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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 28, 2000. All rights reserved.

Ellis Paul: Speedin’ Up

E-mail: NicolePlett@princetoninfo.com

When singer-songwriter Ellis Paul comes back to the

area to give a benefit concert at the Friends Meetinghouse in

Fallsington, Pennsylvania, on Friday, June 30, will he be the same

Ellis Paul? Will he be driving his signature red Honda Civic — the

one that now boasts 200,000 miles? Or could it be a shiny new

Cadillac?

Ellis Paul, a Boston-based talent known as one of the hardest working

songwriters in the business, is a regular visitor to the area, playing

a benefit for Friends of Tibet last year and a Robin’s Nest house

concert in Princeton Junction in April.

Now this indefatigable coffee-house and church basement artist is

just about to be introduced to the world at large — numbering

in the millions — through his song "The World Ain’t Slowin’

Down." The song, from his "Translucent Soul" album, is

featured on the sound track of the Farrelly brothers’ latest comedy,

"Me, Myself, and Irene." The Farrellys’ two previous hits

— "Dumb and Dumber" and "There’s Something About

Mary" — rank among the top grossing movies of the entire

decade.

The film stars Jim Carrey as a Rhode Island state trooper who is

suffering from schizophrenia but assigned the job of transporting a

felon named Irene, played by Rene Zellweger, back to New York State.

Described by critics as "gross," "insensitive," and

"as politically incorrect as they come," the National Alliance

of Mental Illness has lodged a protest against "Me, Myself and

Irene" for misrepresenting mental illness in general and

schizophrenia in particular. Several mental health groups have called

for boycotting the movie.

Speaking by cell phone last week from outside Fenway Park, where he

was about to sing the national anthem, Ellis Paul was undeterred by

such alarmism. Two days earlier he had been in Providence, Rhode

Island — home of directors Peter and Bobby Farrelly and also the

setting for their movie — for the film’s gala premiere. There he

played his song at the post-screening party. Next day he did it again

at a Boston sneak preview. You could say he’s having the time of his

professional life.

"I was talking to my sister about that red Honda just last

night," he says. "Electra is releasing the song as a single

next week. Anything could happen. I told my sister that by the end of

the summer I might be giving my nephew my car."

Paul is known for his musical character sketches —

often fixing on incidental moments to illustrate big ideas. "The

World Ain’t Slowin’ Down" opens with one of his visual miniatures

— "I found you sitting on a suitcase crying" — and

tells about meeting and parting from a woman who "hit me like

a south-bound train." Producers and record company hope the

chorus, which includes the words "You gotta get gone / You gotta

get going / Hey, the world ain’t slowin’ down for no one" —

will be in the minds of millions when they exit the theaters.

"I knew from the Farrelly brothers’ other movies that it could

be offensive, but movies are like the playground, they’re not the

school. If you’re going to be offended, don’t go," says Paul.

The Carrey comedy hinges on the state trooper’s journey when he

forgets his medication. Suddenly two opposing "personalities"

surface and battle for the love of their beautiful prisoner. "It’s

not just schizophrenics," says Paul, energetically, "blacks,

women, midgets, people from Rhode Island — everybody gets

attacked. It’s a parody, and the characters are parodies. Like the

three blacks in the movie, they all have genius IQs but they also use

the word `motherfucker’ three times in every sentence. There’s plenty

of animals that could be offended, too. But if you can laugh at

foolishness, you’re going to love it."

Paul’s manager, Ralph Jaccodine, had been sending Paul’s music to

Peter Farrelly, a friend of his, for years. "When you’re a

director you get all sorts of people telling you about their favorite

actor or their favorite song. But when Ralph sent him `Translucent

Soul’ and he came to `The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down’ something clicked

and he decided it would be perfect for this movie," Paul explains.

He got the call last November.

Paul, 35, was raised in the small town of Presque Isle in northern

Maine. One of five brothers and sisters in a family that earned its

living from potato farming, Paul attended Boston College on a track

scholarship until a sports injury led him from the track to writing

music. In 1987 he graduated to the Boston club and coffeehouse scene.

He soon won "Most Promising Newcomer" at a competition

at the Nameless Coffeehouse in Harvard Square, and earned his first

record contract in 1992, "Say Something" on Black Wolf. Then

came "Stories" in 1994, followed by "A Carnival of

Voices" in 1996, and "Translucent Soul," all from Philo

Records.

Paul released his fifth album, "Ellis Paul Live," just this

March. And fans of Paul’s live shows will relish the album that

features the honest and eloquent songwriter and his guitar

unencumbered by the pop-rock trimmings of his studio recordings.

Recorded on tour in 1998 and ’99, the performance matches ringing

guitar chords with a clear tenor voice tinged with edge-of-falsetto

moments. "The World Ain’t Slowin’ Down" song appears again on

"Live," far more spare — just voice and guitar.

The "Live" album songs were mainly performed before a capacity

hometown crowd at the Somerville Theater, near Boston, with other

songs culled from appearances at the Burlington Coffeehouse in

Vermont. It includes seven new compositions, as well as some

"live-in-the-studio" cuts. Patty Griffin, Vance Gilbert, and

Chris Trapper of the Push Stars all guest on the album. Yet in the

album’s notes, there’s a sense of finality to Paul’s comments.

"This album marks a crossroads in my career," he writes,

"a chance to assemble the acoustic versions of some of my favorite

songs and, in doing so, giving them a resting place so I can move on

to whatever comes next."

"Whatever comes next," he announces now with obvious relish,

"could be anything."

In addition to the new acoustic version of "The World Ain’t

Slowin’ Down," Paul has recorded an electric version with full

rock band that will go out to radio stations this week. Between the

three recorded choices, there’s one for every kind of radio station.

Is Paul concerned that his association with a crude blockbuster comedy

which, by his own admission, includes having a chicken stuffed into

an inappropriate human orifice, might tarnish his formerly

squeaky-clean reputation?

"I’m certainly not as wild as the Farrelly brothers, but I’m not

afraid to have fun either," he protests. "I’m the sweet spot

in the movie, they rely on me for all the tender moments." The

song is used four times in the film, during each of its

"tender" moments.

For those and other movie moments, Jim Carrey was paid somewhere in

the order of $20 million. Does this mean big money for Ellis Paul?

"I don’t know what I’m going to make, but I’m sure it’s going

to be more than anything I’ve made this far — it’ll have at least

one comma in it," he says.

As his whirlwind week progresses, Paul marvels at the confluence

of career-altering events. "Mine could be the biggest song of the

summer, or it could fall on its face, and I could still be doing the

same great shows at all the same great places." These places

include the Fallsington Friends Meeting House this week and the

Hightstown Outta Sights and Sounds series, on Saturday, September 16

(609-258-5764).

"You won’t see me in a Cadillac," says Paul. Or will we?

— Nicole Plett

Ellis Paul, Trenton City Kids Camp Fund, Friends

Meetinghouse, Fallsington, Pennsylvania, 609-497-9175. A benefit to

help send a city youth to summer camp; with guest artist Patti Shea.

$20. Friday, June 30, 8 p.m.


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