PensEyeView Interview with the Chris Paterno Band

We were a little surprised when soul alternative band leader Chris Paterno told us it was tough sledding starting off his musical career, unable to find many open doors on his local Philadelphia scene. We think it may have tied to the fact that the Chris Paterno band is huge! With traditional 3-piece band members (Connor McElwee, Mark Hightower, Doug Parsons), a horn section (Greg Wilson, Mike Clark, Frank Rein), even a mandolin player (Adam Monaco), The Chris Paterno Band eventually found daylight (right after some of these venues got a recorded sample of what this band brings to the table), now regulars at some of the best spots in the city of brotherly love.

We had a chance to speak with Chris about that aforementioned recorded sample – a self-titled EP that arrives soon, complete with already released single, “Pressure”. He told us, “‘Pressure’ was the hardest tune to write on our upcoming EP, but it’s become my favorite, for sure. Doug opens the track with a funky-drummer-like pattern and the horns come in with that James Brown soul. Over top of that, Connor and I laid down some chill-wave guitar to add this tension between the backbeat and the chord progression. The song is about stress and anxiety – putting the pressure on yourself to succeed. The opening lines are ‘I’ve got a shelf full of participation trophies/A closet worn by somebody else, textbooks that are getting lonely/Will I ever be enough?’ Those are very personal lines for me. I put a ton of pressure on myself to achieve my goals, so choosing the exact words to say for this tune was really hard. We wanted it to come out just right and I think we made that happen.” Click to http://chrispaternomusic.com to prepare for the new EP – these soulful sounds with a backbeat that will get your feet moving is a must-hear. But first – do keep reading. There’s still so much to learn in all the answers to the XXQs below.

XXQs: The Chris Paterno Band   

PensEyeView.com (PEV): How would you describe your sound and what do you feel makes you stand out from others in your genre?

Chris Paterno (CP): Our sound is an alternative-soul; think John Mayer and Stevie Wonder form a band. I love the horns in our group and the way we take pieces from so many genres to make a sound that is truly our own.

PEV: Calling Philly home, what kind of music were you all into growing up? Do you remember your first concert?

CP: I think we are influenced greatly by the city of Philadelphia. I personally grew up listing to classic rock and Mo-Town/Philly Soul – Patti Labelle, The O’Jays and more. My mom really brought soul music into my life and its always been my passion. As for the other guys, they listen to everything from Car Seat Headrest to Miles Davis to Tom Petty to Sam Smith. The conglomerate of our musical backgrounds makes this unique mess of beauty. My first concert was Jon Bon Jovi – classic act, classic show.

PEV: What was it like trying to break into the music scene in your hometown when you first started out as a band? What was your first show like together as a band?

CP: Philadelphia has a vibrant music scene so there’s never a short supply of artists trying to land a gig. Once we cut our debut EP with 9-time Grammy-winning producer Joe Nicolo, we sent it out to some local venues and they were stoked to have us. Now that we are in the scene, we’ve really be lucky to get support from great venues like MilkBoy, Bourbon and Branch and World Cafe Live. Before breaking into the scene, we heard mostly radio silence from venues, but now it’s all good! Our first show was a crazy gig actually. We were asked to play the Philadelphia Freedoms Bloc Party in front of about 2,000 people. We had a great time! We actually played their event this year as well.

PEV: What can fans expect from a live The Chris Paterno Band show?

CP: You can expect a lot of energy, some crazy horn solos, and some awkward dance moves from your boy here. We take the craft of songwriting very seriously, so getting on stage is the time to release and just laugh and have fun. We’ve been called “danceable” by a few media outlets and that’s a huge compliment. We want people to come out and dance with us.

PEV: What is the first thing that comes to mind when you step on stage?

CP: “Shit, I hope I remember the words…” (laughing). Mostly, I think about how crazy my life is that I’m up on stage looking out at friends and family that love and support me and strangers that are coming out cause they heard about us from somewhere or saw us last time. When I’m on stage, I’m happy and loving life. Beforehand, I can get nervous depending on the show, but mostly I’m thinking about having fun.

PEV: How has playing in The Chris Paterno Band been different from working with other artists or projects in the past?

CP: The CPB began as a rotating group of supporting musicians, but now its turned into a group of friends that work together to create some sweet tunes (in my personal opinion). I would say I’m a more focused and accurate songwriter now than in years past and the guys around me really know how to make these tunes come to life.

PEV: What is the underlying inspiration for your music? Where do you get your best ideas for songs?

CP: My inspiration comes directly from my life. I use my music as my journal, so when you listen to one of our songs, you are listening to all of me right there in front of you. My best ideas usually come when I’m upset unfortunately (laughing). That’s where my emotions come from that drive my songwriting. As the process continues and the immediate emotion fades, I begin to craft the tune away from just emotion and into something that is relatable yet still holds on to that initial passion.

PEV: Thinking back to when you first started out, do you ever look back on your career and think about your earlier days and how you’ve arrived where you are today?

CP: Yes – especially this summer. The Chris Paterno Band is now playing venues where I used to and still do go to see acts that I like. It’s absolutely crazy to think about and I’m just trying to soak it all in.

PEV: What’s one thing we’d be surprised to hear about the members of The Chris Paterno Band?

CP: We are a super diverse group and a lot of people really enjoy the fact that our drummer, Doug Parsons, was my 9th-grade English teacher. Doug was actually the first person I contacted about being in my group. He’s a beast on the kit and a great guy. Funny how life works.

PEV: What can fans expect from your new song, “Pressure” from your upcoming self-titled EP?  Tell us about the writing process behind this work.

CP: “Pressure” was the hardest tune to write on our upcoming EP, but it’s become my favorite, for sure. Doug opens the track with a funky-drummer-like pattern and the horns come in with that James Brown soul. Over top of that, Connor and I laid down some chill-wave guitar to add this tension between the backbeat and the chord progression. The song is about stress and anxiety – putting the pressure on yourself to succeed. The opening lines are “I’ve got a shelf full of participation trophies/A closet worn by somebody else, textbooks that are getting lonely/Will I ever be enough?” Those are very personal lines for me. I put a ton of pressure on myself to achieve my goals, so choosing the exact words to say for this tune was really hard. We wanted it to come out just right and I think we made that happen.

PEV: What is the feeling you get after a song or album is complete and you can sit back and listen to it in full? 

CP: It feels really good. I’m not embarrassed to say that I put my own music, at times, on repeat, because I feel it so much. I’m proud of our work and how our stuff comes out so it’s fun to listen to and remember the whole process.

PEV: What would you say is the biggest challenge for musicians trying to make a name for themselves these days?

CP: I’d say getting attention outside a few degrees of separation from your friends and family. People don’t want to buy in until you’re the next big thing, so you have to prove it to them by wowing live or writing some great stuff. We’re still making our way through the whole thing.

PEV: With all your traveling, is there one area you wish you could travel around and play that you have not yet?

CP: I would love to get down to Nashville and/or Memphis and play some tunes. Just a hot bed of great music and music history. That would be amazing.

PEV: How have all your friends and family reacted to your career? What’s it like when you get to play in your hometown?

CP: At first, my parents and family were nervous because I turned down my acceptance to medical school to pursue my music career. But now that they see how much I love it and that we are picking up steam, everyone is really supportive, caring and loving. My parents have never missed a show. My friends come when they can. Playing hometown shows just make you feel good inside because you know that people care about you and that’s an awesome feeling.

PEV: What can we find each of you doing in your spare time, aside from playing/writing music?

CP: Like I said, I was supposed to go to medical school, so in my spare time I work at the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. It’s a great place of hope, healing and joy. Doug, Mark, Frank, and Mike all teach, the latter three being music teachers and Doug, an English teacher. Connor is a creative writer and Greg plays in a few other groups.

PEV: Name one present and past artist or group that would be your dream collaboration. Why?

CP: Right off the bat, Stevie Wonder. No question about it. I’d love to work with Ed Sheeran or Pharell to see what they have to say about our style. But Stevie would be more than enough.

PEV: Is there an up and coming band or artist you think we should all be looking out for now?

CP: I’m a big fan of the Humble from Yonkers, PA and Brothers & Sisters from Philadelphia. Check em’ out!

PEV: If playing music wasn’t your life (or life’s goal), what do you think each of you would be doing for a career?

CP: I can’t speak for the rest of the band, but music will always be a part of my life. If this whole music thing doesn’t work out, I plan on taking my seat at Jefferson Medical School and becoming a pediatrician.

PEV: So, what is next for The Chris Paterno Band?

CP: We’re finishing out our summer shows and then planning on getting in the studio to cut a live EP this fall/winter. Be on the lookout for more singles from our debut self-titled EP throughout the rest of the summer! Thanks so much for having us! We appreciate the love and support!

For more information, click to http://chrispaternomusic.com/.