FROM Woolomin to Nashville, it’s been a long and winding journey for singer-songwriter Paul Bonner Jones, who has clocked up 30 years as a professional musician.
To celebrate the milestone, Paul is holding a one-night-only, acoustic house concert, to be recorded at Enrec Studios, Tamworth, on Tuesday, October 16.
Enrec Studios engineer/producer Steve Newton, who has worked on a number of projects with Paul in the past three years, is looking orward to the gig.
“I’m pretty impressed by his material and his delivery – but also by his energy,” Steve said.
From humble beginnings as an apprentice coach painter, Paul has reached the dizzying heights of demo songwriting in Nashville for famous demo recording house Beaird Music Group.
“They’re the premium demo-recording place, so if you’re a songwriter (it’s great experience),” Paul said.
He’s won a few international song competitions with his songs and, in recent years, has focused his energies on songwriting, recording demos in Nashville with Beaird Music Group.
He’s been going to Nashville for the city’s songwriters’ festival since 2007 and has seen his demo-writing involvement with Beaird Music Group grow substantially in the past few years.
“I would go over once a year for about six to seven weeks (each time),” he said.
Each time he goes over he stays with the Wilburns, who own Beaird Music Group and discovered legendary country singer Loretta Lynn.
Paul said brothers Teddy and Doyle Wilburn had a television show in the 1960s.
“It was the forerunner of country music shows back in the 1960s,” Paul said.
The first time an unsuspecting Paul wandered past the Beaird Music Group building on Nashville’s “music row”, he spoke to one of the brothers, who said it would be OK if he went inside and took photos; their mother took him on a tour of the rooms.
“There were gold records on the walls – everyone was there and I was just amazed,” Paul said.
A regular at the Nashville Songwriters’ Festival for the past five years, Paul is the all-round help and puts his coach-painting experience to good use, volunteering with sound, stage building, painting banners and being a stagehand.
“The Wilburns just tell me to get over there and, once I’m there, they look after me,” Paul said.
During his second trip he met Loretta Lynn at her ranch, Hurricane Mills, introduced to Paul by the Wilburns.
“It was a humbling experience,” he said.
Paul’s musical career stretches back a long way.
He was support act for legendary comedian, the late Phyllis Diller, at Twin Towns in 1993.
Paul swapped his paintbrush for a microphone in October 1982 with the Charged Up duo, alongside guitarist Glenn Steed.
“Our first gig was at Regents Park Hotel,” he said.
“No one knew how to use the sound equipment that first time. It was an absolute disaster so I took it home that weekend and had a crash course in sound.”
They performed in Sydney, along with seasonal gigs at the Snowys, Jindabyne and Smiggins, in the mid-1980s.
In 1995 Paul was a top-10 finalist in Starmaker, which was won by Tanya Self.
“In those days there were 20 entrants, shortlisted to 10 in the evening,” he said.
He recorded his first EP in 1995 with producer Dave Hyatt at Bushtracks in Nimbin with Lawrie Minson (harmonica, dobro, slide guitar) John McKinnon (bass), Paul Robertson (fiddle) and Wez Mahony (harmonies).
In 2000 he recorded with Jeff McCormack at Central Coast studio – Back Home (1997) and Stand Together (1999) – with Duncan Toombs (lead), Camille Te Nahu (backing vocals) and Michel Rose (pedal steel).
Paul and his partner, Patricia Cruzado, split their time between Woolomin (where they’ve had a small holding for the past five years) and Tweed Heads.
“We actually live most of our time up on the Tweed,” he said.
He’s heavily involved in the Tamworth Songwriters’ Association and will be a lecturer for the 2013 Tamworth Country Music Festival.
Paul will use his high-end Sony recorder as an instructional tool for his lectures – he has used it to record sessions at Nashville.
Patricia writes a lot of songs with him; in fact, often he says she starts something and he’ll come in and finish it off.
Paul’s sound is contemporary country.
He says he doesn’t generally do a lot of gigs at the Tamworth Country Music Festival.
“I just don’t think I’m good at chasing them,” he said with a laugh.
But one concert he aims to do each festival is an Australia Day concert, either at the Woolomin Hall or at the Woolomin campgrounds (depending on the weather). To watch Paul perform at his 30th-anniversary house concert at Enrec Studios (5 Egret Place, Calala) from 6.30pm, call 0402 768 517 or call Enrec on 6762 8072.
The first 10 people to book in will receive a free CD.