Interview on The Morning Show with Mike Bissell
KVMR Radio Nevada City
February 18, 2013
(Plays My Wandering Heart)
Mike: I’m joined in the studio here by the singer of that song. With that, welcome and good morning, Paul.
Paul: Good morning, Mike
Mike: Thanks for coming in and congratulations on your new CD. It’s your debut CD, correct?
Paul: It is.
Mike: Some of the songs as well as the title of your album, American Hill, are shaped by your experiences living in Nevada City. You’ve spent time here. For quite a few years you were actually the city planner for Nevada City, were you not?
Paul: I was—
Mike: —in your checkered past.
Paul: My checkered past! Yes, and I look back at it with great fondness. I left the city planner job about nine years ago to take on a new job as a community organization director in Williamsburg Brooklyn. Also to start a new marriage in New York. But I’ve been coming back to Nevada City seeing family and keeping my foot here all along.
Mike: I’m holding the liner notes to Paul’s new CD and there’s a wonderful picture here looking down Broad Street from the top of Broad St. So, how long did you spend in Nevada City and how powerful an influence is it on your music and artistic career?
Paul: Very much so. This is my adopted hometown. I came here as a young man. I’m originally from New York but I left there when I was 16 years old and came here with some friends in the early ‘70s. I did everything from firefighting to landscaping, a number of jobs before going to San Jose State University and studying planning.
It was a little disorienting for me to go back to New York. After a couple of years in New York I finally picked up the guitar again, and when I started to write songs a lot of Nevada City was in the songs I wrote. The deeper I got into the songs—because I’m motivated by what’s inside me when I write the songs—the more I saw a lot of Nevada City coming out.
Mike: And the title for your CD is American Hill, which is near Nevada City and where at one point you lived in a school bus?
Paul: American Hill is one of the seven hills that Nevada City is built upon and an historic mining site. When I was in my 20s I was going to Sierra College. There was a junk yard on American Hill that is long gone now. I saw a school bus on it and asked the owner if I could buy the school bus and live in it for a few months. He said OK and so that’s what I did. I never forgot that experience.
Mike: That’s probabaly an offer he hadn’t gotten often.
Paul: I was trying to save money on the rent. (laughter)
Mike: Those were the days, huh Paul?
Paul: (laughter) Yeah.
Mike: Reading your bio, here are some of your other gigs: you mentioned firefighting and you were a heavy equipment operator. But here is one that just jumped out at me: I mean I’ve interviewed a lot of people and musicians seem to have a rich, colorful past but I don’t think I ever talked to anyone who at one point was a freelance comic book critic. So how did you land that particular gig?
Paul: I was working for a consulting firm in San Francisco as a planner. I’d go to the underground comix store. They were called “underground comix” then, before graphic novels became the term. I read some of the works of Frank Miller who was just up and coming in the ’80s. I wrote a critique and dropped it off at the San Francisco Chronicle and they put it in the Sunday Book Review. After that I started sending them my freelance comic book reviews and they’d publish them. That went on for a while.
Mike: You still read comic books?
Paul: I don’t keep up with it, not anymore. But I’ve got a batch in my attic here in Nevada City and I’ve been reading them again lately.
Mike: Any of your songs have a hint or sprinkling of the comic book critiquing past?
Paul: Well, I do admire cartoonists and one of the first things I thought of for this CD was to ask my old friend Bob Crabb to illustrate the songs. Having the local cartoonist of “It Takes a Village Idiot” illustrate my songs was wonderful. There’s a 12-page booklet in the CD digipack.
Mike: It’s a wonderful job
We’re speaking with Paul Cogley and he’s going to be performing Saturday night at the Nevada Theater, a CD release party for him. Also appearing will be Rick Kirkpatrick.
Paul: He’s the main event.
Mike: Right, but his band is going to be playing with you for your set, correct?
Paul: Yeah. Rick graciously offered to give me the opening slot to the evening. We’ve been rehearsing this week, the band and me. They’ve been using my CD to chart out the songs and it’s going to be a terrific night.
Mike: I’ve got some tickets to that concert.
Speaking with Paul Cogley. He’s going to be in town Saturday night at the Nevada Theater. Paul, thanks for coming in. I’m going to go out with this cover you did of Blind Willie McTell’s Cold Winter Day. And those who want to go to the concert, now is the time to call 265-9555. We’ve got a couple of tickets for you.