There’s a certain circular cosmic motion to being a New Orleanian for singer-songwriter and guitarist Paul Sanchez and his music. From early on in life, Sanchez knew he would be a songwriter. Today he embraces it with a funkiness and sashay in New Orleans sound that isn’t in any other city.
“I like to bring the listener into the world of the song,” Sanchez explains. “I like to let them feel like it’s their story as well as mine. By the end of the evening, I hope they don’t just walk away going, ‘Man, that was a great show!’ I hope they walk away feeling like they’re leaving a room full of friends.”
While Sanchez is now thinking of pursuing a new rock album with his band Cowboy Mouth in 2017 (tentatively titled “Me and My Big Mouth”), he wants to focus on his latest solo album “Heart Renovations.” Sanchez will return to Wilmington’s Bourgie Nights on December 9.
“For now, I really want to enjoy this record, and North Carolina was always good to Cowboy Mouth and has been good to me,” he says. “Bourgie Nights is such a great venue and I had such a good time there last time, and I can’t wait to get back.”
Folks may know the New Orleans native for his appearances in HBO’s “Treme” or from his work on the soundtrack of “Nine Lives,” a musical adaptation of the best-selling novel by Dan Baum. Throughout his tenure, the singer-songwriter and guitarist has released 11 albums with his band Cowboy Mouth and 14 solo albums. And while all of them were well-received, he says, wherever his work has taken him around the country and world people inevitably ask about his 1992 debut record “Jet Black and Jealous,” and when they could expect a follow-up.
“It is a long time for a sequel, but I figured if George Lucas can do it, then I can do it, too,” Sanchez quips. “So this year I spent a lot of time alone and went back to listen to it. It was a rather simple formula: a guy with an acoustic guitar, singing songs about love and love gone wrong.”
After taking time to go back and study the musical and lyrical formula, Sanchez decided it looked something like: “Please don’t bore us, cut to the chorus.” Not only does he return to this familiar mantra, Sanchez is going back to familiar storylines and themes. The first record was written as then 27-year-old Sanchez was going through a divorce, and it just so happens he wrote the follow-up album as another marriage came to an end.
“It was a way to take stock of the same questions,” he tells. “How do you make love stay? How do you make love last? And what do you do when it goes away? They’re all the same questions, but it was 20 years later, and it was an older man dealing with same issues in a reflective way as opposed to a reactive way. . . . I think when you get your heartbroken when you’re young, you’re angry in a way that says ‘I’m going to show you. . . . I think when you’re an older person, you’ve seen enough heartache to know, ‘Ah, this is it. Shit happens to people, and this time it happened to me.’”
Sanchez’s sentiments are reflected in songs like “I Still Believe” with lines like “We’re all fine and we’re all fucked.” Yet, the trick to rallying through it is to remain level-headed, according to the musician.
“You go through life and everything’s great until it isn’t, and you think, ‘I’m fucked,’” he explains. “Then you get through it and you’re fine again. I still believe in life, I still believe in love, and I still believe in the possibility of tomorrow, and I still believe that a great song can change a life.”
His latest album seems serendipitous in more ways than one. While his marriage was coming to an end, Sanchez says he also had extra time to ponder questions and concepts with new perspective. Moreover—well after the last line is written, recorded and performed for live audiences—he lets his songs continue to develop with perspective. For example, songs he wrote as a younger man now seem to have new details and moments within those stories. In many ways he’s revisiting the same stories in “Heart Renovations” with new and more developed characters, including himself.
“It wasn’t like I was having to dig back into any certain mindset or style,” he continues. “Like most songs I’ve written, these screamed to me to be [created]; I didn’t seek them out. A voice from another place screams a song and I might hear it as a whisper in this place and sing it back to you.”
Wilmingtonians can essentially expect the unexpected with Sanchez’s show at Bourgie Nights. He doesn’t see any part of his expansive 30-year catalog as being a part of his past, per se. “My songs are one long song that I started writing when I picked up a pen for the first time,” he says. “I won’t be done until I draw my last breath. They’re all fair game to me.”