“I’M TURNING ALL THESE LOWS INTO GLITTER, SILVER, AND GOLD/AND IT’S SO MUCH BETTER…”
Paul McDonald sings those words with soaring emotionality on “So Much Better,” a track from his upcoming debut, Modern Hearts. And those are the words of a man who has truly lived his lyrics.
Three years ago, Paul left his life in Los Angeles in search of familiarity and solace. The Alabama-born artist found himself in East Nashville, feeling like a stranger in a region he once called home. That all changed when he picked up his guitar and began the process of what would become Modern Hearts.
“I had to take my life back and figure out who I was again,” he shares. “It took me a few years and a few hundred songs to get to that point.”
Paul story’s is the triumphant Modern Hearts, an album bursting with anthemic hooks, majestically textured alt-rock, tinges of Southern soul, literate introspection, and profound redemption. Previously, Paul’s broadly resonant musicality garnered him international acclaim and coverage from the likes of Rolling Stone, Billboard, MTV, etc., and enabled him to share the stage with a diverse array of classic and current icons. Select performance highlights include sharing the stage with artists such as Stevie Wonder, Zac Brown, Father John Misty, Emmylou Harris, and appearing at festivals such as Bonnaroo, SXSW, and Hangout Festival and performing on nationally televised shows like “Good Morning America” and “The Tonight Show.”
It could be said that Modern Hearts is a breakup record documenting spiritual and artistic uplift. The 14-track body of work represents a full-spectrum of emotions, from soulful and sorrowful tracks, to invigorating new-life anthems, to meditative mid-tempo numbers.
“Writing helped me a lot during that time. I would wake up every morning in a dark headspace, but once I picked up the guitar and started writing, I'd tell myself, ‘I'm back.’” Paul says with a good-natured laugh. He continues: “And as I gained my confidence back as a human being and as an artist, I started writing more upbeat and fun songs.”
“Once You Were Mine” oozes Memphis soul. Replete with stately horns, silken vocals, confessional lyrics, and a simmering groove, it recalls prime Al Green. The boldly vulnerable title track unpacks the painful complexity of breakups in the digital age. The invigorating “Hold On” hits that post-breakup sweet spot where anger overtakes heartache. Modern Hearts also boasts a cadre of got-my-mojo-back tracks, one standout is the ambient and slow burner “Call On Me” which lunges forth with an ominous, dub-funk groove, and a vocal delivery that oozes virility. The track’s chorus kicks off with a time-standing-still moment before it rockets skyward with an irresistible soul pop hook.
Modern Hearts was produced by Jordan Lehning (Caitlin Rose, Rodney Crowell, Andrew Combs), and features an all star cast of studio musicians whose resumes include Cage The Elephant, Maren Morris, Nikki Lane, Kacey Musgraves, and Buddy Miller, among others. The album was tracked with ace musicians playing in real time with sympathetic band interplay at the vibey Echo Mountain Studios in Asheville, NC (Band Of Horses, Avett Brothers). Additional recording took place at Sound Emporium Studios (Jason Isbell, Alabama Shakes) in Nashville, TN.
Today, Paul is no longer a stranger in Nashville, nor is he a stranger to himself. Looking back on the powerful journey represented by Modern Hearts, Paul says: “Making this record saved my life. I regained my confidence and my sense of self through the process. But what has made the journey worthwhile is having other people reach out to tell me that listening to these songs has helped them through a similar situation. For an artist, there’s no better feeling than sharing emotions and helping people find strength and clarity through your music. That’s the real prize.”