We recently talked with singer-songwriter Paul Vinson about the power of the internet, advice for budding musicians, and much more!
Think Before You Type: How would you describe your sound?
Paul Vinson: I think first and foremost I make pop music, but I would also say I use words like singer-songwriter, indie, soul, or blues.
TBYT: Who are your musical influences?
Paul: When I was younger, it was the Beatles, Stevie Ray Vaughan, and Jimi Hendrix. Now it’s guys like John Mayer, James Bay, and Hozier. Hippo Campus, The 1975, people like that. Also Ben Rector. I grew up making music in church, so I take a lot of inspiration from that because I was embedded in it for so long.
TBYT: How has the internet played a role in your career?
Paul: In Pensacola there are not many music connections, but I’ve found interesting ways to use the internet to spread my music and also to meet new people. Spotify has been huge. I can look at my stats right now, and I have over a thousand listeners in New York City, which is crazy. Then I have two thousand people spread throughout Canada that listen. And it’s like I’ve been to Canada once, but it had nothing to do with music. I’ve also used it to meet new friends. I’m moving to Nashville in May, which I’m very excited about. I made the drive once a month for the last 6 months of 2017, and I just went up to Nashville and hung out with people that were making music. And to do that and to meet those people, I used Instagram as a tool to find people that I thought were making music that I liked or that seemed like really cool dudes. We would all just go up, and I ended up meeting some incredible friends there because of that. Social media has been a huge tool for me.
TBYT: Did you make your own music in Nashville?
Paul: All the music was recorded here in Pensacola. We actually set up a DIY makeshift studio inside of a little, tiny church office, and I did it all in there. And then I sent it out to a friend in Nashville who mixed and mastered everything.
TBYT: What is the most inspiring thing you have seen happen or heard about on the internet?
Paul: To speak personally, I guess a way that I have found it to be inspirational for me, and more so encouraging, is when I did a tour right after I graduated high school where I played shows in college dorms for free. To do the tour, we raised money through GoFundMe, so via the internet, we raised $2,000 to travel the country to colleges I’d never been to and that I only had one friend at. And then using the internet and that friend, we pulled in 30-40 people, packing people tight into college dorms, to play shows. That to me clearly could not have been done without the internet, which shows how capable and how encouraging the internet can be. Where there is, of course, a very harsh side of it, a lot of good can be done. I think the YouTube community is another really cool one. Guys like Casey Neistat, that was a huge inspiration for me early on.
TBYT: If you had the chance to speak to someone who has been cyberbullied, what would you say to encourage them?
Paul: One thing you have to remember [is], even now (obviously I’m not a giant artist), but you get negative comments on videos. And it’s always like you take them with so much weight. It’s so strange. It’s like I don’t know who’s saying these things, and I don’t know anything about them. So for me, one thing to always realize is first and foremost that those are not even words. I think a lot of true words hold value, but in that state it’s just kinda dismal and so frustrating. I would say one, take a step back. I think when you first find yourself being affected by words being said on social media, it’s important to not distance yourself completely but to take a step back and remember that you are greater than all of the negative things that people like to spew on you.
TBYT: What advice do you have for young people who want to get into music but don’t really know where to begin?
Paul: The first thing to know is that if you are looking to get into music for fun or to do it as a hobby, I think it’s an incredible thing. Just pick up an instrument that interests you and run with it. It’s going to be hard. Sometimes you’re going to want to quit. That goes with anything. Devote yourself to it. It doesn’t really take much. 30 minutes a day on an instrument and you will progress incredibly. Get a teacher, go once a week, and learn the theory. Learn the language of music. And treat music like a language because that’s really what it is. I think another thing too is that I always want to encourage parents, when they can, to teach their kids at a younger age. Give younger kids an opportunity to be around that because you can develop it much better when you’re younger. But that doesn’t stop anyone from doing it when they’re older.
On the other side of that, if you want to pursue it as a career, it becomes a little tougher. I always encourage it, but when you pursue something as a career, especially something that is a craft like that, you have to be a little honest with yourself and know where you stand. Chris Stapleton was writing songs for almost 20 years before he blew up, and now he’s one of the biggest artists on the scene. So if you’re going to be in the music business, I would say persist. Be persistent, but also be honest with yourself. Sometimes there comes a time where it just makes sense and you need to draw the line and you need to move on. And that’s okay. Don’t let failure eat you up. Grow from it instead.
TBYT: Music means something different to everyone. What does it mean to you?
Paul: I grew up in a musical family, so it really has become like a language of mine. I never thought I was very emotional or addicted to music in any way until I went on a vacation without my guitar and without my headphones. Music to me is honestly like air. There is not much time that I am not streaming music during my day, in my car, in the shower. So what it means to me is hard to completely explain, but I would say that it is very therapeutic and such a way for me to communicate with myself, which I find really interesting. But it’s also such a great tool for communicating in general. One of the most powerful things about being a musician is getting off stage and going to talk to someone and them telling me about my song and how it has affected them in this way or done that for them. Or how they see it a totally different way than I do, but at the same time it means so much to them. It’s crazy how that works. That to me is the true value. The way that somehow underneath the fine details there is that underlying story that us as humans need, and music is such a great way to express that.
TBYT: You mentioned earlier that you play guitar. Are you a self-taught musician?
Paul: Sort of. As far as singing goes, I’ve never had a singing lesson in my life. I just sang every week on stage at church for 8-9 years, so doing that for a while really adds up. I started playing guitar in the 5th grade, and I had a teacher for a while. Then come early high school, I stopped with my teacher, and I wish I wouldn’t have now. So now I am self-taught, but I wouldn’t completely call it self-taught.
TBYT: How did you decide that you wanted to pursue a career in music?
Paul: So this is actually one of my favorite stories to tell because I never thought I would. I was in high school, and I was looking into going to college. I’m very laid back, and I never really stress often about anything. But that idea of “what am I doing with the rest of my life?” started really freaking me out. I was doing YouTube covers for fun, and I got invited to Grammy Camp in Nashville. It turned out to be really cool. All of my coaches were Grammy award winning producers and artists. It was unreal. It was just so inspiring for them to talk about the music business, which is a whole side of things that I never even thought about. And to realize that it was so real and tangible…I mean all the things I had dreamed in my head and wanted became something very realistic.
At that point, I decided that I could do this. And then my senior year, when I was looking at colleges to go to, I was going to go to Belmont in Nashville, which is one of the biggest music schools in the country, but it was so expensive. I just didn’t want to go $200,000 in debt for four years of school for a degree that doesn’t matter in that career path. So I kinda thought and prayed about it for a long time, and it just became clear to me that college was a bad idea. Communicating that to my family was very difficult, but they’re very on board now. My senior year, after I embraced it, it was tons of fun to just be the guy that was openly not going to college to pursue music. It was that decision, and that really also sprung from watching so much Casey Neistat at the time. He was always talking about doing what you love, and I was like “this is what I love, and I don’t want a job in the future that I’m going to hate.” You have these talents. You have these things that you are given to enhance the world, so give yourself the chance. I’m truly a believer that when you have decisions, the choices you make either bring the world closer to order or bring the world closer to chaos. If you can stay on the side of order, you are pulling your weight, and it is very fulfilling and peaceful as well.
TBYT: What do you have coming up for the rest of the year?
Paul: Very exciting things. I’ve been working on this idea for a while now, and we’re finally doing it as my final show in Pensacola. It’s called Sounds for the City. It was an idea that I had and pitched to one of our local philanthropists that I worked for. He’s an incredible guy. We are closing down a street in our downtown area. There are going to be food trucks, vendors, a kid zone, and then a giant stage. The three biggest local bands from Pensacola, my band, my friend, Ben Loftin’s, band, and a band called I’MAGENE. We’re having this huge music festival on April 20th, and it’s all a fundraiser. It all goes back into the city and funds these things called “Brain Bags,” which we hand out at our local hospital. They basically encourage early childhood learning to help develop children as the grow before school. Also, I’m technically working on an album, but that’s more in the writing phase still. It’s very early on.