Soulful sounds coming to State College
When you listen to St. Paul and the Broken Bones, you’ll swear Al Green or Otis Redding is in there singing. While lead singer Paul Janeway said he was influenced by those soulful greats, he can’t help what comes out.
“I know my voice doesn’t match my body,” he said. “I fully understand that, but I can’t help the way I sound.”
He knows listeners are surprised to discover that eight white guys comprise the Birmingham, Alabama-based band that is playing The State Theatre in State College at 8 p.m. Tuesday.
“St. Paul and the Broken Bones will be a fun concert,” said Karen Gregg, new executive director at The State Theatre. “Listen to their music and you will want to see this band live. (It) is exploding in popularity. Most people in this area will not have an opportunity to see them at a venue our size for some time.”
A few weeks ago, St. Paul and the Broken Bones was playing the San Francisco area — a few shows with Trombone Shorty — when Janeway spoke with the Mirror by telephone. Gettysburg has been the closest he has been to this area, and he’s looking forward to the show and promoting the band’s second and latest album, “Sea of Noise.”
The first, “Half the City,” came in 2013, and led to such success that the band opened for the Rolling Stones for two concerts in 2015.
“That was pretty cool,” Janeway said. “That was one of those lifetime experiences.”
The band’s music, much of it written by Janeway and designed to emphasize his vocals, is full of social justice themes that go back to his youthful days spent in a charismatic church in a small town an hour south of Birmingham.
“I sang in church since I was four years old, but I never thought it would be something I’d do with my life,” he said. “I never thought I was good enough to do this. … I really wanted to be a preacher.”
His was a non-denominational, charismatic church with healing, shouting and the Holy Ghost, what he called “fun church.” But Janeway became disillusioned when his pastor disparaged Gandhi, and he fell out of love with church. The imagery, though, remains with him.
“It’s my past, and it’s still something that fascinates me,” he said. “A lot of small towns in the South, the church is the social epicenter, even if it’s not all about religion. That still fascinates me. … There’s some peace I find in that.”
Janeway never intended for his name to be synonymous with the band’s name. He’s hardly a saint, but because he never smoked or drank, St. Paul stuck at the band’s insistence.
The rest of the name comes from the first song band members wrote together, “Broken Bones and Pocket Change,” about a woman who broke his heart and left him with no money.
But Janeway is happily married today, and his wife is the director of the Honors Program at Samford University in Birmingham, where he is grounded.
After his fallout with the church, he started going to “open-mic” nights, and kept telling himself, “I gotta get the hell out of here.” But once success came with the band and his marriage, he decided that Birmingham gave him a comfortable familiarity. It’s only a 200-mile drive up Interstate 65 to Nashville, where the band recorded its sophomore album.
The band is working on its third album, and Janeway was quite mum on its details except to say it’ll be at least next year before it’s released.
“We’re going to do it a bit differently,” he said. “That’s all I can say.”
Janeway said he is interested in how the band’s fan base shifted slightly between the two albums already done, although it includes a wide range of demographics of age, ethnicity and socio-economic groups and is split 50-50 with genders.
“I will say that with this second record, the audience is a little younger, which I think is interesting,” Janeway said. “When people hear ‘social justice’ nowadays, older people get a little leary, I think.”
But with St. Paul’s rocking rhythms, some people don’t care about the lyrics at all, he said.
“One thing we get away with: Some people have no clue what the record is about, but they’ll dance to it and move with it,” Janeway said. “People get out of music what they want to get out of music.”
Mirror Staff Writer Cherie Hicks is at 949-7030.
If you go
What: St. Paul and The Broken Bones
When: 8 p.m., Tuesday, Sept. 19
Where: The State Theatre, State College
Admission: Tickets start at $40 plus fees
Tickets/more info: www.TheStateTheatre.org, 814-272-0606.