Lead vocalist saves his soul
Paul Janeway was finishing up an accounting degree in 2013 when his band, St. Paul and the Broken Bones, self-released an EP that Janeway considered his “last-ditch” musical project.
But the singer’s career plans took an abrupt turn when the EP attracted label attention. Since then, the Birmingham, Ala.-based soul band’s debut LP, “Half the City,” received widespread critical acclaim and charted on iTunes’ Top Albums and the Billboard 200 this year. The seven-piece band has spent much of the ensuing months on a busy international tour.
“It blows my mind,” says Janeway, 31. “And it’s a career now. I’ll probably be doing this six, seven years down the road now, barring anything major happening. That’s crazy to think.”
Portly and usually besuited, with thinning hair and large, square glasses, Janeway still looks more the part of an accountant than a rock star. Even before the surprise success of his band’s EP, his path to the international stage was improbable. Growing up in a strongly religious family, Janeway loved church and wanted to be a preacher from a young age. At age 10, he sought mentorship from a preacher at his family’s nondenominational Christian church, which began allowing Janeway to preach on his own around age 15. Janeway says he realizes now that the performance element of preaching was what interested him.
“It was very dramatic, and you felt like there was a sense of importance to it, like you were saving people from a fiery place and spreading love and things like that,” he says. “I think it’s the urgency that’s in that and feeling like you have a higher purpose. I think that was an important feeling.”
But he began to drift away from the church around age 19. Janeway found himself in disagreement with many of the church’s social values, particularly its stance against homosexuality.
“It’s sad to me because I really did love it,” he says. “But it’s just one of those things where I just didn’t agree with everything. And if you don’t agree with it, you probably shouldn’t be in it.”
After years of singing in church, Janeway finally began to realize he had a notable voice when he began performing at open mics. Around the same time, he began to explore the world of music outside the gospel he’d been raised on. He describes that period as “like finding Jesus all over again.”
“I’m a late bloomer,” he says. “I had to discover the Beatles in my twenties.”
Despite the wild twists and turns of his life so far, Janeway seems very pleased with his recent transition to a full-fledged musical career.
“Getting to create music and play music live is wonderful,” he says. “Hopefully I’ll be doing it as long as the music business will have me.”
Patrick Dunn is an Ann Arbor-based freelance writer.
St. Paul and the Broken Bones
with Jessica Hernandez
and the Deltas
7 p.m. Saturday
St. Andrew’s Hall
431 E. Congress, Detroit