Paul Rosevear first caught Jersey Beat's ear
back when he fronted The Blakes, who emerged in the early
2000's at a time when music collectives like Artist Amplification
and Stop & Smell The Locals helped coalesce a robust
and diverse scene in the Garden State. The Blakes soon morphed
into Readymade Breakup, who reigned as one of the most reliable
and entertaining indie-rock acts in the area for more than
a decade. These days, Paul records and performs as a solo
act, as well as with his longtime musical partner G.E. in
the Vice Rags. Jersey Beat's James Damion knows Paul better
than most; they weren't just neighbors but lived on the
same floor in Hoboken at one time; and on James' last visit
to New Jersey, they ran into each other at an Asbury Park
coffee shop. Small world, indeed. James tracked Paul down
to catch up with this multi-talented songwriter, musician,
and now, teacher. - Jim Testa
Q: I have to say that running into you in Asbury
Park during our last visit back east was one of the highlights
of our visit. Staying with family saves us a lot of money,
but being so far south keeps us from seeing old friends
and visiting our favorite haunts that lie further west.
What was it that brought you in to that particular Asbury
Park coffee shop on that particular day?
Paul: The feeling is mutual! Loved running into you and
catching up. I hang in Café Volan all the time, best
coffee shop in town.
Q: You just purchased a home in Rutherford. What
brought you to the area and where had you lived since leaving
Paul; We bounced from Hoboken to the West Village to the
East Village then back to Hoboken then over to Paulus Hook
in Jersey City then up to Jersey City Heights. Loved ‘em
all. When it was time to find a place to raise the girls,
Rutherford hit the sweet spot—a quiet, quaint, quirky
little town close to NYC that people weren’t really
buzzing about. That’s always a good sign to me.
Q: The last time I had run into you and Dawn, you
were expecting your first child. Now we’re talking
about a second. How do the responsibilities of family and
a new home effect or play into your songwriting?
Paul: Being a family man has made everything better. The
songs are better because you’re deeper into life.
And there’s less worrying about your hair cut or trying
to be in with the cool scene. You have just enough time
get one more verse down before somebody needs their tushie
wiped or a partner for Candy Land.
The Vice Rags, photo courtesy of the band
Q: You’re currently teaching songwriting
at Lakehouse Music Academy. How did that opportunity present
Paul: I’ve known Jon Liedersdorf, founder of Lakehouse,
for many years. He called me about a year and a half ago
asking if I wanted to teach. I’d just been let go
from a job, so the timing was perfect, and I’ve been
doing it ever since.
Q: Teaching, at any level, can be as challenging
as it is rewarding. Can you tell us a little bit about your
methods and of course, your students?
Paul: Guy Clark once said the only way to learn to write
a song is to write a song. And I tend to agree. So really
my lessons are probably closer to co-writing sessions than
formal lessons. My students learn by doing. I love sharing
whatever tips and tricks I’ve picked up over the years.
Q: You’ve been teaching for a year now. What
has the experience taught you?
Paul: If anything, it’s confirmed what I’ve
believed all along—that music is for everyone. I hate
when people dismiss those who don’t seem to have “traditional”
talent. I don’t buy that. Anybody can write a song.
We all have something to say. I’ve seen people of
every age and every and experience level write tunes with
more heart and insight into the human condition than so-called
Q: You also decided to start a blog sharing tips
and ideas on songwriting. Can you share a little background
Paul: There are some really cool books from writers in
the advertising world that teach lessons on creativity—one
that comes to mind is Paul Arden’s Whatever You Think,
Think the Opposite. They’re full of these short, pithy,
Zen-like teachings on craft, simplicity, big-idea thinking,
process, etc. I haven’t seen anything like that in
the world of songwriting. So that’s sort of the model
I’m going for. I’ve made about a half-dozen
posts so far, but I’m going to keep experimenting.
Hop over to paulrosevear.com
and have a look. And if anybody has a topic or question
they’d like me to muse on, email email@example.com.
Q: In your opinion. What do you feel are the first
and possibly the biggest mistakes someone makes when penning
Paul: Trying too hard. That’s always the killer.
But paradoxically, it’s hard not to try hard. It’s
sort of like Picasso, you know how his style devolved over
time until he was basically doing child-like scrawls at
the end of his life? That’s the goal. But you gotta
acquire the craft first. It’s the old learn-the-rules-so-you-can-break-them
Q: I’ve seen you perform both Readymade Breakup
and solo acoustic. Can you describe the differences between
performing with the band to performing acoustic in perhaps
a more intimate setting?
Paul: With the band, the chemistry is between me and the
other band members. We’re feeding off each other and
it’s a spectacle that the audience is witnessing.
But I when I perform solo, the audience functions as the
band in a way. They’re more involved in the performance,
it’s more participatory.
Q: What’s the most important thing you learned
being a member of Readymade Breakup or being part of a group
Paul: Two things. All for one, one for all. That’s
the attitude. You gotta be in it together, it’s like
a gang. Otherwise you can’t take risks, you’re
too worried what the other guys are thinking. And second,
practice once a week. If you don’t practice once a
week you don’t have a band.
Q: The Vice Rags are somewhat of a departure from
what you’ve done in the past. What drew you to make
music with this particular cast and what can we expect from
Paul: Tris McCall wrote that we sounded like a “high
speed Turnpike collision between Tom Petty and gutter punk.”
I thought that was awesome. I grew up with Joe in North
Brunswick, GE grew up with Jack in Hillsborough, and many
bands and years later all four of our paths crossed again.
We put one EP out on Mint 400 Records (“Hope the Neighbors
Q: I recall sitting on our building’s roof,
sharing a beer and talking about your first solo effort.
I understand that you’re somehow finding time to focus
on solo material. Can you share some thoughts/information
on your upcoming solo acoustic album, Pearl, as
well as the upcoming Halls of Time?
Paul: Pearl is a good one to listen to when you’re
driving. I actually made CDs because that’s where
I wanted people to listen to it. It’s real raw, just
guitar and voice, recorded live. But a super high-quality
recording—I recorded it at the Magic Shop in NYC before
it closed, RIP.
Halls of Time is the working title for my next
solo thing. Still just a hazy idea off in the corner of
my eye. I’m always writing though, collecting ideas.
I’ll probably take a stab at recording it sometime
later this year.
Q: Getting back to The Vice Rags, I was watching
the video for “Jersey Boy”. Though it’s
a straight up performance video. It reminded me a lot of
the D.I.Y. garage and basement shows I miss from back east.
The checkered floor even reminded me of our kitchen tiles
back in Hoboken. Can you tell us where it was filmed, by
who and your feelings regarding making a music video?
Paul: We filmed that at the Hot Dog House on Cookman Ave
in Asbury Park, where we rehearse. Jack, the guitar player
in the Vice Rags, shot it. In general, music videos are
pretty uncharted territory for me. I don’t really
watch them. And when somebody points a camera at me I go
straight up deer in the headlights. But I’m working
on it. With how visual music has gotten, it’s definitely
an area where I need to up my game.
Q: So, what’s next for you and your music?
Paul: There's so much exciting stuff on the horizon. I'm
working with a young artist named Hannah Whitcomb right
now on her first EP—great songwriter & artist,
can't wait for that to come out. There's a nearly-finished
Vice Rags single that I'm eager to wrap up and release.
And just in general I'm psyched about collaborating with
more writers and artists. Making stuff together is the greatest
feeling in the world.
to read Paul's blog and find information on upcoming music