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Interview with Paul Lane on “Butterfly Island” and Much More

Try at each step on your musical journey to be as honest and authentic with yourself and others as you can possibly be.

‘Butterfly Island’ is a collection of songs that tells a series of musical stories. It was founded and is fronted by UK Artist, Musician, Writer and Producer Paul Lane.

” Music is the soundtrack to our lives and these musical stories set out to describe various fictional, but possible real-life ‘watershed’ moments and experiences in the everyday lives of ordinary people. These very human life experiences (either positive or negative) may well have the potential to change the course of one’s life, as well as influence the decisions and life choices that follow.

Having said that, I think that that one should always try to have Hope in any given situation, whenever humanly possible, and most important of all, that one should hold firmly to the idea that “All you need is Love!” (The Beatles) as a guiding principle. And so that recurring theme about LOVE hopefully comes through the songs, and in doing so, will hopefully reassure and resonate with everyone who needs to hear it most ..” (Paul Lane – Butterfly Island’s founder & lead vocalist).

 

Lisa: Hi Paul! Growing up, how important was music in your life?

Paul: Hi Lisa ! Music has been the soundtrack of my life from the very beginning, from the time when my Mother first sang to me as a baby. My parents were regular church goers, so as a babe-in-arms from just a few days old, they would take me on Sundays to their little church in our hometown of Letchworth (33 miles North of London). There would have been a lot of singing at the church services and so I would have listened to ‘live’ music every weekend. My mother also played the Piano and my Dad played the Guitar. Moreover, both my grandmothers played the piano and the organ, and they all listened to Gospel and Classical music, especially during the weekends. As a family we also listened to Music Radio Shows every morning, and often throughout the day, so there was always music in the home. Then, when my parents rented their first black and white Television we also watched many light entertainment shows on the BBC and later ITV which always included musical songs and performances. Then, when I was about 12 years old I remember standing in my best friend’s sprawling living room. His older brother was well into music at that time and because he also had some part- time work he could afford to buy LP records and a stereo system. He introduced me, first of all to Country music and artists like Hank Williams & Johnny Cash, then various hard rock albums by bands like Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Queen. And then one afternoon, he played a few of tracks from The Beatles ‘Abbey Road’ album. I had just walked into the front room with my best friend, and I remember how his older brother had recently purchased an
expensive Dynatron stereo system. It’s hi fidelity was awesome. I’d never heard anything like it before. The music coming out of those two speakers was so transparent and had so much depth and clarity. Anyway then the track ‘Here Comes The Sun’ started to play. I had not heard this song before. I was completely blown away in that moment, captivated by this amazing song played by a band who might as well have been in the same room. I have never forgotten that moment, and it would serve to draw me into loving andappreciating Music in a much more engaging way than ever before. I became completely hooked on music and bands from then on.

Lisa: Can you recall the moment when you decided that you wanted to be a musician?

Paul: Well throughout my teenage years I didn’t play a musical instrument. However I loved listening to music, had a keen interest in Hi-Fi audio systems and read lots of Music magazines throughout my mid-late teens. Although I couldn’t afford to purchase a Hi-Fi system at that time, my parents did buy for me a small portable mono ITT cassette player as a birthday present, so I then began to buy cassette albums. Clearly it’s sound wasn’t Hi-Fi, not even close, and wasn’t very loud, but I loved the songs I listened to on these music cassettes albums coming through that one little speaker in my bedroom. When I was around 18 years old I was was finally able to buy my first “Hi-Fi” stereo cassette player along with some reasonable stereo headphones. However I still couldn’t play a musical instrument. Then late one night, I returned home after an evening out with friends. My parents were by now asleep in bed. I was around 19 years old. I came upstairs to find a second hand 3/4 size B&M Classical Guitar waiting for me in my bedroom. It was quite a surprise because
I hadn’t asked for a guitar. My father had simply purchased it for me, although neither of my parents thought for a moment that I would take to it. My first thought the next morning, was to try and learn some short “chorus” type songs we’d sung at church, songs I already knew, that some of my musically talented friends could already play on their guitars and pianos. So over the coming week, I started to learn a few basic guitar chords and tried to change between them and strum simple rhythms as shown in the song book. However I soon lost interest after about a week, and then left the guitar in my room for about 2-3 weeks gathering dust. But then somehow, I just picked up the Guitar again, and this time the ‘music bug’ just bit me, and I was hooked on playing Guitar from then on. A new electric guitar followed after a few months funded in part by the pay I received from my first job, and with my parents help. I still couldn’t play the guitar at all well though, but I continued to try, and it wasn’t long before I formed my first band with my younger brother on drums (actually he just bashed cardboard boxes at first !), a friend who just wanted to sing, and another good friend of ours who could already play bass guitar reasonably well. We were terrible as a band at first though, until after our first gig at a local pub, when we were then slightly less than awful. However, as the months went on we got better in rehearsal and playing ‘live’. We eventually recorded our first demo tape at a local 8-track studio in town. I actually played both the electric guitar and the bass guitar on those early recordings and project managed the recording of the demo tape with the owners of the studio. I also took a few piano lessons which my mum had arranged for me, and I practised a lot on my own and with the band throughout the week. We wanted to write songs from the start, both lyrics and tunes. We didn’t really know how to, in truth, but we just had a go during our bi -weekly rehearsals. Around that time I became unemployed, so with more time on my hands I continued to practise in the church hall my Dad and the other church leaders allowed us to use anytime we wanted during the week. I then received a reply to a letter I’d written to a young married man who would become a good friend and mentor who had recently set up a record label on the South Coast and had just released a compilation of various Ska indie bands. I went to spend a day with him and during that time he suggested that I left the band and go live in London (which by now was over 200 miles away, since we’d moved to the South West of the UK), get a day job and start auditioning to join a band playing in and around the early 1980’s London music scene. I took his advice, travelled home, announced I was leaving the band, and then immediately began looking for opportunities (adverts for musicians wanted) in the national Music papers. That was the the moment I knew I wanted to be a full-time musician. I found a possible lead in a national youth magazine called “Buzz” and soon I was talking to a musical director of what seemed to be a new upcoming musical. They needed a guitarist, so I greed to audition and initially sent my former band’s (8 track) demo tape to him on a music cassette. They seemed happy, and soon asked me to join them. They were based in East London, even further away from home, but somehow I persuaded my worried parents to help me find a place to stay with an older cousin who already lived in London, so I could try this out..

Was it an easy or difficult choice to make?

Paul: It was a fairly easy choice to make in one sense, because I really wanted to leave home and head out on this new adventure, but I was also quite naive as you may well imagine. At the same time it was difficult for my worried parents, especially my mother. I’m not sure what they made of it all, but still they continued to support my decision to leave home, and soon drove me to London with all my musical gear, leaving me at my cousin’s flat in London to find my own way. It was a very uncertain time, and I had very little money, but I was also quite keen and optimistic, so I soon got a day job working at a bookshop and newspaper seller in Paddington station. I would then attend band practices for the musical, as well as apply for band auditions at other times during the week. I eventually left the musical within a couple of months or so, to join a busy ‘signed’ indie band called ‘Fear of Falling’ as their new guitarist. They were based 17 miles West of London, so I soon moved out of London to be where they were.

Lisa: How would you describe the music that you typically create?

Paul: It’s basically a combination of drums, bass, pianos, keyboards, guitars, orchestral elements and vocal layers, to produce a mix of Pop, Soul, RnB and a Rock.

Lisa: Have you managed to make any new discoveries as the time passed during your creative process? Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed much?

Paul:I did a fair amount of reading and studying Music theory around the three main elements – Rhythm, Harmony and Melody. I would then always try to put what I was learning into practice on the guitar, as best as I could. In doing so, I discovered that it really does help develop your creative writing and your overall understanding of music if you’re prepared to teach – i.e. to pass on what you’ve learned to others. And so this is what I did – at the same time as working to develop my own songwriting, I began to teach others to play the Guitar. And this is something I still do to this day.

Lisa: Do you think that at some point of that process your writing approach changed much?

Paul: Yes, the writing approach definitely evolves over the years. I mean I used to write everything instrumentally only on the guitar, but then I found I could also ‘hammer out’ a few chords on the piano, so I then started writing primarily using the Piano. Nowadays, I use a combination of writing on the guitar and the piano, or I can even use just a rhythmic beat to start with, that may suggest lyric lines and ideas to me, just like Rapping. At other times, I like to write the Music after having already written some lyrics. Adding the musical arrangements after the words can also be fun to do. People will obviously have different approaches to writing their songs, depending on where they’re at. But to me, it makes writing songs more interesting, fun and less predictable, if you’re prepared to explore different starting points in your writing and producing.

Lisa: What types of change do you feel your music can initiate?

Paul: I do believe that the first thing a piece of Music has to do is to resonate with the songwriter. It should ideally produce a positive reaction in it’s creator. If not, I really shouldn’t expect my songs to move anyone else. One should always try to develop an emotional connection to the song you’re writing. So if I feel that my song is impacting me emotionally, then I’ll naturally attach value to it. I think I also have a responsibility to say something positive, first to myself, and then to whoever else who may stop to listen. Most of us like Stories, just like we did perhaps when our parents or grandparents would read to us before bedtime. We benefited from the emotional connection we had with them and with the stories they read to us (and the reassuring sounds of their voices), and yes, these stories would help us sleep, or at least rest better during the night. So I tell (musical) stories hoping that my songs will positively resonate with at least some of my listeners, to inspire and encourage them to be the best they can be, when it counts the most. It’s also like when sometimes you watch a movie you really connect with, and then you cry at the end, because it has a sad ending, or because you’re really happy because the film ended well. It’s those kinds of feelings and reactions that a film or a song can draw out from us, that shows us that we’re very much alive, and that life is worth living.

Lisa: What is a story behind “Butterfly Island”?

Paul:One day, in early 1997, I was trying to think of a band/artist name for this new musical project I’d started about three months earlier. As I paced up and down in my music room, deep in thought, a phrase suddenly just popped into my head – Butterfly Island ! As it did, I suddenly imagined a swirling carpet of Butterflies rising up from the green jungle foliage on some kind of Pacific island. That was it really. So I then got to thinking about how these little insects lived out their short lives, and maybe how just a few of them would live long enough be able to completely change from these little grubs living in the jungle under leaves to becoming these beautiful winged insects. And then I thought, it can be like that for us humans – we can live out our lives in limitation (just surviving and getting by), perhaps for many years, until maybe a day comes around when somehow we’re finally able to step out into a new season of beauty and freedom. That’s worth exploring I thought, so that’s how I decided on the name “Butterfly Island”.

Lisa: You’re latest single “Can’t Live Without You” is awesome. What inspired you to write it?

Paul:Thank you ! My initial inspiration for this song came in the form of a piano chord progression I’d written – a piece of instrumental music I really liked, that had also stuck in my memory. So I recorded the piano part on it’s own, so I could listen back to it (over and over) in order to write some lyrics. For a while though I had no words, just the music. But then one day, when I had some free time, I just sat in my music room and started to write in pencil continuously on my notepad, playing around with words and story ideas, starting to develop a short story about a love relationship going wrong, and whether or not it could be put right. As I did, more words and phrases started to come into my head. So I continued to write on my notepad as the verses and the chorus began to take shape. It’s worth saying at this point that lyrics do flow much better from me when I’m sort of “in character” like an actor in a movie or TV show. It usually becomes easier for me to write the words, if I’m able to quickly develop an emotional connection with the story, and can see myself as part of the narrative as it emerges, in my mind’s eye.

Lisa: How did you document the music while it was being formulated?

Paul: I always store my lyrics in folders as paper copies, as well as store them digitally on my PC. The music itself is recorded (documented) in two particular ways and then merged together as one song file: First of all, I will usually record the drums, percussion, bass, synths, pianos, a brass section, and the orchestra. Each instrument is recorded one at a time via Midi (musical instrument digital interface) as digital note information, then stored as midi sequences within a Song file on my computer. All the the midi notes and beats will together form part of the main song file within my DAW (digital audio workstation) recording software on my computer. Secondly, I will record the audio tracks – maybe a drum, an acoustic or electric guitar, and then of course all the vocals. As I record each instrument, I will usually take notes, usually on paper, or maybe using Notepad on my PC, so I can progressively document the journey I’ve taken in the recording and arranging process. This is because it’s vitally important to construct a proper timeline for everything you write and arrange, so that you can return to it, if you so wish, maybe sometime in the future, if say you wanted to record another version of the same song, and you therefore would need to pick up from where you left off.

Lisa: What are some newer projects that you are currently working on?

Paul: Well I’ve just finished my latest single entitled “Wall Of Ice”. It’s a pop/funk song, which can be previewed now on Soundcloud -, although it will be officially released in early September. I’ve also been working with video animator Maryam Jasam, who has been doing a fabulous job re-telling the stories behind the songs visually for my YouTube channel. At the same time I have be re-mastering some of the songs from my first two albums for the new video presentations yet to come. There is still a lot of work to be done and it’s ongoing, but we’re getting there. I’m also trying to make sure that new content is added consistently and regularly for our growing number of subscribers and listeners on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram. And then there are new songs in the pipeline, still in production, but not yet completed. So I’m about to start work on one of these, now I’ve completed “Wall Of Ice”…

Lisa: Who are some of your favorite artists or rather, what musicians have
continued to inspire you and your music?

Paul: Here is a short list – Chic, Sister Sledge, James Brown, Fun Lovin’ Criminals, Abba, U2 and The Beatles.

Lisa: Who would you absolutely still love to work with in the future?

Paul:Nile Rodgers and Björn Ulvaeus.

Lisa: What advice or philosophy might you impart to other musicians, be it in
forms of creativity, technical stuff, the business side of it, or anything else?

Paul: On a personal level I would say, try at each step on your musical journey to be as honest and authentic with yourself and others as you can possibly be. Always treat everyone you meet with kindness and respect, and be vulnerable enough to allow certain people you can trust into your life. It’s not always easy of course, to allow yourself to become vulnerable to others. It can be risky and there can be trust issues. However, at core we need others around us. You see sometimes being prepared to collaborate with others is often the key to success, especially when you’re first starting out. For when one is prepared to work alongside others towards a common goal, like a musical project that is intrinsically bigger than any one person, we will often come out the better for it. So take your time to create and develop the kind of music and songs you can be proud of, always be consistent in doing so, never give up on your dreams (for there are no losers, only quitters), and then hopefully the music and the sounds you create will be enjoyed and celebrated by many others in the days to come.

Lisa: At the end of the day, what do you hope people take away from your music?

Paul: I hope that folks will take away at least some of following themes that run through my music – that Love conquers all, to persevere and never give up, to always carry Hope in every situation, to learn to forgive yourself and others, to be courageous, to be adventurous, to trust and become vulnerable with at least one other person in your life, in order to give and receive love and to know and be known in the same measure.

Lisa: What are your plans for the future?

Paul:Based on what I’m doing now, I hope to continue to write and release new singles, regularly add new music videos to my YouTube channel, and finish working on my third album.

Thank you so much.

And thank you Paul!

Follow Paul: Youtube, Facebook, Spotify,Soundcloud

What do you think?

Lisa

Written by Lisa

Lisa is an undergraduate at Universitá Degli Studi di Roma, she is currently studying course in modern pop culture. She loves to write about and live for the music.

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