Discovered as a member of the popular Montréal-based garage punk band Pottery, singer-songwriter-musician Paul Jacobs is having fun playing live in a band, now that the worst part of the pandemic seems to be behind us.
“And since I’m working with the Bonsound label [and it’s Blow the Fuse sub-label], I have an opportunity to discover Québec on tour. I just came back from wonderful L’Isle-aux-Coudres, a small island located near Baie-Saint-Paul. and its small cabaret La Fascine! La Fascine, yeah! Pretty cool – they’ve built a kind of barn where they organize shows, and they lent us these small cottages… We were looking for a place to go swimming, but the St. Lawrence River isn’t a good place for that.”
At press time, Jacobs is embarking on a tour of the American midwest, where there’s an interest for his kind of rock songs. “These days, I’m spending all my time on my solo project,” songwriting, and getting on the road again. Since the Summer 2020 release of his debut album Welcome to Bobby’s Motel by the Pottery band, Jacobs has enriched his own already ample repertoire with an excellent 2021 full-length album (Pink Dogs on the Green Grass), and his most recent 185 on the Corner EP, which adopts the psychedelic and groovy side of rock. “At the time I was writing these songs, I was discovering Arthur Russell’s music, with his blend of folk music and electronic sounds, and I was influenced by that. And there was also Neil Young, whose songs I’ve listened to all my life.”
These five new songs, written following the previous album’s work sessions, were even more influenced by the pandemic atmosphere, “which explains the different vibe,” says Jacobs. “I’m always trying new things – if you listen to my previous albums, you’ll see that they’re all fairly different from one another.”
What makes his approach different is that it’s independent. Originally from Ontario, Jacobs is a one-man orchestra who writes by himself and plays all of the instruments, records, and produces without outside help. “I was touring extensively across Canada, and every time we stopped in Montréal, the shows were cooler and cooler,” he says. “You know, the new-city-and-good-feelings type of thing. I was able to do one-man shows, and people were dancing and having a good time. So I thought I might as well try to live there.”
A visual artist in his own right, he even designs his own album covers, which are remarkably dynamic and colourful, “just to illustrate the musical atmosphere properly. Well, I’m not fond of commenting on my illustrations, but the dominant colour chosen [blue, on his recent EP] seems colder, as if I were more vulnerable and expressing my emotions more fully. It was like I was showing another side of my personality.
“I use the colour green a lot because it’s my favourite colour,” Jacobs adds, explaining why that colour, symbolizing hope, is frequently used on the covers of his four previous albums. “Visual illustrations are a complement to the music, which is my priority. But with painting, as well as with music, it’s pretty much the same thing: you start from scratch, and as you go along with your creation, a thing begins to exist, and then you get the same feeling of satisfaction you experience when you end up with something. Designing the cover, performing, drumming, playing guitars, and putting it all together is a thrill.
“I usually grab my acoustic guitar when I’m writing, but my drum kit is always nearby, so I’ll often sit down and record a groove on which I can build up a new song. However, there’s always a piano in the studio, and sometimes I’ll sit at it and write a groove” that will become the basis for a new song. That said, there’s also a piano in the studio, and sometimes I’ll sit at it. I get inspiration from all sorts of sources. “Christopher Robbins,” for instance, a song from the [Pink Dogs on the Green Grass] album, was started while I was playing the bongos, and I thought, yes, I should record this and try to add a bass line, that would be cool!
“I sometimes have a song topic in mind, but I often just sing anything, sounds, just to see what’s coming out of my mouth, without thinking too much. I don’t know, but sometimes it’s weird with tunes… I sometimes feel that writing a song is an out-of-body experience, as if the songs already existed, and I was only discovering now that they were there all along. And when I get that feeling, that’s when I know that I’m doing a good job in a very organic sort of way.”