Paul Cauthen will release his highly anticipated debut solo album in the UK on November 4th via the Lightning Rod Records label. Paul Cauthen blends elements of gospel, folk, country, rock and soul and delivers them in a striking baritone. It may have taken three years for 'My Gospel' to come to fruition but the time has been very well spent. Please read on for an extensive in-depth look at Paul Cauthen and songs from 'My Gospel'.
Co-founder of the acclaimed duo Sons Of Fathers, Paul Cauthen will release his long overdue solo debut My Gospel in the UK on November 4th via Lightning Rod Records. Throughout the 11 tracks, Cauthen delivers with a striking baritone that exudes a unique mix of vulnerability with swagger. His performances can resemble a church revival at one moment followed by timeless Western swing into a gut wrenching confessional ballad. One thing My Gospel is not, is easily forgettable.
My Gospel represents an artistic epiphany for Cauthen who hit a figurative rock bottom following his departure from his former group. The next three years proved to be pivotal as Cauthen returned to his hometown of Tyler, Texas and discovered his true voice. He recorded the album at a few legendary American studios (FAME, Modern Electric Recorders) over the course of those years and the result is eclectic yet timeless collection of songs that blend key elements of gospel, folk, country, rock and soul and a whole lot of passion.
On “Still Drivin’” Cauthen pleads for a break as well as preaches survival. The song “Hanging Out On The Line” captures the juxtaposition of sensitivity mixed with confidence, which is one of Cauthen’s most endearing qualities. On the album’s stunning title track “My Gospel” with its other-worldly harmonies, he addresses the spiritual need to connect, love and ultimately find your path.
Growing up, Cauthen was first encouraged to sing by his grandfather, a songwriter/gospel song leader who worked with artists including Buddy Holly and Sonny Curtis. Along with his great taste in music, Cauthen’s grandfather introduced him to harmony singing through bi-weekly choir sessions at the Church Of Christ. As a teenager, Cauthen got into more trouble than most, spending time in jail, and later being kicked out of college. In 2011 he co-founded the rowdy Texicana band Sons Of Fathers which was well on the way to making a name for itself and praised by the US press including NPR and Rolling Stone.
My Gospel represents a renewed focus for Cauthen. His rich musical influences and perseverance combined with his life experiences have created an album which satisfies artistically as well as serving a higher purpose.
PAUL CAUTHEN My Gospel biography
Paul Cauthen remembers sitting alone in an Austin house after a weekend-long bender. A life making music seemed to be slipping away. Wide awake with nothing to lose, he threw down a divine gauntlet. Cauthen recalls “I said, ‘Use me. Just put me out there, let’s go. I dare you.’” Whether it was by heavenly intervention or sheer force of will, Cauthen emerged with My Gospel (Lightning Rod Records), his mesmerizing full-length solo debut.
Produced by Beau Bedford, the record is both an artistic and personal triumph. My Gospel captures a young artist in possession of a raw virtuosity, whose singing takes listeners on a white-knuckle ride and who writes like a hard-luck Transcendentalist poet who abandoned the East Coast for the desert
“I don’t know what else I’m supposed to do in life,” Cauthen says. “So I just kept on working. Even when I didn’t hardly have money to eat, my songs allowed me to get into the studios. I wrote my way into this thing.” The album is called My Gospel, but make no mistake: These are songs about Earthly struggles to love, connect, and just get by.
Americana music fans will remember Cauthen’s name from Sons of Fathers, the raucous Texicana group he co-founded in 2011 with bassist David Beck. The band earned glowing praise from Rolling Stone, NPR, and others, thanks to two albums that climbed into the Top 10 of the Americana Music Chart. “We had just played a show with Edward Sharpe and the Magnetic Zeroes, playing for 7,000 people,” Cauthen says. “And I quit. I just knew it wasn’t where I was supposed to be anymore.”
That was three years ago––and the impetus for ending up in that apartment in Austin. Cauthen has since learned to channel his racing mind and rumbling baritone into the blues, gospel, and rock and-roll that fuel My Gospel with gale-force power.
Over the course of three years, Cauthen recorded the album in several different studios across the country: Willie Nelson’s Arlyn Studios in Austin; FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals; Sargent Recorders in Los Angeles; Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas. The result is a quintessentially American album unlike anything in recent memory. “We were going for timeless. We were going for righteous. Those were the two words that we focused on while we were recording,” Cauthen says. “That’s it.”
Cauthen has been the strongest, loudest singer in the room for as long as he can remember. He grew up in Tyler, Texas, where his grandfather––a songwriter and gospel song leader originally from Lubbock who worked with artists including Buddy Holly and Sonny Curtis–– taught Cauthen and his two sisters to sing harmony. “He threw us all in the bathtub because it sounded really good in there,” Cauthen says with a laugh. Sundays and Wednesday evenings were spent at the Church of Christ, singing a cappella in the choir. “My granddad was all about music. He’d always ask people, ‘Can you sing? What songs do you know?’”
When his grandfather died, Cauthen was 10 years old and heartbroken. He abandoned the guitar he’d taught him to play. “It made me too sad,” he says simply. But his grandmother pushed him to pick it up again, and she handed over his grandfather’s ’58 Gibson acoustic along with Willie Nelson’s Red Headed Stranger as she told him, “Learn every bit of Willie’s licks. Then you’ll be a guitar player.” She also put plenty of Elvis, Roy Orbison, Waylon Jennings, the Everly Brothers, and more in his hands.
As a teenager, Cauthen got into more trouble than most. He got caught with weed and did a little time in jail, then got kicked out of college. “You have to get kicked out of something in order to be a true songwriter, whether it’s kicked out of school, or kicked out of your house, or kicked out of a marriage, or kicked into jail,” Cauthen says, only half-joking. “I got all those on my résumé.”
He started working in oil and natural gas to make ends meet, surveying land and enjoying being outside. But all the while, he never stopped singing. Cauthen delivers the songs on My Gospel with the tortured showmanship of Jerry Lee Lewis and seductive ease of Elvis.
The album kicks off with “Still Drivin’,” which calls up the swampy finger-picking of Jerry Reed as it proclaims survival. “It’s my don’t-give-up anthem,” Cauthen says. “Keep on truckin’.” As he thunders, “Still drivin’ / when’s this break gonna come?” the word “break” points to both a career breakthrough and the universal need for rest. “I love to leave the plots of songs open-ended,” he says, enjoying the different possibilities for interpretation the track allows.
Cauthen co-wrote all of the songs on the album with his motley crew of “favorite songwriting buddies” save two, “I’ll Be the One” and “Grand Central,” which he wrote alone. As Cauthen begs for a chance in “I’ll Be the One,” he swivels between brash self-assurance and humble beseeching, crooning, “Oh, I could be your kind of guy / whatever that is, cold, sweet, shy.” It’s a signature Cauthen vocal performance: playful but also masterful. “Grand Central” uses crying steel to capture the loneliness of rock bottom. Written in about seven minutes not long after he left Sons of Fathers, the song offers a moving portrait of a man who’s running out of options but remains proud as he mulls over self-inflicted wounds, confessing, “The only one that’s hurting is me.”
“You’re as Young as You’ll Ever Be” has assumed deep personal significance for Cauthen. He wrote the song with his dear friend Victor Holk just four months before Holk died after suffering third-degree burns in a house fire. Holk, who was a sound engineer for Sons of Fathers and Cheatham Street Warehouse in San Marcos, came to Cauthen with the line that became the song’s title and heart. The two had never written together before. “It’s a haunting song for me. I don’t…” Cauthen trails off, then adds, “It’s hard to play. It’s a song I’m blessed with because Victor was a selfless human being that was all for music and the arts.” The track is one of several on the album that urges listeners to seize the day.
Smouldering, piano-laced “Let It Burn” lingers in regrets and memories as it elevates the seemingly mundane. “I’m just really trying to put somebody into a place where they can take it all in and totally comprehend what happens around them,” he says. “These little moments that we have with somebody that were super beautiful that we take for granted.” The sauntering “My Saddle” utilizes guitar, horns, percussive shakers, lush background harmonies, wolf howls, and Cauthen’s vocal prowess to conjure up imagery fit for a John Ford film––and sweep his target off her feet.
The American West is one of the ever-present undercurrents on My Gospel: “Marfa Lights” compares a romance to the famous, sporadic heavenly light show in West Texas. “It’s a mysterious, cosmic love song,” Cauthen says. “Hanging Out On the Line” is enriched by gospel harmonies courtesy of Muscle Shoals veterans who contributed to landmark Aretha Franklin and Etta James albums. The same gorgeous harmonies flood the title track, which also serves as the album’s show-stopping closer. Cauthen launches into “My Gospel” starkly alone before being joined by the other wordly chorus. Started with Owen Temple and finished in Muscle Shoals with Bedford and guitar player, Nik Lee, the song is a tender acknowledgement of weariness and an invitation to rest in truth, sung with empathy and love. “You have to give up everything, forfeit yourself to the situation, and hope to God that your talents are good enough,” Cauthen says of the recording process. “That’s how great records are made.”
Ultimately, Cauthen is on a mission: to make music he can be proud of that also serves a higher purpose. “On this album, I wanted to push a message that tells people that life’s short. Love the ones you’re with. Just take any opportunity to run with it––don’t think twice.”