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
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
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
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
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.
Top Paul Tait Videos for 2015
Click here to watch Paul's top viewed videos for 2015!