“I’m going to go out on a limb and say it, I might be the only artist on the entire planet that's got a puzzle,” he says with a hearty laugh. It’s this kind the same silly and sweet sense of humor that he puts into his songs and that has helped push Thorn into wider audiences throughout his career building his fan base "one fan at a time."
Thorn is releasing his new album Never Too Late To Call on August 6 and performing this Friday, July 16 at The Heights Theater with his full band. Never Too Late To Call will be his twelfth studio album and first release of original music in six years.
His last release Don’t Let The Devil Ride saw Thorn digging deep into his gospel roots with songs selected by his longtime co-writing partner Billy Maddox. Just as those songs selected reflected his past, Never Too Late To Call shows listeners where Thorn is at now and his recent journey that brought him here.
“Almost every song on this album has come from a place that was not necessarily a good place but the songs came out the way I wanted them to,” says Thorn. The songs range from Thorn losing his sister — the inspiration for the title track — the ups and downs of marriage, the mesmerizing wildness of James Brown and drinking to name a few.
“One of the reasons I wasn't writing so much was unfortunately during the past six years, and especially during the pandemic like a lot of people, my drinking accelerated to an unhealthy level,” he says. A tequila shot to ease his nerves before hitting the stage became his new norm.
The one shot quickly morphed into more pre-show drinks and then fans buying him rounds after the show.
“It was hurting me and I'm happy to say that I quit. It was this vicious cycle of doing the same stuff over and over and expecting to get a different result. I’m talking openly about this because I think a large percentage of the people in the world accelerated doing that during the pandemic.”
“The good news is I put that behind me. I finally made my mind up to not do it again and boy I've learned I've been missing out. It took me a couple of weeks for my body to adjust, but once it did I started sleeping better, my shows got better, my attitude towards my friends and family got better, everything got better. I just wish I had done it sooner but now that I'm in a good state of mind, I'm in the right frame of mind to go out and promote my record and I'm looking forward to it.”
Though Never Too Late To Call comes from a very personal place for Thorn, with songs inspired by real life events and the album featuring his wife and daughter singing harmonies, the subject matter can hit a nerve with almost everyone.
“Any song I've ever written that has resonated with people, it seems like they always come with a heavy price and for me the heavy price was losing my sister. She got cancer but I could call her at any hour and she would say, ‘Don’t worry, it’s never too late to call’ and man she's not there now and she never will be in this life. When I wrote that song for her I sort of thought, and luckily I think I'm right, that everybody that hears this song has their own story that fits it.”
“Never Too Late To Call” was the first single released off the album. The second — “Here We Go” — served as a counterpoint with an uplifting tempo.
“My sister that died has a twin and when Deborah died, for Charlotte it was like half of her died because twins have a very unique relationship. My sister Charlotte is a very devout Christian and her belief is that when she dies, she's going to see Deborah again.”
“I wrote that song about my sister's relationship. It’s about them being together in their belief and being together on the other side of life but once again, that song can mean different things to different people. For me it's just if you got somebody that loves you and you love them back and you're going through life together, facing eternity together man, that’s something to hold onto. That's something special.”
“I think it’s my most personal album. I didn’t set out to do it that way, it wasn't my plan to do that but it's just what happened. I can write a song every day, but I can't write a good one every day. Life has to happen and then you've got something to write about.”
To record Never Too Late To Call Thorn visited Sam Phillips Studio in Memphis, an hour and half drive from his home in Tupelo, and worked with producer Matt Ross-Spang who he credits with helping him center the album around his playing and creating a more stripped down sound than his other albums.
“The stars really did line up,” says Thorn of his experience at the historic studio and his own personal journey. “I grew up singing in church and my father is a minister and I learned all my music stuff in church like Elvis did. I wanted to record at Sam Philips because they have all of the vintage equipment that was used to record Elvis and so the recording equipment it’s old, but it’s irreplaceable and it has a sonic sound that you can't get anywhere else.”
Paul Thorn will perform with Chip Greene on Friday, July 16 at The Heights Theater, 339 W. 19th. Doors open at 7 p.m. showtime at 8 p.m., $32.