recorder/ engineer for a couple years now. He helped me find my voice and provided the direction that I was missing in my artistry. We did my first project together “Flirting With Dreams” and are currently working on my EP “Through Time & Memory.””
For Paul and his music, he wants to give the listener “that feeling that I get when I listen to some of my favorite records.” Almost like a euphoric high. You know, when the hairs on the skin stand up and a penetrating chill runs through the body despite it being 80 degrees outside? He elaborated. “That feeling that nothing can go wrong, that all things are possible.That feeling of connection, that feeling of relatability, that feeling that so often eludes me in other aspects of life; that we are one giant human soul. And I just want the listeners to be able to escape in my songs, to take their minds off their problems and let me carry them through their days. I’m just looking to inspire.”
Through his adolescence, Paul had numerous musical influences that helped mold him. Every now and again they make an appearance in his sound.
“I was constantly surrounded by oldies and Motown records. My mother submersed me in that environment growing up. That whole era is probably deep in my subconscious. I think the first album I can remember buying was Craig David’s “Born To Do It,” which is crazy cause I still play that album to this day and reference it. From time to time, even wrote a song a couple years ago over his 7 days instrumental. I can also distinctly remember walking into Walmart; I guess it would have been around the same time period or a year later, and buying “Big Boi and Dre Present… Outkast”(probably edited version being Walmart, but words can be inferred) which was their first greatest hits album. Now imagine, a 12 year old white male being presented with such a different environment, a different outlook on life, a different sound to life; you can’t look at me today and say I wasn’t influenced by those guys.”
It’s not far-fetched to think that current artists today can have significant impacts on their fans and listeners. We switched to the topic of some of Royster’s favorite modern day artists. The list includes the likes of Kanye West, Kid Cudi, Drake, Frank Ocean, Chance The Rapper, Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, Childish Gambino, Big K.R.I.T, James Blake, Anderson .Paak, Tame Impala, just to name a few. Because there’s more – a lot more.
“I swear to God I must have played that “A Kid Named Cudi” mixtape a million times (shout out my freshman year RA Chadwick Wright for putting me on), but I probably played “Man On The Moon: The End Of Day” more times than I could ever recount. I felt like I found my brother. I felt like Kid Cudi shared my spirit. I felt the sadness that I could never seem to shake…was also this man’s burden. I found a friend in Cudi when I needed one the most.”
Paul started to open up more about his past.
“[ I ] felt like I never fit in…never felt quite right in life, and here’s this man echoing my thoughts, telling his story about battling and overcoming his own demons. Time and time again, and I feel that’s what my story continues to be about to this day. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that man saved my life. Take it as corny or however you want, but I’d say that’s true. I’d give him the biggest hug and tell him thank you if I could.”
With Paul having a strong influence coming mainly from the Hip-Hop genre, he went into more detail about how it helped shape his creative process.
“Around my early twenties I was literally digesting as much rap music as I could. I was like a nerd who couldn’t get enough of his favorite literature. I studied the greats…the “classics.” One might argue that you can’t learn how to rhyme by just listening, but these guys weren’t just teaching me how to rhyme, they were reaching out and telling me how to find my own artistry and how to write my own songs. I would have never started writing songs period (singing or rapping) if I hadn’t listened to so much hip-hop in the first place. Nas, Biggie, Hov (Jay Z), Pac, you gain so much from listening to different artists whether it be method of story telling, picking up different flows, inflection or literary devices that one might use. Man, I went through a time period where I listened to nothing but Tupac, and I mean nothing…and let me tell ya, that man was a fan of alliteration. I could go on and on with this but I won’t…”
He says that his favorite aspect of music is the complete spontaneity of getting in the studio and creating that magic.
“When Artem and I come up with something on the spot, we’ll go into record and won’t have anything planned…and sometimes…that’s when we get the best songs. He will play a melody that will just get words pouring out of me. I don’t even know where this artist “Paul Royster” lives. He just takes over and controls my body sometimes. We don’t even speak everyday. People ask how did you come up with this idea or that and it’s literally like there is some type of energy in the room that’s spiritual. I just call it “the zone” and it’s my favorite place on earth to be.”
His message to anyone out there wanting to get their start in creating music is to be organic. Tying this concept into other factors outside of solely music, he reminds us that when you are yourself and believe in yourself, that’s the most important piece in growing and portraying an authentic you.
“If you’re going to do it know that it can be just a hobby that enhances your life. It doesn’t have to be something that you make a full career out of, but if you plan to make it your career and are dead set on becoming a “star” or “famous,” god bless you (which I’m not sure I’m fully ready for yet…scares the shit out of me). Learn to tune out anything negative other people say about your artistry (something I need to work on). That’s your baby. That’s your vision. But the best advice is to always believe in yourself – if you know you got it. Even if NOT ONE PERSON IN THE WHOLE WORLD BELIEVES YOU GOT THE JUICE…BUT YOU KNOW YOU GOT IT… then you’re already winning. Listen to that voice that tells you you’re great and maybe some day you will be. But always stick to what YOUR definition of great is…and not the rest of the world.”
And I wanted to specifically end with my question I asked Paul at the beginning of the interview, which was simply, why music?
“I guess the most direct answer would be “a calling.” It calls to me day & night. I’m never not thinking of music. I’ll go through periods where I even try to convince myself to abandon it because of the stress it sometimes brings me. Not being great enough or not living up to what I envision or never “making it,” or ACTUALLY MAKING IT. But it calls…it calls, it calls and it calls… and so I answer. I must. My love won’t leave me alone and I would miss her if she was gone.”
Paul Royster – Acid Rain Freestyle/Summers Over Interlude Cover
Follow Paul on his Soundcloud here: https://soundcloud.com/paulroyster
Paul can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org