“I started playing piano when I was ten but it wasn’t until I was 14 that I really fell in love with music. I was at a Creation East, a major music festival in PA. As I stood in the crowd of around 70K fans and looked up as the bands played, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life.” -Paul

Listen now:

AVA LIVE RADIO on BlogTalkRadio

Paul is an unsigned independent artist based out of Lynchburg, Virginia. His music is a blend of catchy piano Pop, Alternative/Rock, a hint of Dance/Electronic all intertwined with hook laden melodies. Paul plays multiple instruments, specializing in guitar and piano. All his music is written, performed, produced, mixed, and engineered by him (drums are arranged/compiled by him). He began playing piano at age ten, guitar at age fifteen and has been writing/composing since then. Paul has been in multiple bands spanning many years. This is his first full length album as a solo artist.


Jacqueline Jax logo photoGETTING TO KNOW PAUL J CLARK

JACQUELINE JAX: How did you get your start in music?

PAUL J CLARK: I started playing piano when I was ten but it wasn’t until I was 14 that I really fell in love with music. I was at a Creation East, a major music festival in PA. As I stood in the crowd of around 70K fans and looked up as the bands played, I knew that’s what I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t know how or why, I just knew that’s what I wanted to pursue. Shortly after that, I began teaching myself guitar and got piano lessons again. And you know what the most amazing thing is, my pursuit of music in the years that followed would lead me back to that very festival. In my early twenties, I stood on the stage I once looked up at, not as a performer but as a Recruiter for Liberty University, a sponsor of the festival. I stood in front of 70K people and spoke about the university, helping to influence others to pursue higher education.

JACQUELINE: Tell me about your song, “Virtuoso.”

PAUL: Two years ago, I was sitting at my keyboard and playing just for fun. On my left knee sat my little girl with my arm cradled around her. One of the greatest loves of my life, she was around a year old at the time. My right hand rested on the keys.
I felt a strange mix of emotion as I began to reflect on where I was in my life. I thought back to decisions I’d deliberately made to choose a lifestyle conducive to raising a family over pursuing a career in music. I thought about the unspeakable joy I have in my marriage and the happiness my three kids bring to my life. I thought about my sweet little girl and how complete she makes me feel. And I thought about music… and how the dream has never left me. Passion for creating and performing music is a part of me and always will be. It was ultimately this sense of balancing responsibility and a love for music that set the tone for this song.
Then, with my daughter in my left hand and the keyboard under my right, I started to play. It was a simple melody played by only one hand. That’s all I could play because I was holding my daughter. That was the intro to the song. Then I started to sing, “You make the most of it when you got one hand tied behind your back. ‘Cause you’re so close to it, there’s no turning back.” This to me meant pursuing my dream even while balancing the responsibilities of life. And so came the intro to the song, its emotional theme, and verse one.
All at once a rush of thoughts and feelings overcame me. I reflected on my goals and talents as a musician, to be the best I can. I also thought about how I felt in my professional career and how little time I had to create music. Up until the past several years, I’d spent years performing and here I was in near solitude, with an audience of one. No matter what I did, I couldn’t escape the feeling that I was supposed to be doing something more, something with music. Verse two was born from that, “And though you try hard, the feeling doesn’t go away. Like something’s missing… love’s a protégée.”
Those same thoughts and feelings led me to the chorus and I started to sing, “Virtuoso, close but far away. Virtuoso, she pulls away…” “Virtuoso” to me represented my dream to play music full-time, to continue to be the best I possibly could. “She pulls away,” was about how I felt like life was going by and that dream was drifting out of reach.
Of note, I later changed the second phrase from “Virtuoso” to “Virtue, oh so.” I wish I could tell you of some deep meaning behind that change but the truth is, I thought it was cool that those two phrases sounded exactly alike. I thought it would be fun to put that into the song so that only people who had read the lyrics would be in on the secret. There is meaning to the word, “Virtue” and I now sing it as representative of chasing your purpose as a positive (virtuous) thing.
And that was it, I had the core of my song written.
The demo I recorded sat untouched for nearly two years. As I began work on my album, I picked it up again and wrote the bridge, “Don’t let her get away…” This was about not giving up on the dream no matter what obstacles are in the way. I finished the song early in 2014 and released it as part of my full length debut album.
I hope you find inspiration from my story. Do what you love as often as you can, follow your heart.
JACQUELINE: What’s the music scene like in your town?

PAUL: I live in Lynchburg VA, a college town. There’s Liberty University, the world’s largest Christian University. The music scene is small but there is unbelievably amazing talent at Liberty University. dcTalk, Meredith Andrews, and other major Christian acts have come out of Liberty. Unfortunately, there aren’t a lot of places to perform live though. A lot of musicians find a home in local churches.
I love to go camping. My brother and a buddy of mine try to go camping once a year during the coldest months to push ourselves beyond the limits of comfort. We call it “Man Camping.” J It helps me appreciate the comforts of home.

JACQUELINE: What do you like about social media and have you found any challenges that you’ve had to overcome?

PAUL: Social media is a wonderful outlet for things such as networking, sharing, and staying in touch.
For indie artists looking to gain exposure, I have mixed feelings about the right strategy for social media. I’ve done extensive advertising through Facebook and have found it to be challenging for multiple reasons. It’s a bit of a catch twenty-two. It is phenomenal in that you can really target advertising to the right audience. However, converting “Likes” and “Shares” and other forms of engagement using Facebook as a platform to music sales has been very difficult. Facebook also keeps adjusting their algorithm for engagement so once leads are acquired, you have to pay again to have your content put back in front of the vast majority of them. So in order to keep my audience engaged, it takes an enormous amount of new content. At some point, it becomes cost and time prohibitive.

JACQUELINE: Why do you think it’s so hard for indie artists to break into the mainstream big markets and gain a solid fan base?

PAUL: The painful truth is that mainstream success is not just about talent, image, drive, or motivation. It isn’t about emotional connection with an audience or a new creative sound. There are plenty of indie artists who have those qualities in spades. It’s also not about who you know in the industry. It’s not about the right single or marketing. It isn’t even about exposure. Don’t get me wrong, every one of those things is vital for mainstream success… but the real problem is that there are only a certain number of “job” openings. Walmart can only have a certain number of CD’s on their shelves. The iTunes landing page can only promote a handful of artists. The costs labels pour into artist development and exposure are enormous. Artists, both mainstream and indie, are competing with a thousand other things that strive for their time and attention. We live in a time like no other. For example, as I type this on my laptop, I’ve got the TV on, a smartphone to my right and a tablet to my left. The last thing I’m thinking about is an artist I’ve never heard of and have no emotional investment in.
The music market is saturated. Music consumption is changing and the current business model is becoming less and less profitable for major labels. Album sales are declining, online sales are declining. Streaming services are the current trend. But for artists, streaming is not very profitable. Consumers don’t want to pay for music, it is considered a commodity. Unfortunately, that means that indie artists who have the qualities and characteristics to succeed in the mainstream face enormous financial headwinds as they compete for a spot at the top.
But it isn’t all doom and gloom for indie artists. Actually, it’s the exact opposite. For the first time ever, we have platforms, such as ReverbNation, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, etc. to promote our music and reach new fans. The playing field has essentially been leveled with mainstream artists. Music production has also become much more accessible to indie artists. I recorded my albums on my own from my home studio at a very low cost of production.
So how do indie artists compete with those at the top? Or how do we just make a moderate living at it? Better yet, how do we break even on album production? I believe online exposure will continue to level the playing field. In the near future, music will not be as dominated by major acts as it has been in the past. More and more indie artists will achieve greater levels of success as the ability for consumers to discover new music continues to grow. Music will become less “cookie-cutter” and more niches will emerge in the field. It’s actually an unprecedented time for creativity and provides a platform for those with talent to achieve great success without the need for an enormous bankroll.

JACQUELINE: How do you want to be remembered for your music?

PAUL: My hope is that first and foremost my music helps draw people closer to the love of Jesus. I want to create an emotional connection with my audience, to do something unique and creative while remaining relevant. I strive to incorporate memorable melody in every aspect of my writing.

JACQUELINE: Do you find that there is to much emphasis on being current and trendy or Is there a balance that you have found helpful in your artistic decisions?

PAUL: That’s a deeply personal decision that every artist should think through prior to being put in a place to make a quick emotional reaction which they might later regret. For me, I would love to do music for a living even if it meant some level of conformity. In my current situation, I have a full time job and do music on the side. So to me, if I could make a living playing other peoples songs for example and could still do my music on the side, I would be fine with that.
But when it comes to my music, it is much more important to me that the music is true to my vision and that it is being listened to rather than generating money from it.
Would I love to write a hit single and make a living from it? Absolutely.
I absolutely think there is too much emphasis on being current and trendy. There is so much beautiful music that isn’t heard because it doesn’t meet certain criteria. I fundamentally believe that if potential fans could just hear something new and unique that connects on an emotional level, they will become fans. I think it’s all about exposure.

JACQUELINE: Are you religious? Do you believe in fate? Do you believe that if you think positively and imagine yourself being that person, living a certain way or enjoying something you’ve always wanted you can bring it to you?

PAUL: I believe the most important question one must reconcile in life is who is Jesus Christ. As the great author C.S. Lewis said of Jesus, there are only three possibilities. He is either a liar, a lunatic, or Lord, as He claimed. To resolve what one believes on this issue is the most significant journey in life.
I am a Christian and believe in a God of the greatest love imaginable. I believe that Jesus is who he said he was, the Savior, Son of God come to take away the sin of the world and reconcile us to God. I believe that, as the Bible says, we have all sinned and the result of that is both physical and spiritual death. I believe in the death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus who took our just punishment upon Himself so that we could know forgiveness of sin, through faith in Him, and have eternal life.
I believe that God has a special purpose and plan for everyone. That starts with repentance from sin and accepting Jesus as Lord (Master) and Savior. I believe that God has given us personal responsibility to make decisions which impact the outcome of our lives. In my experience, discovering one’s purpose is a lifelong journey made up of a sequence of small steps of faith.

JACQUELINE: What are you thankful for?

PAUL: My wife and my three kids.

JACQUELINE: Where do you hope to see yourself in 5 years?

PAUL: On the CD rack in Walmart and the iTunes landing page.

JACQUELINE: Have you ever stepped back to look at the bigger picture of who you are and where you fit in this world?

PAUL: Yes, I reflect on this frequently. A few years ago, my Father-In-Law passed away. He was only 56. I was very close to him. As I sat in the quiet of the viewing room saying my last goodbyes, the brevity of life became very real to me. It was this moment that made me really think about what my goals in life were. Specific to music, I realized that if I was ever going to write and release music, I better get to it because it wouldn’t happen on its own. I joined ReverbNation shortly after that and began the process of writing, recording, and releasing my own music.
The more I learn, the more I know how much I need to learn.

JACQUELINE: In your opinion what is the best way for someone to discover what they are good at and or what will make them happy?

PAUL: It starts with a mindset. The most important thing is understanding that we have the responsibility to do this. We choose how to react to our environment and different situations that impact us. Those that live with a victim mentality will never achieve the success they could. Those who take proactive ownership of their lives and set goals and plans to achieve them will succeed. Try different things. Pursue various areas of interest and see what fits. It’s just as important to know what you aren’t good at and doesn’t make you happy as it is to know the opposite. With that approach, no experience in life goes to waste, you will always learn from it and come one step closer to finding out what you love. Good things happen to those that persevere and don’t quit. There were times in music where I wanted to quit or become happy with the status quo but I kept at it and am so happy that I did.

JACQUELINE: Express one idea you have that would make your life richer today.

PAUL:  Helping others in need is one of the most fulfilling things in life. Show love to the unlovable. Help your co-workers become better. Share knowledge. Share hope. Help your family in times of need.

JACQUELINE: How do you handle conflict in your life?

PAUL: My natural inclination is to avoid conflict. I absolutely hate it. But…over the years, I’ve learned that conflict avoidance is not healthy or productive and can often lead to greater problems. So, I’ve learned to confront issues of conflict head on and try to resolve them as quickly and painlessly as possible. For example, my wife and I are coming up on ten years of marriage. Early on, we realized that both our natural inclination during conflict was to be passive aggressive, to shut down emotionally as a way to hurt the other person. We discussed this directly and have made deliberate decisions throughout our marriage to not act that way but rather talk about what is bothering us in a constructive emotionally transparent way. This has built trust and prevented small conflicts from becoming major issues.

JACQUELINE: How can you live up to your full potential?

PAUL: I believe I will always have more potential to achieve. This is the fire that drives me, to be better, to learn, to grow, to always improve. Am I making the most of the opportunities I have given the means at my disposal? I really try too. Do I believe I am capable of something more? Yes… and I work hard to come closer and closer to that every day.

JACQUELINE: What is your personal definition of success?

PAUL: To live a life that glorifies God. As Jesus said, to love God with all my heart, soul, mind and strength and to love my neighbor as myself. Also, to leave nothing on the table, to give everything I have. Sure. I’m a bit of a realist. Money and other resources such as time are a limitation. I would like to go into a studio and have my music professionally produced and mixed. My approach to limitations is to focus on the things I can control and try not to worry about the other things. I set large goals then break them into small achievable steps.

JACQUELINE: If heaven exists what’s the first thing you would like to hear god say when you arrive at the pearly gates?

PAUL: “Well done good and faithful servant. Here’s your Les Paul Gibson electric guitar and over there is the heavenly rock band waiting for you!”

Website & Social Media Links:
Twitter handle is “@PaulClarkMusic”

Leave a Reply