Thursday, January 16, 2014

Paul Collins' musical rebirth has strong Atlanta ties

Posted By on Thu, Jan 16, 2014 at 10:34 AM

Beat Generations: Atlantas Jesse Smith (left) performs with Paul Collins
  • Douchemaster Records
  • BEAT GENERATIONS: Atlanta's Jesse Smith (left) performs with Paul Collins.
Though he resides in New York, and his 40-year career as a songwriter began in pre-punk Los Angeles, Paul Collins' resurgence and current role as an elder statesman of power pop owes a lot to Atlanta. Since a few chance encounters with some local scene fixtures at SXSW in March 2008, Collins has seen a spike in touring and recording that has maintained momentum for nearly five years.

First, Atlanta musician and record connoisseur "Gentleman" Jesse Smith met Collins in Austin. "Jesse told me that I need to tour the states again, and said, 'if you need help finding a backing band, I'm your man'," Collins says.

Collins was given a chance to network with the current wave of garage-punks at that same SXSW, after an assist by former Gentleman Jesse bassist Warren Bailey, who has since moved to New York, and Atlanta scene fixture Jayda Abello (DJ Natural Born Swiller). "I met Warren that same year at SXSW, and he invited me to play a barbecue the next day that's an unofficial showcase held every year," Collins says. "That's what opened the door for me to meet a lot of great young bands."

From there, Collins and his backing band, the Beat, played the Earl that August with Gentleman Jesse and His Men, and Bailey's other band Beat Beat Beat. It was Collins' first appearance in Atlanta, as neither the legendary Nerves nor earlier versions of the Beat had ever played here.

When Collins toured the Midwest and East Coast again in January and February the following year, Gentleman Jesse's lineup at the time was both the supporting act and the headliner, as three-fourths of the band backed Collins every night as the Beat. Collins' budding relationship with the Atlanta scene had him backed by the Gentleman Jesse guys one last time at the Earl over a year later, co-headlining the 2010 Mess-Around.

Amid all of these Atlanta encounters, Collins, along with contemporaries like Dwight Twilley and Sonny Vincent, became one of the current garage-punk and power pop scenes' elder statesmen. His rekindled commitment to performing live made him a peer to like-minded young bands, such as current tour mates, Nashville's Parasite Diet. "The thing about these new bands is, to me, they've given me a new lease on life," he adds.

By 2011, Collins had reconnected with his established audience and gained new admirers though constant touring and his commitment to time-tested power pop licks, and hasn't slowed down since. "I've never been busier than I've been recently," he says. "I've played an average of 85 shows per year, three years straight."

He's also continued writing new music, some of which was recorded at Jim Diamond's Detroit studio for a new album, slated for a May release on Bomp Records subsidiary, Alive. Collins' friendship with Bomp boss Suzy Shaw dates back to his days with the Nerves, a legendary '70s power pop trio that also launched the careers of Jack Lee (Jack Lee Inferno, writer of Nerves standard and Blondie hit "Hanging on the Telephone") and Peter Case (the Plimsouls).

While Collins credits numerous young bands and fans for his recent flurry of musical activity, he also says that the three friends he made in Austin back in 2008 helped make it all possible: "Gentleman Jesse, Warren, and Jayda were part of my rebirth in America."

The Paul Collins Beat, Parasite Diet, Dino's Boys, and Vito Romeo play the Earl tonight (Thurs., Jan. 16). $8. 8 p.m.

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