Artist Spotlight: Paul Salomon

A well-known face at Lawrence, Paul Salomon has had a not-so-delicate hand in the campus music scene. His abrasive sentimentality and clever songwriting recently earned him a spot opening for Ben Kweller during his show at LU. Here’s some insight into Lawrence’s favorite piano man.Where are you from and what is your major?
In west Philadelphia, born and raised. On the playground was where I spent most of my days . Actually I’m from St. Louis. I am a mathemagic major, with a minor in physics.

How long have you been playing and/or writing music?
I took a couple years of unfruitful piano lessons when I was in elementary school, but I quit. I started picking out Ben Folds tunes on my old piano at home around sixth grade and it sort of went from there. I figured out how chords were built from the back of this piano book my mom had, and I wrote my first song in eighth grade. My first good one was in 10th grade.

How would you describe the music you write?
I guess right away I’d call it pop music. That’s what it’s called technically, I suppose. I’ve heard the term “intelligent pop” used, but that’s basically just pompous. As far as actual description, we usually call it “piano and string wuss rock,” which is actually pretty accurate. Though I mostly worry about writing the song first. The strings and all that come later.

What musicians or performers have been particularly inspirational to you?
Obviously Ben Folds had a huge role to play in my musical education, but before that my parents played The Beatles around the house all the time, so my musical instincts and pop sensibility all stem from that. Really I couldn’t have asked for better musical models.
After that my biggest inspiration is the one true Jon Brion. He basically does everything and knows everything about everything, but mostly music. I basically love everything he touches, but the scary part was looking at his rsum and finding out how much he played a role in so many albums by artists I already loved, like Rufus Wainwright, Fiona Apple and Elliot Smith. He was the inspiration for the SoundBoard, and he has all the right and best ideas about pop music. He’s simply unbeatable.

What do you hope to accomplish with your music?
I usually try to just make a song that I like. I used to try to impress or please people, like girlfriends, by writing about them or us, but I have to start writing about other things, because I’m not really getting anywhere – musically, I mean. I already got the girl.
I really focus on trying to make something harmonically new, which is basically impossible, but I used to get something that was new to me, and then I felt like I was growing. Jon Brion talks a lot about putting the life force in music, and I want to do that too. I always want to make something that people can relate to or enjoy, but mostly I just want to sit at a piano and walk away thinking that was decent.

When’s the next Denes show?
Patrick Ehlers’ recital is May 24 in the coffeehouse, and we are going to do a bunch of Denes songs that he wrote. We are hoping to do some kind of show in Cloak Theatre before the year is out, but who knows. Outside of that, just check out the SoundBoard. I’ll play every once in a while.

Do you have any future plans, either near or distant, with regard to music?
I am moving back to St. Louis, where I will probably play with Denes again – the cellist after whom the band is named – but I will definitely be back around here. The band is going to be recording an album over the next year at Rock Garden Studios, so I’ll be up here for that. I’m sure we’ll end up playing some kind of show at the Underground. If I’m lucky, maybe Skyler will let me host another SoundBoard. I love that shit.