Preface:  This was published in October of 2008.  Many things have changed since then, but this is still a pretty good overview of Paul

The 2008 Metronome Magazine Interview

by Brian M. Owens

 

Employing state-of-the-art technologies with a catalog of music

that spans more than two decades, singer-songwriter-pianist Paul Tait

is enjoying a resurgence in his musical career. For most of the

eighties and nineties, Tait did music and nothing but music. Around the

turn of the century, Tait abandoned his musical ambitions and turned to

working in the information technology industry where he has remained

ever since. But music has always been Tait’s passion and in the past

few years, he revisited his music archives and re-released all his

songs on several CD collections. That, coupled to his knowledge of the

internet, has led Tait on a road of being rediscovered, so to speak. I

talked with Paul at length one rainy August afternoon and he

enlightened me on his continuing musical journey...

 

METRONOME: How long have you been playing and singing? What made you

choose the piano when you were a kid?

 

      I had always wanted to do something even as early as six years

old. I have pictures of me with a guitar at six and even younger. I

have a picture of me at three with a toy piano. I’m sitting in the

living room banging away at it.

 

METRONOME: Why the piano? Was your mom a piano teacher?

 

      My mom was a piano player. She had played all her life. My father,

whom I didn’t know this sadly until after he passed on, was an

accomplished musician himself. He could play anything by ear. If he

heard it once he could play it. Either on the harmonica or piano, he

just had that gift. He really did not want me to pursue a life in show

business, so he didn’t tell me much about that part of his life.

      I got music genetically from both sides. Initially I landed with

the drums. I wanted to be Ringo. This was pre-1970. I got a drum kit

around age eight or so. They put me in school in the remedial music

class. A guy would come once a week to the grammar school and I was the

only drummer in a room full of trumpet players (laughs). The guy was so

negative about me that he turned me off. That was it. It took me until

I was sixteen, after I had been teaching myself to play and writing

songs left and right, to take another lesson. I didn’t really know what

I was doing. I was writing this music and didn‘t know chords that well.

Friends and family said to me, “You really ought to figure out what

you’re doing.” Even then I said, I’m not taking lessons from somebody

who’s going to tell me how wrong I am. I said to my mother, If you can

find someone who will take me as I am, and come in and tell me what I

want to know, and let me give him or her the book I want to learn from,

then yes. She found this remarkable person.

 

METRONOME: Did you study with him for a long time?

 

      For a year. This classically trained gentleman came over, and as a

way of auditioning for him he said, “Play me something.” I played

“Funeral For A Friend” by Elton John. I stopped and he said, “What do

you want to know?” I said, I don’t really know what I’m doing. I don’t

know scales or how to read charts. I want to know enough so I can walk

in that world too. He said, “Cool.” I also said, I know there’s a

million books out there but I’d like to learn from this one, Elton

John’s “Goodbye Yellowbrick Road.” He did a little double take but he

sat down and read “Funeral For A Friend” and played it unbelievably. We

worked for a year using that as the lesson book. He would show me

things that obviously weren’t in the book and I would have to write it

down for notes and fingering techniques.

      My fingering never recovered. I never was able to get my left hand

to do a heck of a lot in comparison to a real studied musician. My left

hand is still bang-bang-bang (laughs). It keeps the rhythm while my

right hand does the lead part.

      It’s funny, my real influence was Black Sabbath. I was eleven

years old and I would hang out at my neighbors house. It was 1971 and

they had all this new music of the time: Zeppelin IV, Mountain and

Masters of Reality by Sabbath. It was Sabbath’s tune “Children of The

Grave” that just hit me. I just started banging my left hand to that

song. I did that forever with my left hand and really haven’t

progressed since (laughs). I have Tony Iommi’s left hand for my piano

left hand!

 

METRONOME: Did you ever attend a music college?

 

      No because at the time, so much was coming through me. I was

acting on stage, I was making home movies and I happened to be banging

on the piano and writing songs with lyrics that morphed in to tons and

tons of poems. I was doing all these things. The only one I was doing

in public was acting. It probably played a little bit in the reason why

I didn’t really succeed. I don’t think I would have succeeded as a

musician had  I gone to Berklee. I was too far gone. There was nothing

anyone could have done about my technique. I was never going to be a

pianist in the typical classical sense though I can play something that

sounds classical.

 

      I was acting and getting a lot of attention ... I was very

fortunate to have Father Frank Toste as a theater coach. He was a

Catholic priest who was licensed to teach in public schools. He was a

theater veteran. He’s been on Broadway. He’s even been in some movies.

In fact during the seventies he was the technical advisor for the show

Mash and the character Father Mulcahey. If they ever had a script

issue, where they wanted to know, what would a real priest do, they

called him. We would be backstage in his office and the phone would

ring and it would be Alan Alda. We thought he was kidding. He was and

still is an amazing man. He’s retired now and lives up in New

Hampshire. I was very fortunate to have him as a theater coach. He

really elevated the Peabody High theater department to be more than

that. He came up with a name for us, Stage One. That made it feel more

like a real repertory company than just a high school group doing

“Oklahoma.” He did a lot of shows that ordinary high school groups

wouldn’t go near. We did one called “Homecoming” by Harold Pinter. That

was one where I won a Boston Drama Award for my portrayal of a

character named Sam. He was the brother of the main character Max.

 

      He taught me how to be a professional. As an actor being a

professional, I carried that in to being a musician which didn’t make

many of the musicians I played with very happy. I was always very

strict and dedicated and what I call professional. I did end up going

to acting school. I went to the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in

New York. People said to me, “Why didn’t you go to Berklee?” But I knew

I would still be that drummer in a room full of trumpet players.

Teaching myself for so many years, I just didn’t think I would fit in.

If there had to be a fork in the road, that was it. Looking back, I

probably should have gone to Emerson College and learned television

producing and directing. Looking at all the movies I did back then, I

really had a knack for the flow and putting film together.

 

METRONOME: Tell me about the time you spent in New York?

 

      I hadn’t landed in New York a day when I was looking for a piano

that I could play or rent a room where I could play one. In New York

nothing is free. I used to rent a room off Times Square which was a

real disaster. It was the height of Disco. It was a rundown, seedy 42nd

Street and I was renting this room right off of a strip club (laughs).

Within a couple of months of being in New York, I got a headlining gig

as a singer-pianist at a club called The Park Place Cafe. Then I would

play open mic nights and showcases around New York, some you might

recognize... The Bitter End and Chili Etc.

 

      So I went to school and finished my course. I went there expecting

to study movement and experience theater but they were deeply method,

almost to the point of being ridiculous. You didn’t just act the part,

you lived it! I thought they were insane, but then I realized I had to

play ball with these guys or I wouldn’t graduate. By my second year I

ultimately succumbed and became an academy actor. I wasn’t really in to

it though. I was still playing out and doing the clubs and one of my

teachers came to see me perform one night and said, “You are more you

up there than you ever are in any play I’ve seen you do. That is where

you belong.”

 

METRONOME: Was that a turning point?

 

      That was a turning point but I still wasn’t prepared to leave New

York. I was going no where. I had no means to put together a group. I

had no way of playing anywhere unless there was a piano and that was a

real handicap. If I had been a guitarist it would have been different.

I could have been just another one of the guys under the arch in

Washington Square. That was the height of the street performer. I saw

so many acts every weekend night playing in Washington Square. Right

after I came back to Boston, I heard they cracked down on that and you

had to get a license to perform there.

 

METRONOME: Did you see anyone there that went on to become famous?

 

      No. No. Nobody that went on to be famous. It was all up and coming

people. There was one comedian who I know went on to do some movies in

the eighties who had a real unique voice.

 

      There was this guy that looked like Howard Hughes. He was skinny

and he looked like he just fell off a shipwreck. Under the arch on

Friday nights he would bring out a real piano. I don’t know how he got

it there. It had gold velvet on the keys and he would sit and play this

otherworldly, original instrumental music. Good, but out there. One

night I got up the courage to ask him if I could play his piano during

one of his breaks. He said, “Would you let me sleep with your wife?” I

said, No. He said, “Then I can’t let you play my piano.” He was married

to his instrument.

 

      It took another good friend of mine Abby to say to me around the

end of August, 1980, “What are you doing here?” She put it just like

that and I knew exactly what she meant. She listed all the things I

already knew but didn’t want to admit. I didn’t want to admit defeat. I

felt like coming back to Boston would be a defeat. I didn’t think

Boston was a bad town. I didn’t think it was a dead scene for music. If

anything it’s the opposite. New York is not a music town. It’s a

theater town. Music in New York is the business end. You’ve got ASCAP,

BMI, and headquarters for major labels. But you don’t hob knob with

those people until you’ve got your shit together. When you’re ready

that’s when you go.

 

      Abby was right. I was treading water. I was becoming a New Yorker.

So I swallowed a big piece of pride and came home.

 

METRONOME: You got very busy with your music after returning home?

 

      I got a portable Wurlitzer and started playing and got my name out

there. I took a page from David Lee Roth’s book of how-to-make-it. He

said do whatever you can to get your name out there. Play anywhere so

you have a reason to put your name on a poster. Eventually people will

remember your name. So I did. I use to play as a street musician in

downtown Salem. I played everywhere. I rented the old Town Hall in

Salem and did an indoor show which sold out. In 1982, I got asked to

join a band called Phase IV. That was the band I recorded “I Can’t See

You In My Dreams,” and “Pop Musician” with. Those are the first two

tracks on my CD, PT20. I found myself in this group and started to have

fun. I saw the potential for integrating the original music that I

wrote with this band. We broke up before any of that came to fruition

though. Then I asked the guys if they would back me up in the studio to

record. They said yes and Mike Beaulieu, Tim Foley, Bill Supino and I

went in to Baker Street Studios and recorded. We ended up getting

airplay on WAAF, WMWM and WBOS.

 

      That inspired me to go back in to the studio to do a follow-up, so

we got together again in 1983. Around that same time I met Ed Daley. I

met him at Popcorn. It was a record store across from the Liberty Tree

Mall on the Northshore. John Riley was the manager there and he and

Daley were in the band Observatory together. They were managed by Fred

Lewis who was managing The Cars at the same time. Observatory was

inches from being signed to Epic when internal combustion destroyed the

band. But John and Ed remained friends. So John told Ed, “You’ve got to

hear this guy.” Ed listened to the record and said, “Tait. I wonder if

that’s Hilda’s son?” He knew my mother. He went up to her and said, “Is

your son Paul Tait?” She said, “Yes.” He said, “I heard his record and

think he’s great!” Ed and I have been friends ever since.

 

      We got together under the moniker Desperate Men and went in to

Newbury Sound. It put me on hold again. I think that’s something that

always hurt my music career. I’d be working to get established then I

would disappear. But we played all through 1984 as a duo- guitar and

piano. The next time I put out a single wasn’t until “Song To The Moon”

in 1989. All that time passed. A lot of it was working with Ed. He was

an amazing songwriter. When he first came over to my house he looked

like John Entwistle from The Who.

 

      Technology was changing at that time and it was becoming available

to record your own records. Ed said, “Why are we paying big money to

rent a studio? Why don’t we use that same money to build our own?” That

was the beginning of what might have been our difference. Ed wanted to

have a really good studio and I really  wanted to play.

 

      Then one Sunday I got this call asking, “Do you want to play this

gig at The Roxy on Wednesday night?” It was an MCA recording artist,

Joan Kennedy, from Canada that wanted to make her debut in the New

England area. I said, Sure. That was my last real hope for making it. I

ended up being in her New England area band. Kenny Lewis [Mixed

Emotions Studio] was drumming for her. The Almost Cowboys was the name

of her band. Kenny was the one who called me that Sunday. Rhet Aiken was

going to play that night with her too.

 

      We played the night at The Roxy and it was great. After Rhet Aiken

did his solo set he came out and played with us and stole our

guitarist. He took him away with him to Nashville. He wound up being in

his national touring band opening up for Reba McIntyre. Talk about

being discovered.

 

I ended up leaving that band after three months and

found myself after seventeen years, back at ground zero. Then out of

the blue, by the grace of God, I got an offer to work in the

information technology industry. I knew nothing about it, but they

hired to train and that got me on the path I’m on now.

 

METRONOME: How many albums have you put out over the years?

 

      Right now, out on iTunes there are seven. They come from various

different sources and time frames. Alot of my early work was singles-

two songs here and there and four song EPs. I recently made CD

collections out of all of those songs.

 

METRONOME: You have incorporated your knowledge of computers and the

internet with the distribution of your music. How has that helped you

get your music out to the world?

 

       First off, I had an idea for my web site for a long time. I am

not that savvy so I have to give a lot of credit to Mike Beaulieu from

Phase IV. He is now owner of Connect Web Technologies. He got in to the

computer web hosting business and building sites. I said, Let’s build

me a site. Just like a project in IT, I mapped out the architecture of

what I would like and made a real wish list. I threw everything I

wanted in. Lo and behold, Mike did everything I asked. So for one of

the first times in my career, something I planned actually looks the

way I planned it. He did a wonderful job.

 

      We wondered what we would do for retail. Then Ed Daley, who lives

in Nashville now, emailed me a link to an organization called

TuneCorp.com. It’s free to join, and you can upload your music to their

site. Then depending on how much you want to spend, you can click off

what internet sites you want your music sold on. They have all the

iTune sites around the world, so I checked all of them. That’s how I

got started. From there I went to Amazon MP3 and Shockhound. Now

they’ve made an affiliation with Napster. I recommend to people that if

you’re going to do TuneCorp.com that you read the FAQ. Make sure it’s

for you. You have to have your music in a certain format and at a

certain quality level to be accepted.

 

      I also have artist pages on OurStage.com and YouTube.com. For

OurStage you have to sign up to join and you can sign up as a fan or an

artist. There’s no fee to upload your videos and pictures. They have an

area called EPK- electronic press kit. You can put your bio there.

Total hits for my videos have been 3,259. To me, that’s terrific.

That’s 3,259 people I don’t know that looked at one of my clips. The

big one is “Television City.” That alone is responsible for 2,450

viewings. For whatever reason, that one struck a chord with everyone

who watched it.

 

      The top three songs on iTunes are “Song To The Moon,” “Nothing In

This World,” and “Roller Blade Girl.” Finally, I have an artist page on

Myspace.com. We have all this new stuff now. Technological advances and

ways to get artists’ music out there to the masses.

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