Interview by Tiziano Thomas Dossena
Paul Loren is a singer, songwriter, producer, and consummate entertainer. A native New Yorker, Paul was raised on the rich legacy of soul, classic pop, and the Great American Songbook, and in those musical idioms, he feels most at home.
L’Idea Magazine: Hello Paul. I heard so much about you and wanted to find out more about your singing career. When did you start to show interest in music?
Paul Loren: From the earliest I can remember, I’ve always loved music. I don’t think there was a time when music wasn’t part of my world. Maybe I was three or four years old when I started singing.
L’Idea Magazine: Having worked with him many years ago, I know your father was an excellent showman himself, although not a singer. Did his background sway you at all toward music and entertainment?
Paul Loren: Probably by osmosis, yes! Looking back, it was just unavoidable to see my father up on stage (with the band) and not be enthralled by it all. I guess in some ways, show business was in my blood.
L’Idea Magazine: Your parents are both Italian Americans. How much did being Italian American influence your life and career choices?
Paul Loren: Being Italian, I come from a very creative stock. My ancestors were from the South and were able to make a whole lot out of very little. My father comes from a small volcanic island, Panarea, off the coast of Sicily. Every time I set foot on that soil, I do feel a certain music and rhythm in it—maybe it’s the sea, the tides, the volcano (Stromboli)—or maybe I’m a musician and I’m just looking for it. But I think it’s there, it’s inevitable. The same with my mother. Part of her family came from near Naples, and those old Neapolitan songs are woven deeply into my identity.
L’Idea Magazine: Excuse my stereotyping, but most Italian men love to cook. Do you? Do you have any hobbies?
Paul Loren: The kitchen is my second home, apart from the stage. Maybe even my first! Tonight, for example, I made a ‘spaghetti al tonno’ for dinner. Quick, easy, and delicious. Nothing beats Italian food for showing off fresh ingredients that are seasonal. If I have the day off from performing or the recording studio, I spend it mostly in the kitchen.
L’Idea Magazine: You completed your first headline tour in 2019, after having performed as a support artist for The Temptations, Brendan James, American Idol winner Taylor Hicks, and David Bromberg. It was extremely successful, selling out Joe’s Pub at the Public in NYC multiple times. Since then, you were asked by Jennifer Lopez to perform at her Birthday Gala in Las Vegas, showcased at The SoHo House NYC, were a featured artist at the AAA Radio Convention in Boulder Colorado, and shared the stage with Paul Shaffer, Queen Latifah, and Christie Brinkley at Target’s launch event for New York Fashion Week. It seems you are fully recognized for your singing talent. How difficult was the transition from support to headline artist?
Paul Loren: I’m very grateful for the folks that support my music, and when real ‘touring’ or roadshows come back safely I can’t wait to headline again. The transition is a career-long process, I think. It has taken many years, and will probably take many more. I’m ready and excited, however. I hope to keep growing a larger audience and perform for more and more people every year.
L’Idea Magazine: Your appearance on “The Tonight Show starring Jimmy Fallon” showcased your talents for millions of viewers. Was this a very emotional experience for you and your family and friends?
Paul Loren: It truly was. Emotional in the sense that I was really honored to be up on that stage, and given a real chance to be myself under pressure. It felt like a small victory after years in the business. I’m glad friends and family enjoyed it as much as I did.
L’Idea Magazine: Matt Micucci, on Jazziz Magazine, stated that you evoked “smoky jazz club atmospheres and early-Sun Studios Elvis records with your new, tender ballad ‘Nighttime (Is the Loneliest Time).’” Can you tell us what inspired you to write this song?
Paul Loren: That song came very quickly to me, and actually I wrote it around midnight in maybe 15 minutes or so. It definitely reminds me of the standards that I’ve always loved, like Sinatra’s “In the Wee Small Hours” or a classic country song like Ernest Tubbs’ “Walking the Floor over You.” It’s that age-old theme: “I can’t sleep a wink because my love isn’t here with me.”
L’Idea Magazine: They say that at the beginning of your solo career, you took “elements from early R&B, jazz, and Brill Building pop and with them crafted your music with an ear towards timelessness.” Do you agree with that statement? Do you feel that you are somehow, musically speaking, an ‘old soul’?
Paul Loren: I definitely grew up listening to timeless American music from the 50’s and 60’s—all mid-century pop, no matter the genre. When I launched my solo project, it was a conscious decision to pay homage to the music I loved so much, but also make it contemporary—writing and singing about my own life, currently. At some point, my buddy and business partner Evan just started calling me “Mr. Leisurely”—maybe because I reminded him of those old-school Rat Pack entertainers, and the name just stuck. While I do prize my ‘leisure time,’ most days I find myself quite busy and hectic with work!
L’Idea Magazine: You had the rare opportunity to record in the world-renowned Sun Studio in the same room as Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, and so many other pioneers of Rock and Roll. They say that for a singer it is a unique, unrepeatable event. Was it so for you?
Paul Loren: It really was extraordinary. When you walk into that small studio, you can feel the weight of history and the ghosts of the greats all around you, or at least I could. It’s amazing to me how much enormously influential music and giant personalities started in such a tiny space.
L’Idea Magazine: Your single “We’ll Be Together Again,” written and recorded at home during the early spring of 2020, was defined as a beacon of hope for those affected by the uncertainty of a tumultuous year. I was told that all of the proceeds from the song have been sent to a COVID-19 relief charity. Is it so?
Paul Loren: Yes, it’s all true. I wrote that song the very first week of our New York City shelter-in-place lockdown, in March of 2020. It’s funny to hear the song now and imagine that it was not so long at all after the lockdown that I wrote it. (I can’t believe we’re still living with it all a year-and-a-half later.) But I think it holds true to this day. Many of us have actually had the chance to be ‘together again,’ while others have simply not. Regardless of the circumstance, it is indeed a song of hope and optimism.
L’Idea Magazine: There is something completely new in your last recordings, isn’t there?
Paul Loren: Like so many of my fellow musicians and entertainers in this last year, I’ve faced lots of cancellations and some real career uncertainty. Pairing that with some personal obstacles, and it definitely gave me a lot to write about! About 25 songs came pouring out of me during the spring and summer of 2020, all of them digging into some deeper truth than my previous material, I’d say. I recorded two albums’ worth of material, each with 11 songs, and both telling the story of my life in 2020 as it happened.
L’Idea Magazine: So, your new album “Betwixt” is coming out in the fall, but your first single from that album, “No Room For Yesterday” got off to a hot start on ‘Spotify’s Indie Music Playlist’. Could you tell us more about it?
Paul Loren: Yes. “Betwixt” comes out on October 22nd—the first of the two albums. “No Room For Yesterday” is a classic rockabilly-influenced song that imagines life in a time of scarcity… much like we’ve known it this last year and a half. But even in scarcity, it’s important to raise a glass and toast to the unknown. That’s what the tune is about. I thought it was a nice way to introduce my (slightly) new sound to an audience, and the album in general.
L’Idea Magazine: As I understand, “Marlena” is your second single and it has received a lot of praise, both from the critics and the public. Could you talk a bit about the birth of that song?
Paul Loren: The initial melody for “Marlena” came during a long road trip home to New York from Nashville in the spring of 2020. I was just humming it incessantly during the drive (maybe to keep myself occupied or awake!) and I didn’t end up finishing the song for another couple of months. In fact, the song was finished just 2 days before the actual recording session. But once I sat at the piano to finish it, it took less than an hour to write both the words and music. In some ways, the song seemed to write itself. Let’s just say that it was more than ready to be birthed after those 2 months in gestation!
L’Idea Magazine: Could you tell us more about the other songs in this album?
Paul Loren: Another favorite of mine on the record is a song called “An Evening Such As This” which actually started as a poem first. That’s very rare for me to write the words before the music, but in this case, I did. I love the way that one came out. There are some classic country-influenced tracks like “Isn’t Everything Enough?”—which references the Bakersfield, California sound of the 1960’s—and even a nod to Roy Orbison with the song called “Come Back Around.” It’s all some new musical territory for me, but all very natural.
L’Idea Magazine: A companion album, “Between”, will be released in 2022. Could you tell me more about that?
Paul Loren: Yes, “Between” is ‘Volume 2’, I’d say. Both records were actually made at the same time, and I only split them up when I sequenced them—otherwise, they would’ve been combined into one big double album… hey, maybe we’ll release a ‘collector’s version’ on vinyl of both “Betwixt & Between” at some point!
L’Idea Magazine: You also had a weekly online music show…
Paul Loren: That’s correct! I played every Monday evening from mid-March 2020 until the end of that June—15 weeks of livestream concerts on both Instagram and Facebook Live. I took song requests from fans and played some of my own favorites. The repertoire seemed to be very musically diverse. In one show alone, I’d play perhaps a Whitney Houston, Elton John, or even an Everly Brothers song.
L’Idea Magazine: Any other projects you are working on at this time?
Paul Loren: Partially inspired by last year’s livestreams, I’m currently working hard on 20 new cover songs in the studio. The song selections are also really all over the map, ranging everywhere from Hall & Oates to Madonna to Tina Turner—all songs I’ve grown up with and seem slightly out-of-the-box for me as an artist… but that’s the fun of it. They’re pleasantly surprising. I can’t wait to share some of these covers with everyone.
L’Idea Magazine: Any future concerts our readers should know about?
Paul Loren: I’ll be hitting the road in early 2021 with my band—I’m truly excited to perform all these new songs live in front of audiences around the U.S. and even internationally. We’ll be posting all the dates to my website, so stay tuned!
L’Idea Magazine: Would you define yourself as a singer or an entertainer?
Paul Loren: I’d probably call myself a ‘songwriter’ and ‘recording artist’ first. The singing and entertaining are really done in service to the songs and I often think of them as secondary, or better yet, serving the higher purpose of the song itself. The record-making process is also very important to me, and again, it’s all done in service to the song.
L’Idea Magazine: Your dream?
Paul Loren: I’d love to keep sustaining myself with my music and art. I’m grateful to have made a life out of it for all these years, so far, and hope to keep doing it even better and bigger—to keep growing a larger sustainable audience—one who really connects with what I make and release.
L’Idea Magazine: Could you try to describe yourself with only three adjectives?
Paul Loren: Hmmm, ok…! Curious. Intentional. Patient.
L’Idea Magazine: If you had the opportunity to meet an individual from the past or the present, who would that person be and what would you like to ask?
Paul Loren: Well, my answer might change every day (there are so many fascinating folks to choose from!), but today I’m going to have to say Louis Armstrong. I’d like to know how he kept it all together, especially in the segregated show business (and America) of the early 20th century, and what made him persevere—both musically and in life.
L’Idea Magazine: A message to our readers?
Paul Loren: I’d like to thank them all for their interest, and do hope they enjoy my new music. If we have some fans of cocktails out there, specifically drinks that include amari, aperitivi or bitter(s), they can follow me on Instagram and/or YouTube where I post many recipes for fun. The Negroni happens to be my favorite drink and in addition to music, making delicious cocktails and discovering new amari is a real passion of mine. Grazie tante!