Paul Thorn: Music From The Margins | WAMU 88.5 - American University Radio
Filed Under:

Paul Thorn: Music From The Margins

Play associated audio

Before Paul Thorn made his living as a singer, he was a professional boxer. He also spent 12 years working at a furniture factory in his hometown of Tupelo, Miss.

"I was the one that put springs in seats — like when you sit on your recliner and you say, 'Oh, this feels so good and soft,' it's a good likelihood that I may have put them springs in what you're sitting on," Thorn tells NPR's Melissa Block. "I had to stand there in the same spot all day long, just pulling them springs and making everybody able to become even more sedentary."

Thorn still lives in Tupelo. He's released six albums of songs filled with characters from pimps to preachers, and from a small-town temptress working at a Dairy Queen to a guy running a combination revival tent and fireworks stand. Thorn is about to begin touring for his newest album, What the Hell Is Goin' On? This one is all cover songs, many of them plucked from obscurity.

"I'm an independent, underground artist, and most of the songs on this record are songs by writers that I'm actually friends with," Thorn says. "Each artist had these little chestnut songs, and I just picked some of them that really moved me for one reason or the other.

"They are deep cuts," he adds. "When you think of a cover album, you think of, you know, Rod Stewart singing 'Unforgettable' or something like that — which is great. These are truly deep cuts. But they're great songs."

Thorn's own songs are often about people living on the margins of society, a focus that carried over to the songs he chose for What the Hell Is Goin' On? In "She's Got a Crush on Me," originally by the songwriter and keyboard player Donnie Fritts, the titular "she" is an unlikely muse: a chain-smoking factory worker who's a little overweight.

"At first you think, 'This guy's criticizing this woman.' But as you listen on down into it, you realize that this woman is beautiful, and he's so flattered that she has a crush on him," Thorn says. "A lot of times when you think of love songs, they paint this beautiful picture that maybe isn't a realistic picture. I like this song because it's about just a couple of normal people.

"Those are the kind of people I sing about," Thorn adds, "because those are the people I know. I don't run around with movie stars and celebrity types. All my real friends, they're trailer-park people — people of meager means. That's what I grew up with and what I'm most comfortable around."

Copyright 2012 National Public Radio. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

For The Autumnal Equinox, A Poem As Chilling As The Fall Weather

Tuesday is the first day of fall. This time of year reminds critic Abigail Deutsch of Stephen Dobyns' "How to Like It" — a poem about a man who ponders his lost summers and fleeting dreams.
NPR

Keeping Heirloom Apples Alive Is 'Like A Chain Letter' Over Many Centuries

Scott Farm in Vermont grows 100 apple varieties, some of them dating back to the 1700s. These apples may not look as pretty as the Red Delicious, but what they lack in looks they make up for in taste.
WAMU 88.5

New Anthony Brown Video Accuses Opponent Of 'Hiding' And 'Lying"

Democrat Anthony Brown unveiled a new web video today alleging that Republican Larry Hogan is "hiding" his positions on contentious issues like abortion and gun control.
NPR

Retailers' Customers Cautioned As Cyber Attacks Continue

Home Depot says some 56 million card holders were possibly compromised in a cyber attack. It says there's no evidence that debit PIN numbers were comprised or that the breach affected online shoppers.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.