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FAQ on Peter Paulson

Q: Why are you both a public speaker and a musician? Do you mean you play gigs and you talk between tunes?

A: No, my public speaking and my music have nothing to do with each other. As a public speaker I present lectures on interesting and entertaining subjects. As a singer-songwriter I'm mainly a recording act, but I do occasionally perform live. The only thing those two things have in common is that typically they both involve a microphone. But I'm two different people, in two different modes, for those two things. Ordinarily you might not expect a musician to be a smooth talker or a public speaker to be worth a damn with a song. But I happen to be good at both.

Q: I notice a lot of your songs are about desolation and loss. Why so gloomy?

A: What kind of a song I write, and what turns it takes, is something I don't feel completely responsible for. I know that might sound strange. Because I write what I want to write; nobody's holding a gun to my head. But my process feeds on intuition and luck and a few other imponderables. Sometimes something just feels right to me the way it comes out, and I'd have a hard time defending it. I write about things that interest me. And people in introspective situations, like when they're trying to figure out what went wrong in a relationship, are people who think the kind of life-changing thoughts I like to capture in a song. It seems harder to attribute profound or compelling thoughts to a character who's having an ordinary day; it helps to have a precipitating event that takes the narrator out of his comfort zone. Also, I've lost in love a few times, so I'm probably writing what I know. I don't think I have enough objectivity to tell you why I write the songs I write. They're just where my mind goes when I'm making stuff up.

Q: What's up with your website? Why does it look so stupid?

A: I wrote the code myself in a text editor. Maybe I'll do it right someday.

Q: I see you posted on Facebook about somebody called Space-Bro. Who's that?

A: That's my nickname for my younger brother, who is the leader of a UFO cult religion and claims to communicate with extraterrestrials in spaceships waiting to evacuate Earth. It's the rapture/Left Behind myth with cooler hardware. I love my brother, but I'm aghast at what a load of crap he's been feeding thousands of followers who believe every word he says. He's fooling the dumbest people in the room. That's how he makes a living. And I can't keep from commenting now and then. If I were a better man I might be able to keep my mouth shut. But so far, unfortunately, that's a vision of personal progress for me. Progress not yet attained.

Q: On your home page you said one of the reasons people visit your site is that you're under investigation for "criminal prosecution." What did you do?

A: That's a joke, but there's kind of a serious point there. Like most Americans, I have committed many crimes, most of them trifling, most of them unknown to me. If you ever look through the laws of your state (that would be the Penal Code in most states, but in Oregon it's called the Oregon Revised Statutes), you'll be shocked by some of the benign acts that are codified as criminal--things that involve no victim and that should be none of the government's damn business. These days there is no one who can go through an ordinary week without committing a multitude of criminal acts. There are so many laws that no citizen can know them all, and the law says "ignorance is no excuse." If all the laws were enforced, and all the offenders caught, there would be no one left for judges, juries, and jailers.

I'm not saying people are bad. I'm saying there are too many unnecessary laws. Some of them are nothing short of criminal.

Q: Looking at your website, it seems you're all over the road with no clear sense of purpose. Since in your case it doesn't seem like a dumb question, what do you want to be when you grow up?

A: I think I'm destined to be some kind of writer. For years I aspired to be a novelist, and I've written three novels in first draft that didn't deserve a second draft--it made more sense to start over. (You never know how it's going to turn out; you just have to write it and take your chances, as John Steinbeck said.) I think I have a good novel in me, but apparently I'm not ready to let it out yet. When I come up with a good song idea, it takes no discipline at all for me to do the work; I can't hold myself back. I feel this may be leading me to writing stage musicals. Already I've written a straight one-act that people tell me is clever, but where this is all headed, and what term I'll use eventually to explain myself, I don't know. I'm a late bloomer. I'm still figuring out my place in this culture like the average 20-year-old.

That was a verbose reply, wasn't it? Here's the short answer: "A writer."


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