An Interview with Paul Brown

By Ross Boissoneau

If someone does two things well, they’re a double threat. Three makes a triple threat. So Paul Brown must be at least a sextuple threat: composer, arranger, producer, engineer, guitarist, collaborator. Oops, make that septuple: the guy’s a singer too, you know.

Paul Brown

Paul Brown

Reached by phone at his home studio, Brown talked about his most recent release, Soul Searchin’, pairing him with fellow guitarist Larry Carlton, as well as his upcoming solo disc, and how he handled the pandemic lockdown. “It’s been incredibly busy for me,” he said of the lattermost. “I have a recording studio at home and did a lot of mixing.

“If it wasn’t for COVID, the album with Larry wouldn’t have come to be. Of course, we couldn’t do any live performances.”

The Grammy-winning duo (four wins among 19 nominations for Carlton, one for Brown) put their talents together for a sizzling disc. “I’d produced him 20 years ago for Warner Brothers (the album Deep Into It; he also produced tracks for Carlton’s Finger Prints back in the 90s), which did really well at radio for Larry. His stuff is critically acclaimed, but he didn’t get a lot of radio play.”

Larry and Paul

Larry and Paul

Fast forward two decades, and with no opportunities to perform, the two got back in contact. Brown wrote the bulk of the material, sketched out melodies including his guitar parts, and shipped the results to Carlton over the web. “It’s different writing for two guitars than one. I left large spaces for him. He loved it – he played guitar in reaction.”

Brown said working that way with Carlton made him appreciate the latter’s gifts even more. “He could hang with anybody, but he’s not about chops. He’s tasty, he has restraint. That’s where I’m at too.”

Paul Brown and Larry Carlton

Soul Searchin’

It’s not the first time he’s worked with another guitarist. He worked with former Starship guitarist Craig Chaquico on some of his acoustic smooth jazz tunes, and with acoustic guitarist Marc Antoine, among others. He said the sessions with Antoine, with whom he released Foreign Exchange in 2009, were different from the work with Carlton, as Antoine played nylon string. “I was worried about two electric guitars,” he said of Soul Searchin’. He needn’t have worried, as their sounds and playing approaches are different enough to be complementary.

Since then, he’s been working on his latest album. “I just finished up a new recording of my own. It will come out on Shanachie,” he said, which he hopes will provide exposure nationally and internationally.

He worked with Shane Theriot, musical director for Hall and Oates and a member of the band on Hall’s Daryl’s House program. “He’s been living in my guest house for a year and a half. He wrote 50 percent of the new CD. His musical direction is a little more pop and gritty. I sing a couple songs on it.”

Brown keeps busy in his studio, but when he’s not there, he loves to get out on the golf course. “I’m an avid golfer. It’s really hard as you get older,” he said. His partner is Kenny Gradney, the longtime bassist of Little Feat. “He’s one of my best friends.”

Ross Boissoneau is a regular contributor to Something Else! Reviews, Northern Express and Local Spins. He’s written for the All Music Guide, Jazziz and Progression Magazines, and is a member of the Downbeat Critics Poll.

Ross Boissoneau

Ross Boissoneau

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