Editor’s note: This show was listed as free in print, however, there is a $5 cover. encore regrets this error.
We don’t hear the term “crooner” thrown around much nowadays. The American epithet once was oft used to describe (mostly male) singers performing jazz standards from the Great American Songbook. The soulful singers or doo-woppers often came backed by a full orchestra, a big band or piano. The crooner look and style of the ‘50s and ‘60s is just as iconic as its sound.
Self-ascribed soul-crooner Paul Loren has been drawn to the music, style and vibe of classic doo-wop since his childhood in the suburbs of New York. He was surrounded by the sounds of the street corner.
“I was just one generation removed from the boroughs of New York City and the classic ‘stoop groups,’” he says. “So the records from the late ‘50s and early ‘60s were a big part of my childhood—from Frankie Valli and Dion, to Ben E. King and The Drifters—they were playing on the beach, in the supermarket and certainly on my mom’s turntable at home!”
Loren, with his dark and classic features, often dresses the part in a fine-pressed suit and tie. However, it’s not an act or stage persona; it is genuine. He carries it through without an ounce of irony or nostalgia—rather timelessness. His latest EP, 2018’s “That Golden Summer,” might come off like a throwback soundtrack to a Frankie and Annette beach flick but, as the track “Count On Me” promises, “you know you’re gonna have a good time” when the record spins.
Wilmingtonians can see Paul Loren Thursday at Gravity Records on Castle Street—and likely find him perusing the bins “for that rare vinyl gem.” The classy crooner was kind enough to chat with encore before heading into our Port City.
encore (e): Talk to our readers about the term “crooner.” Is there a new image or re-imagination, so to speak, of this term in 2018?
Paul Loren (PL): I think my generation is coming around to the timeless music from post-war America, of which the “crooners” were a big part. Lots of us are looking backward for inspiration and for great pop records and there’s just a wealth of it there. For me it’s been joyous to use the song form and sonic vocabulary from that era to explore new themes with music and new sound combinations in the studio.
e: You still manage to marry the sounds with modern pop and style. “While You’re Waiting” comes to mind. What’s the process of tapping into nostalgia without making the music sound dated?
LP: For me it’s not nostalgia, as it wasn’t my generation’s soundtrack. I don’t claim any ownership, really. Though it’s still incredibly familiar, I don’t mind playing with the musical structure. The shape of that music is not as sacred to me as someone who might have grown up with it in its own time—and that’s an exciting place to come from. I get to explore and break form a bit!
e: It’s not just the music that has that beach-doo-wop sound but your whole persona encompasses it. Where does this all come from for you?
PL: Things I appreciate in life—like a well-made cocktail, a pair of Italian penny loafers, or a thin silk tie—tend to be associated with that “Mad Men” era. It just so happens the music works with it all. Perhaps let’s call it a lovely coincidence!
e: Is it a style for stage presence or for “real life,” too?
PL: It’s by no means a put-on. I think the thing art must do is to mirror life—so the “stage Paul” is pretty close to the “at-home Paul.” Although maybe it’s just a bit louder! Both guys like the finer things, and never leave home without collar stays and a pocket square.
e: We know the album is an “homage to summer romance” as a whole, but what else can you tell us about the songwriting?
PL: I’m exploring romance from different viewpoints. “Count On Me” kicks off the summer party spirit of a Friday night, while “Still” captures a youthful, nostalgic kind of romance. “Some Tomorrow Soon” playfully sees its anti-hero lose the girl after too much time on the road, and by the end, there’s certainly a hopeful thematic thread to “While You’re Waiting” and “To Try Again.”
e: Tell us about your live shows, like at Gravity Records. Seems intimate—do you get interactive with audience?
PL: The live shows always feel to me like a conversation, and the better conversations tend to happen in more intimate venues. The Gravity Records show is one I’m particularly looking forward to, as I’m a vinyl record lover and collector, so maybe I’ve already a built-in simpatico with the environment.
e: Aside from “That Golden Summer,” what do you like to work into your sets nowadays?
PL: I’ll be culling from the last three years of my own music—all of it downloadable and streaming—with a beloved cover song thrown in here and there. Along those lines, get ready for some surprises!
e: It may be too soon to ask, but are you working on the next project? Any songs you can tell us about?
PL: There are two projects currently in the works that I’m really excited about. Next up is a holiday EP of mostly original songs, due for release in November, tentatively titled “Holiday Cheers!” I’m also planning a full-length album due in 2019, which will be my first LP in a long time, and I’ll definitely be printing vinyl for it.