'Angels in Science Fiction' is the new album from St. Paul and The Broken Bones
DEBBIE ELLIOTT, HOST:
Paul Janeway is the front man for the Alabama-based band St. Paul and The Broken Bones. He always dreamed of becoming a preacher, but instead became a soulful singer-songwriter. But he doesn't do love songs, so it was quite a departure when he wrote this one.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LONELY LOVE SONG")
ST PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES: (Singing) Death ain't what scares me. It's missing all that love that you give me. I spend most of my life proving to the world I'm worth your time.
ELLIOTT: "Lonely Love Song" is on the band's new album. He wrote the music when he found out he was about to become a father during the pandemic. It was his first love song.
PAUL JANEWAY: It's taken a while, you know? I didn't grow up with the most loving and caring and - it was a pretty toxic environment, as far as my family life went. And when something bad would happen between my mom and dad, my mom would play piano. And that was how I grew up from my relationship with music. So my idea of writing a love song was always - it just didn't seem natural because my connection of it was always retreat, letting go of your demons in a way. So it was hard for me to write happy stuff just because of my relationship with music. And so that's why getting to write "Lonely Love Song" felt special.
ELLIOTT: Let's listen a little bit to the title song, "Angels In Science Fiction."
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ANGELS IN SCIENCE FICTION")
ST PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES: (Singing) I don't know if God is real, but then I see him in your eyes. I don't think I hear his voice, but then I hear your little cry.
ELLIOTT: You wrote this for your daughter, Marigold. She's now 3 years old. What do you want her to understand about your own relationship with God?
JANEWAY: Oh, that's a heavy one. I don't really know. I think I want her to obviously find peace. You know, when I was young, I was brought up in church and just kind of - just instilled with - into me. And then as I grew older and, you know, disagreed with a lot of the things church believed, I grew a lot of venom. It's just funny. I think about this all the time, how different she's going to grow up than me because I haven't been particularly religious. And - but you go through those things. You have those things where you're like, OK, am I going to bring her - am I going to start going to church and take her? Or, you know, you want her to be instilled with morals. But I think ultimately, if it is something that brings her peace, then I hope she finds whatever that is for her.
ELLIOTT: The song "Sea Star" resonates for me on this album. I live on the Alabama Gulf Coast. So let's listen a little bit to this.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEA STAR")
ST PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES: (Singing) I am a starfish washed upon the shore, stuck in the sun's bloom, just waiting to die. You are the strong tide pulling me back into sea. Now I can't wait to live again.
ELLIOTT: You're the strong tide pulling me back into sea. Now I can't wait to live again. It sounds like you found new meaning now in being a father. Has that been surprising to you?
JANEWAY: No. You know, I think any time those kinds of things happen, everything has a little more weight to it. And that - in particular, that line comes from a story that a preacher told one time where there's a bunch of starfish on the shore. And a guy was throwing one at a time, and there's thousands of them. The guy walks up to him, goes, why are you doing that? Like, you're not going to get all these starfish off the shore. And he picks one up and throws it and says, well, I made a difference for that one. Picked another one up and said, I made a difference for that one. Sometimes our problems in the world seem so - like, you can't fix it. You can't do anything. And you just got to help the people that are by you and near you and make a difference - try to make a difference for one person at a time.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "SEA STAR")
ST PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES: (Singing) I am a starfish washed upon the shore, stuck in the sun's bloom, just waiting to die.
JANEWAY: For me, I am a starfish in that situation, and she is the one who has kind of brought a new life, a new meaning.
ELLIOTT: Thrown you back in the water.
JANEWAY: Yeah. Yeah.
(SOUNDBITE OF ST. PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES SONG, "SEA STAR")
ELLIOTT: So I want to ask you about recording in Memphis. You're a soul singer. You are in Memphis. What was that like? Did that influence the sound of the record?
JANEWAY: I think so. We recorded in Sam Phillips Studios in Memphis. We are pretty sure that a ghost opened a door during the session.
JANEWAY: A door slammed that should not have been slamming. That place is haunted, I'm telling y'all.
ELLIOTT: But with good people.
JANEWAY: Yeah (laughter). Yeah. It's a bit spooky in a way, like - and so you kind of feel like there's some sort of presence there. And you're kind of going through that, and maybe it reveals something within you. And I think for me, because it was during 2020, we also kept the bodies limited in the room. And so I think what helped with that is that it gave it that sparseness. It felt very intimate because there's one song - the opening song "Chelsea" on the record is actually our drummer, Kevin, on piano. And me and him had to look at each other for the timing. There was a moment in that song where we - you know, you take kind of your last breath of the song, and we both have tears running down our eyes looking at each other, kind of like, wow, that's - you just - it was very intimate.
(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "CHELSEA")
ST PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES: (Singing) Stars were just dead planets till you gave them life, gave them life. I hope you get your mother's eyes.
JANEWAY: And you had a few moments like that throughout the record because it was just you and someone else, which is a really interesting experience.
ELLIOTT: Paul Janeway is the lead singer of the band St. Paul and The Broken Bones. Their new record is called "Angels In Science Fiction." Thanks so much.
JANEWAY: Thank you for having me.
(SOUNDBITE OF ST. PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES SONG, "OPORTO-MADRID BLVD") Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.