You aren’t lost just because you don’t know where you’re going. Sometimes you just have to follow the road and hope it takes you where you belong. And perhaps it was this sort of providence that led a nomadic singer, songwriter and harmonic-player to a New England city of the same name where he finally found his roots, his talents and some soul-mate musicians.
For most of his life, Paul Stetson really didn’t have a place he would call home. “I guess now Providence is where I’m from. I’ve been there longer than any other place. If I was in a town for thirty to forty days that was a lot for me.”
Even as a kid, Stetson lived life on the move. In an unreleased song West Of Paradise, Stetson recalls childhood memories of life in the backseat of his family’s station wagon as his father traveled the country looking for work. In Carney Tale, a track from his upcoming self-titled debut album, Stetson describes a similar nomadic experience from his youth. “That’s the life that you live on the road, as a carnival man.” At only fifteen the musician joined the traveling carnival and began criss-crossing the country roving with the show.
It was around the same time that Stetson’s brother handed him his first harmonica. Stetson laughs as recalls discovering his musical talents. “I think it was the only thing I was bright enough to pick up on as far as musical instrument go.”
But in all truths, Stetson’s ease at playing the harmonic was hardly accidental. He may blame the instrument’s lack of difficulty for his effortless play, but anyone who listens to him wail on his handheld harp knows a different story. The real truth is that Stetson found his musical calling long before he knew it.
Stetson dismissed his talents for years. Picking up music for a while and then forgetting about it a little while longer. It seemed that his life and music never really caught up to each other. That was true until on a fluke he moved to Providence, Rhode Island.
He arrived in Rhode Island on vacation, but while visiting his family who lived in the region, Stetson feel in love… with the city and a girl. His first root was sown.
As Stetson began acclimating to his new city, known for its independent and progressive art and music scene, what Stetson calls a “mid-life” crisis brought him back to his harmonica and this time he was ready. His life and talent had finally found each other at the same point in the road.
The vibrant and welcoming music scene in Providence created a launching point for Stetson and his music. “I was stunned. I never thought I’d run into so many musicians. Providence is flooded with open mics. You meet a few musicians doing that and build a network.”
Stetson formed strong bonds with other like-minded artists and musicians and soon started playing and writing with local bands including blues and country rock band Millerz. Eventually all of those musical connections provided Stetson with the missing link to his true talents – the ability to construct a full sound around his vision.
With accompanying instrument sounds of guitar, bass and drums, provided by his fellow musicians, Stetson recorded his first self-titled album which will be released later this fall. “I’ve been very fortunate that they (supporting musicians) understand what I want. I just tell them what I want and they do it. They’ve been great.”
Regardless of whether if it was providence or a fluke that lead Paul Stetson to a place where his roots, talents and relationships could grow, his lyrics from Call It Home best describe the musician’s new-found settled way. “I’ve been gone for so damn long, it’s hard to tell the dusk from dawn. It might just be the calm before the storm, but I call it home.”