Paul Thorn Biography

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Paul Thorn photo by Charles Funk


Inveterate storyteller Paul Thorn credits his gift of gab to being the son of a Pentecostal preacher. "You get to know how to get along with almost everybody. You just have to sit down and start getting to know one another."

Paul has a lot about himself to tell. One would expect to hear great stories from a guy who boxed Roberto "Hands of Stone" Duran on national television, made chairs for a living, skydives for fun, had his first singing gig at age three, and who happens to be one of the South's finest songwriters. Paul Thorn doesn't disappoint.

Paul started down his music path when he was not long out of diapers. "As a child, I sang in churches. My first paying gig was at a revival with my father when everybody came around and put money in my tambourine. After the service, there was a little girl, also about three years old, who I had a crush on. I stuffed the money I got all down in my pockets. After the service we sat around the back of the church and I bought her a Coke with the money I'd earned. That was my first paying gig, and I guess my first date."

Paul continued gathering first-hand musical experiences, taking particular notice of the black gospel music he heard at close quarters. "The area I come from is very rich in music tradition," he says of Tupelo, Mississippi, the birthplace he shares with Elvis Presley. But, before he was in his teens, a new passion overtook music...for a while. With the help of Uncle Merle, himself a professional fighter, Thorn was taught the art of fisticuffs "I was just a kid, 10 or 12 years old, I bugged my uncle to teach me how to box. We started out in the backyard, then they had a local boxing tournament and I talked him into letting me enter. I fought and won by a knockout. I was 14 or 15 at that time, and after that, it started to snowball. I won some amateur regional fights, turned professional, and became a fairly decent fighter. The highlight of my career was in 1987 when I fought Roberto Duran in Atlantic City that was televised nationally in 1988. I didn't win the fight, but then again, few that entered the ring with Duran did."

Like most, Paul paid his dues over the next 12 years. Working in a furniture factory by day, he played out his musical passions by night. While performing at a Tupelo pizza joint, he was discovered by the legendary manager Miles Copeland. Thorn recorded his first album, Hammer & Nail, in 1997 for A&M, then recorded Ain't Love Strange for Copeland's boutique Ark 21 label three years later. "When I got my first record deal, I was literally plucked from a chair factory and flown to Los Angeles. Everyone told me how great I was and how famous I would soon be. You learn pretty quick that everything everyone says isn't always the whole truth. There can be darkness behind those big, bright lights."

Paul drew an opening slot for Sting and has subsequently toured with other heavy-hitters including Mark Knopfler, Jeff Beck, John Hiatt, Richard Thompson, Robert Cray, Marianne Faithfull, and John Prine. He's toured the United States, Canada and the UK performing in such noted venues as The Royal Albert Hall in the U.K., The Greek Theater and Universal Amphitheater in Los Angeles and Toronto's Massey Hall. Everywhere he performs, he draws an immediate, enthusiastic response and a lineup of fans a mile long wanting to meet him and to get a piece of Paul's gutsy music for themselves.

By 2002, Paul landed with Back Porch Records and released Mission Temple Fireworks Stand, a quirky collection of Southern-fried roots rock. "The title came straight from my childhood. Growing up a Pentecostal preacher's son, I went to a lot of tent revivals. In Mississippi, they use the same kind of tent to sell fireworks. It's all about big business religion vs. the real thing."

Paul writes and performs songs taken from life — good times, bad times, and everything in between. His songs are often constructed on the universal themes of love, loss, and yearning. But far from ever sounding commonplace, Paul is able to weave in a slightly loopy Southern sense of the unexpected that draws you in and never lets go.

The tunes on his latest recording, Are You With Me? are no different. Paul's gift for narrative is stronger than ever on these twelve songs about love (both lost and found). Sure, you'll hear his signature witty lyrics and brilliant irony, but Paul can — and does — tug at your heartstrings every now and again. On "Love Will Find You," Thorn muses, "It is so hard to let go when love has gone wrong. I know because I had to do it. I hope I never have to do it again."

"I Can Get Over Her" was inspired by a long-ago love of Paul's. "I never thought I would get over her. The other day, I saw her in Walmart and I ducked down behind a laundry detergent display to keep from having to talk to her. Now I don't miss her at all." Paul also gives a glimpse of love's more serious side on "I Don't Wanna Know" and the album's title track. "It's easy to be excited by your mate when you're dating. For marriage to last, you must be friends first and lovers second. Will she still love you when you get old and have to put your false teeth in a glass every night?"

Musically, Paul takes his rootsy style of gospel infused rock to a more refined place. Trading in the rough-around-the-edges style of Mission Temple Fireworks Stand for a slicked-back, more R&B flavor that's topped with the sweet, sweet sound of chicks and horns.

Son of a Church of God minister, professional boxer, factory worker, skydiver, songwriter supreme — Paul Thorn has done it all. But, with Are You With Me? he'd like to let us know that despite his past (or more likely because of it) he's more a lover than a fighter. Spread the love.

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