In the early morning hours of Paul Cauthen’s eighth birthday, he was fast asleep in his bunk bed when he was awakened by his grandfather, Jim Paul, who was singing Johnny Cash’s “Walk The Line” and playing his old acoustic guitar. Jim Paul was the band leader for the local Church of Christ and also a big country music fan, so this was nothing new for his grandson. What was new was an unfamiliar second guitar in the room. “Happy birthday, son,” Jim Paul said as he handed Paul his new instrument. With that, Jim Paul had helped ignite a fire within his grandson that would lead him down a road of punch-to-the-heart songwriting, law breakin’ and general cuttin’ up.
It all comes together with My Gospel, Cauthen's latest album, which drops Oct. 14.
Growing up in East Texas, Cauthen credits his grandparents for instilling a strong love for music in him at an early age. His grandmother taught him how to play the piano and gave him his first Willie Nelson album, while Jim Paul made sure to show his grandson the truth that is Elvis Presley and Hank Williams. “I started singing hymns out of the Heavenly Highway Hymns, I listened to classical music a lot — and I sang a shitload in church.” But, he adds, “My grandad, Jim Paul, was a big singer and his influence was my main influence. I learned how to sing boisterous and loud from him.”
Cauthen’s not a new face in the DFW’s music scene — or the music scene in general. From 2010 to 2014, he was one half of the rock ’n’ roll country duo Sons of Fathers. After his split from the band, Cauthen says he moved to San Marcos and sank into one of the lowest times in his life. Thankfully, he had an excellent method for coping with his emotions.
“I was at a dark point in my life. I had 11 cents to my name and a guitar; I could barely pay rent and I was down to nothing. But just going through all of that, from being in a band that was rocking and rolling across the country to nothing, I just rebooted. And sometimes that’s what it takes to write these songs.” Adding to that, Cauthen offers, “Nobody died on this record, but I almost died making it.”
Cauthen says during this time he wrote upward of 50 songs, was offered a recording opportunity at Jack White’s Third Man Records, which he subsequently turned down, and moved up to Dallas. “I love all of those guys [at Third Man Records] and respect the shit out of them, but it just wasn’t right for me,” Cauthen explains.
At that point, for him, the most important thing was finding the perfect production guru in the perfect location to match to his very deep, barrel-chested brand of true grit country music. And he found one here in Dallas with producer, Texas Gentleman founder and fellow Dallas Observer Music Award nominee Beau Bedford at Modern Electric Recording Studio. “Me and Beau became soul brothers,” Cauthen says. “I emailed him randomly one day. He got back to me within five minutes and he told me to come meet him at the studio [Modern Electric]. I brought him like 50 or 60 songs.”
Cauthen says that with Bedford's help, his jam-packed catalog of writing was transformed into one, cohesive work of art about everything he needed to get off of his chest. That, Cauthen says, is what his new album My Gospel is all about.
During its initial recording, Cauthen remembers Bedford casually suggesting they should “really get up to Muscle Shoals” to record. Muscle Shoals Sound Studio in Sheffield, Alabama, has hosted the likes of the Rolling Stones, Bob Dylan and the Staple Singers. Shortly thereafter, Cauthen and Bedford made their way out to Alabama and, as he puts it, he felt like “a kid piling into the station wagon to go to Wally World for the first time.”
And that wasn’t the only memorable experience during the development of My Gospel. During a business trip to southern California, another friend of Cauthen’s, Gus Seyffert, invited him and Bedford up to Los Angeles to record some tracks. Seyffert, an impressive multi-instrumentalist, producer and engineer with credits ranging from Beck to the Killers, threw together a team of musicians to back Cauthen — and the result was something altogether legendary.
“We had the drummer from Jenny Lewis’ band, the bass player from the Killers, the multi-instrumentalist from Beck [Seyffert], Beau Bedford, the best motherfucker from Dallas and me. I had the most hot-rod, badass rock 'n' rollers in the game and we get after it, just started cutting tracks.”
Even though My Gospel is finished, Cauthen hasn’t let up. He just wrapped up a short tour with Ryan Bingham and Brian Fallon and The Crowes and he’ll be heading back out Oct. 22, supporting Elle King on tour — and, we’re sure, anxiously awaiting the voting results for this year’s DOMA Best Country Act category.
When asked if there’s anything else he’d like to add about his career, Cauthen takes a big swig of whiskey and says, “I strive to tell young artists everyday, just write from your heart and just cut out all the fat; cut out all fat, all the noise. Just once you get back to where you came from, you actually can put out a record that you feel like you can get behind.
“People have been in my ear for 10 years and finally I cut out all of the noise. Now it’s me and still waters and I’m behind a badass boat, just water-skiing into the horizon.
“Yeah,” he says with a laugh, “if all else fails, just live your life like Alan Jackson’s 'Chattahoochee.'"
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