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Published in U.S. 1 Newspaper on June 28, 2000. All rights reserved.
Ellis Paul: Speedin’ Up
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
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
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
"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
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
"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
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
"You won’t see me in a Cadillac," says Paul. Or will we?
— Nicole Plett
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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