"Some describe the music as acoustic hip-hop and others simply as pop," says new Gotee artist Paul Wright. "Personally, I call it new generation singer-songwriter."
Paul Wright's debut LP, Fly Away, redefines the singer-songwriter image by demonstrating how creative and revolutionary one can be with this classical musical form. The Oregon native pens gifted narratives, poetic analogies, and fun simple stories in a style empowered by hip-hop and alternative rock touches. Forgive the sin of comparison, but imagine Jack Johnson or John Mayer distilling such influences as A Tribe Called Quest, Sublime, and De La Soul. Wright's music is nothing less than a compelling fusion of progressive pop, energized rock, and the pure essence of early hip-hop expression.
"I'm a singer-songwriter who writes pop songs on the acoustic guitar, but I'm also heavily influenced by so many other styles," says Wright, who co-produced the album with Christopher Stevens. "I listen to hip-hop, reggae, alternative rock, old school jazz, and the rest, and it's all absorbed into my music."
For Wright, the influences blend together so effortlessly that the songs seem as natural as they are uniquely innovative. For example, the song "Brighter" delivers pronounced acoustic melodies over a mix of funk, folk, and urban beats all highlighted by a gospel-style post-chorus bridge. Fly Away also taps into sun 'n' fun energy with the quirky lyrics and surf-centered style of "South Beach" and "Flip-Flops", while lead single "Your Love Never Changes" (a title inspired by the Brennan Manning book Ragamuffin Gospel) builds and blends tempos anchored together by an explosive chorus.
For all the good time vibes the album emits, Wright also proves himself a deft lyricist who can add layers of meaning to songs steeped in ear candy. The title track, for example, uses a powerful analogy from Bob George's book Complete in Christ as a paradigm through which a real life dysfunctional relationship is viewed.
"After telling me about her relationship, I asked my friend what she was looking for," says Wright about the song's inspiration. "I sensed that her unhealthy relationship was influencing every aspect of her life. This reminded me of how our relationship with things that bring us down can make us question our identity and our purpose in life. Much like a caterpillar that becomes a butterfly we are a new creation in Christ. If a butterfly didn't know it had wings it'd still crawl like a caterpillar. And a Christian that doesn't know they can live by God's Spirit and the word will naturally live by the flesh. I often hear others questioning what God's will is for their life. I'm beginning to learn God's will is more about discovering who we really are. For when we see who we are we'll know what to do."
As a teaser for Fly Away, the well-read singer has released the Paul Wright EP, an eight-track enhanced disc linked directly to a secret website where fans can access documentary-style "webisodes" appropriately titled "Looking for Mr. Wright". Fans are also able to hear one new song off the full-length album every Tuesday starting September 16. Also prefacing the LP, the multitalented artist will tackle the roll of Special Agent Hunter in the rock opera production of The !Hero soundtrack, on which he performed six songs. The !Hero Tour also features dc Talk's Michael Tait, Audio Adrenaline's Mark Stuart, and Rebecca St. James, among others, hitting 19 major market cities in November.
Looking back, Wright attended Northwest Christian College on a scholarship as the basketball team's point guard leading them to two national championships. As part of a school program, the singer spent his last semester earning credits as the Contemporary Music Center on Martha's Vineyard, an experience about which he says, "I increased my chops both inside and outside the studio." After college, his band Frunt Row Joe recorded a 5-song enhanced EP that made its way to Gotee founder and dc Talk member Toby McKeehan (a.k.a. tobyMac). Sensing the untapped talent, McKeehan wanted to collaborate with the Oregon singer for his next record. This resulted in a top 20 CHR radio hit for McKeehan, whose song "Love Is In The House" was rewritten and remixed by Wright and Christopher Stevens for Toby Mac's recent Re:Mix Momentum release.
Unfortunately Wright's band decided to stop playing together after graduating college, leaving Wright on a solo mission. "One sun sets and another sun rises," Wright reflects. Meeting with his producer the two started recording a CD capturing the essence of Wright's creative fusion of songwriting ability. When McKeehan heard his solo stuff he jumped, offering him a record contract to his Nashville based record label Gotee Records.
Paul Wright is the artist I would have been if I'd done it my way," says McKeehan. "He makes the kind of art I indulge in daily."
Few artists head into their debut LP with as much energy and excitement as Paul Wright brings to Fly Away. This album offers something for everyone, from the young fan looking for commercial pop hooks to the jaded veteran longing for something fresh and original. Get ready everyone because this rising star is ready to take flight!