Ellis Paul majorly contributed to the rise of what is known as Boston-style songwriting, a uniquely folk-centric school of songwriting philosophy that helped ignite the folk revival movement of the 1990s. To many, he is even considered the leading pioneer of the style – but, since it is much more popular on the East Coast than the West Coast, you may be wondering what Boston-style songwriting actually is. Read on to learn more about it!
For many decades, Boston has enjoyed a rich folk scene due to its vast array of music colleges, listening rooms and college radio stations, including the nation’s top station for folk and acoustic music, University of Massachusetts’ WUMB. Musicians in the city often prefer to play in these readily available listening rooms, as well as in similarly intimate environments like coffee shops and open mics. Because of the close proximity of these types of performances, these artists tend to take on a softer, more introspective approach to their music.
Boston-style songwriting, therefore, often emphasizes lyrics more than melody, characterized by an integral theme of poetic storytelling and musical literacy. Singer-songwriters of the Boston school of folk typically address social issues in their work, as Paul did on his most recent album, which centers around the impact the pandemic had on himself, and on the world as a whole.
Paul revealed in an interview for East Bay Daily News that he intends for his audience members to be able to resonate with his lyrics, saying, “I’m hoping to invite them in, have them make out the details and the reasons for being there, and apply them to their own lives.” Songwriters like Paul feel it is important to connect with listeners on their same level, expressing the delicate beauty of life’s joys and struggles in a way that’s at once eloquent and yet accessible.