If anyone ever makes a movie of Paul Thorn’s life, they may have to leave out some of the details just to make it believable. Just after his birth in Wisconsin, his Pentecostal preacher father moved the family to Tupelo, Miss., famed birthplace of Elvis Presley.
Thorn learned guitar at 12, but before he could pursue music he took up boxing with encouragement from an uncle, ultimately becoming the world’s 29th-ranked middleweight. Thorn fought eventual world champ Roberto Duran in 1987 but gave up the sport soon after and returned to music, writing songs and evolving his Folk/Roots/Gospel/R&B style.
After meeting songwriter Billy Maddox, Thorn continued to develop his songcraft while working days in a furniture factory and playing area clubs at night. In 1996, an associate of producer Miles Copeland caught Thorn’s set at the Village Tavern in Tupelo; two weeks later, Thorn was in L.A. recording his 1997 debut album, Hammer and Nail.
The Copeland connection was fortuitous for Thorn, earning him a slot at Copeland’s annual songwriting workshop in France, which networked him with a wealth of artists, many of whom he opened for later, including Marianne Faithfull, Jeff Beck, John Hiatt, John Prine and Mark Knopfler. Thorn’s Pentecostal upbringing kept him far away from secular music, so his first real Rock concert experience was opening for Sting in front of 13,000 people.
For the past decade and a half, Thorn has eschewed major label deals to do exactly as he pleases; last year’s A Long Way From Tupelo (on his own Perpetual Obscurity Records) earned him TV appearances with Conan O’Brien and Jimmy Kimmel and his first charting in the Billboard Top 200. Whatever happens next for Paul Thorn, it’s bound to make the screenplay even better … and the soundtrack will be fantastic.
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