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s e p t e m b e r 2 0 1 6 A L I V E E A S T B A Y 25 didn't push myself and give Nashville a chance," Paul recalls with a heavy heart. Before leaving for Nashville, Paul played a lot of small clubs and cafes around the South Bay. "Playing those blood buckets was tough. More than a few were barely keeping the doors open trying to capitalize on the popularity of country music," says Paul, "What made it bearable was playing with a lot of really good people and talented musicians." A highlight during those early times was when he was cast as Hank Williams in the San Jose Stage Company's production of Lost Highway. Paul's connection to the music of Hank Williams would live on for the next 25 years. Originally signed as a songwriter by a Los Angeles based publishing house in 1993, Paul was flown to Nashville to perform a collection of original songs at the legendary Bluebird Cafe. While in Nashville, he was recording demos and performing new material with session vocalist Steve McClintock, a slightly older music veteran.The pair was quickly offered a record deal, as the duo, Jefferson McClintock. Paul had fewer reservations about dropping his given last name, Jaqua, than he did becoming part of a duo, so he passed on the offer. Oddly, Paul has certain regrets about both of those decisions to this day. Paul Jefferson signed a management contract with legendary music manager Miles Copeland (no relation) who had managed The Police, REM, The Go-Go's and The English Beat. "Miles was new to Nashville and looking for country artists. He also signed a young Keith Urban," Paul recalls. Shortly thereafter, Paul released his first CD with Almo Records and his first single, Check Please, hit number 40 on the country music charts. Sadly, Paul was going through some personal and professional struggles just as his video for Check Please made its debut on CMT (Country Music Television), which didn't allow him to truly enjoy a lot of his early success. He parted ways with both his management team and Almo, and eventually went on to record and self-release his follow-up album; Greatest Hits Volume Ill which he says is a record he is extremely proud of due to the strength of the songs. This trying period did open the door to writing sessions with Sonny Lemaire of the band, Exile, and with John Scott Sherrill (Paul's all-time favorite songwriter) and Porter Howell of the band, Little Texas. His work with Porter eventually led to the foundation of their group, Hilljack. Paul likes to say he and Porter just clicked when it came to writing and performing. Hilljack released an independent record, but had a major league management and booking team. This allowed the band to tour the U.S. and Europe opening for some of country music's biggest names including; Dwight Yokum, John Berry and Wynonna Judd. Unfortunately, after little more than a year, and just as the band’s popularity and success was starting to take off, Little Texas reunited and Porter left Hilljack to rejoin his original band. Try as he might to replace his good friend, the chemistry was never the same with other guitarists and the band eventually broke up. Paul met the immensely talented and very successful Canadian country artist, Lisa Brokup, in 2008. She and Paul were married 24 months later and the couple has a daughter, Ivy, who just turned seven. When asked if Ivy can sing, Paul gave the response, "She's very loud, but she prefers to dance." Lisa and Paul regularly write together and perform regionally and around Nashville as a duo, The Jeffersons. Their debut album, The Jefferson's Vol. 1, was released in June of 2011 by Royalty Records to very strong reviews. Today, Lisa is enjoying success performing in a critically acclaimed Patsy Cline tribute and the couple takes turns touring so that one of them is always home with their daughter. Throughout the course of our interview, I juggled the role of journalist with friend and fan. When I asked Paul how he felt about the success of the ABC series Nashville, he indicated that it's brought a lot of new fans to country music and packs the venues around town, but he admitted that it feels the storylines hit just a little too close to home."I feel, in a way, like the show is imitating my life." When I asked if he has a favorite song that he's written or one that he's most proud of, “You're not my God," was his immediate response.The song was written with and recorded by Keith Urban. Paul candidly revealed that the song is about addiction. "Keith and I are both in recovery and it's a song about conquering your demons. It's inspired a lot of people, and that's something that really means a lot to me." Knowing that Paul has played the Grand Ole Opry twice (solo and with Hilljack), I asked him if that was the pinnacle of his career. While he acknowledged that playing there was a wonderful experience, he recalled a tour opening for Trisha Yearwood in Europe. “Playing the Civic Center Opera House in Birmingham, England was the greatest performing experience of my life. It was a magnificent theater with absolutely perfect sound," Paul recalls. I also inquired about the cross-over "pop" appeal of such country artists as Taylor Swift, Florida Georgia Line, Lady Antebellum and The Zack Brown Band. Paul never expressed any animosity or jealousy, but he did say the music market goes through cycles."A lot of the new songs are catchy and they appeal to theyounger buyers, but it's gotten away from the music I came here to make. Music goes through cycles and it will eventually come back to pure country." When it comes to the pure country sound, it doesn't get any more pure than the music of Hank Williams. Over the years, Paul has often talked about how much he loved performing as Hank in the Lost Highway production in the early 90s. It's with this in mind, along with his wife Lisa's success with the Patsy Cline project, that Paul has begun working on a Hank tribute. "This isn't a play where I have to portray Hank in his 20s, it's just me doing Hank songs and a few of my own that were inspired by Hank." The Hank project has already received a lot of advance buzz, and Paul hopes to launch a tour early next year. Until then, he is always in demand to collaborate with his peers and for a guy with Bay Area roots that's pretty flattering and impressive. For tickets to Paul's upcoming show at the Village Theater in Danville on September 29th, visit discoveryctr.net/eventsandnews/fallfundraiser.html


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