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Paul Colman Interview Part I
He is candid, some may even say outspoken, but there is certainly no denying that Paul Colman is a guitar virtuoso and talented songwriter with a great voice. As Colman and I relaxed in the tour bus preceding a recent concert he spoke freely about why the Paul Colman Trio split up, his love for family, and what he perceives as flaws in the way the corporate church relates to both Christians and non Christians.
The Phantom Tollbooth recently reviewed a Paul Colman concert and there is no denying the talent of this extraordinary performer. Perhaps it is because of the confidence he has in his own abilities or his “in your face” Aussie bluntness that allows him to speak out on issues where many in the Christian music industry remain silent. In Part I of this two part series Colman discusses his decision to return to a solo career and the importance of family.
In 2004, the Paul Colman Trio, consisting of bass player Grant Norsworthy, Phil Gaudion on drums and all three contributing vocals, parted ways amiably after frequently racking up hits. He says, “I don’t think anything yet has replaced the onstage vibe that the trio had because we just had chemistry. It was great.” Colman, however, is quick to point out that the benefits of being a solo artist far outweigh being in the band.
“It’s brutal being married to a touring musician. It’s a brutal life,” he says. He talks about the obligation you have to other band members when you are a part of a group and how it would have denied him an opportunity he recently enjoyed. Although a concert had been scheduled for the same day as his daughter Katherine’s 3rd birthday, he told his management team to cancel the concert so he could fly home to spend time with his daughter, wife Rebecca and their one-year-old Elizabeth.
He speaks about his decision to cancel that concert and fly home, “I flew off this tour just to have half a day more, six more hours with my family. Some people think that is ridiculous but when they can come to the airport, throw their arms around you or you go to the park (with them), put them to bed with a bed time story and then can be there when they wake up --you just can’t get that back. Now I can afford to do that.” Colman says as a band you have an obligation to the other band members because if you cancel a date they take the hit financially. Now the only one whose pocketbook is affected is his.
“My testimony comes from my marriage. It comes from the fidelity. It comes from the commitment.” He laughs as he says, “I say to Rebecca, if you leave me can I come to?” Colman is not shy about telling you if he was ever forced to choose between his family and his career, he would shut down his career in a flash.
Songs such as “As Long as You Come Home to Me” were born out of the angst of watching a friend’s marriage crumble. “Relationships are everything. That’s your lens to everything you go through. I’ve had twenty friends get divorced and I am only thirty-seven. I’ve had nine friends commit suicide,” he says, deeply troubled.
As a lot of artists discover when they are a part of a band that there is not a lot of money left over once you pay the overhead and split the cash amongst the various members. Many young Christian musicians have been shocked to discover that although they may be a fan favorite that is not synonymous with having a stable income. Colman discovered the same thing. He wanted to provide a better quality of life for his family and he is not talking about raking in oodles of money but just a decent house, paying his bills and taking his kids on vacation.
Despite a 2003 Dove Award for New Artist of the Year, in addition to a second Dove Award nomination and a Grammy nomination, “We (the trio) were not making enough money for anybody to live. Everybody has to have a basic level of living and none of us ever reached that. According to the poverty line in Nashville we were on it. What we really needed when we landed in America was to have a Casting Crowns story and have our first record go platinum, which leads to bigger honorariums.”
It also became apparent to Colman, as it does with a lot of artists, that he wanted the creative freedom that comes with being a solo artist. “I can change the set if I want without telling anybody else because my passion in life is not music. My passion is communicating with people in the spirit of Jesus. That’s my passion, whether they are believers or not. My passion is communicating and connecting with people in the spirit of Jesus of Nazareth. That’s my passion. My passion is not doing that in one way.”
Creating the song “Gloria (All God’s Children),” which was a monster hit both in North America and Australia, was a result of this new-found freedom to pull in other writers to co-write the song. In total, four people contributed to the success of “Gloria” including fellow Aussie Reuben Morgan from Hillsong, who he refers to as his, ‘good mate.’
Creating the song came from Colman’s desire to put his own stamp on worship, that towards the end of his concerts he frequently had a desire to lead his fans in corporate worship but he was playing other people’s music.
Some might think that Colman is egotistical because he is so forward with expressing his opinions but he is quite the contrary. He is a man passionate about the things he believes in. He talks about the necessity of laying ego aside when co-writing a song, and just letting, as he says, the best idea win. “I realized I can get sixty to seventy percent of the song there, but to get to one hundred percent, I actually need help.”
He is also nonchalant when reminded the song was a huge success, “I guess it was,” says the man who has five number one hits to his credit. He believes “Gloria” is a song God placed in his heart and it just happened to coincide with the fashionable trend in Christian radio. “Someone decided this is the flavor of the day and this is what people will listen to.” He also wants you to know, ““Gloria” is successful because it is a hit song but I couldn’t make it a hit song on my own.”
It is Paul Colman’s humility, generosity and in-your-face honesty that has endeared him to so many people. Jan O. of the legendary Cup O’ Joy in Green Bay Wisconsin spoke about Colman after a recent Coleman engagement which she referred to as a stellar performance, ”He sang his heart out, gave his all and held nothing back. Then he spoke with every person who wanted to meet him.” In Toronto, Colman spotted a handicapped woman in a wheelchair and first autographed a shirt for her, then looked for a new one to add to her collection. Tom Jackson, who coaches performers, has made the phrase “love your audience” famous. One gets the impression nobody ever needed to tell Paul Colman that because it flows so naturally from him.
Paul Cameron, Executive Director
and General Manager of Christian Family Radio, attended the Cup O’ Joy
concert and said, “He kept the audience on his every word and was playful
as a kid in a sandbox. His musical ability was just as fantastic.”
By Joe Montague, exclusive