There is a personal simplicity to Paul Thorn’s music that lends itself to storytelling and imagination.
“I think if I have a skill, maybe I can talk about myself in a way that everyone hears what I’ve been through in my songs, and they feel like they’ve been through it too. “, said Thorn, who performs Sunday at 6 p.m. at the Montgomery Performing Arts Center.
“I try to make all of my songs accessible to everyone,” Thorn said. “We all suffer from the same pains. We all enjoy the same pleasures. We have different things in our lives, but we’re pretty much all the same. I try to put that into my songs and make everything the world feels welcome.. I let everyone who listens to my music know that someone out there understands what they’re going through, good and bad.
Although he became a star, Thorn also opened for big names like Sting, Huey Lewis and the News, John Prine, Bonnie Raitt, Toby Keith and Jeff Beck. He considers himself both a singer and an artist, and brings both sides to his live shows.
“I always try to think of something funny to say between songs,” Thorn said. “When I find myself in front of a crowd, it’s my job to make sure, as best I can, that they have a good time and forget about their problems for a while.”
Tickets for Sunday’s show at MPAC range from $20 to $40. They are available online at mpaconline.org or by calling the MPAC box office at 334-481-5100.
Talk about music and family
Thorn has been busy touring in support of his 2021 album Never Too Late to Call.
“The whole record, pretty much, was built around my acoustic guitar,” said Thorn, the son of a Pentecostal pastor, who cut his teeth singing in church. “I played on all the songs on the album. We kind of built the tracks around an acoustic sound. It was something I had never done before.”
It’s a style he’s been developing since he started “composing songs” at the age of 12. Five years later, Thorn said he met real writers who trained him in the process. “I apparently had a niche for it,” he said. “I didn’t plan for it. It just happened.”
Never Too Late to Call is Thorn’s 16th project. Many of the songs on the album are deeply personal to her, including the title track which was inspired by her sister Deborah.
“She stayed up really late at night. After the shows, I could call her and she always picked up the phone,” Thorn said. “She passed away, I’m sorry to say.”
Thorn’s wife, Heather, is also on the new album. She sang with him on “Breaking up for Good Again”.
“She never sang professionally, but she grew up singing in church,” Thorn said. “The first time she recorded was on my album. The first time she performed live, outside of church, was a few months ago. She and I sang” Breaking up for Good Again” at the Grand Ole Opry.”
Although Montgomery is close enough to their home in Tupelo, Mississippi, that Heather could be there for the MPAC gig, Thorn said they weren’t filming as a couple.
“It requires a lot of travel, and we have a daughter (Kitty) who is 18, and we’re trying to get her to grow up,” Thorn said. “One of us has to be here for that.”
Kitty has been active in music herself. She co-wrote the song “Sapphire Dream” with her father and accompanied him on it. Still, Thorn isn’t sure if music is the life she’s going to lead.
“Growing up around me, she saw the sacrifices you have to make,” Thorn said. “She definitely has the talent. I’m not sure she has the passion for it, though. You have to really want to do this to do it.”
While he lost income during the pandemic when touring stopped and he also had COVID for a few weeks, Thorn said he made the best of a tragic situation. Although he didn’t write much, he enjoyed more family time.
“I had a bullet,” Thorn said. “I was staying around the house. I took my daughter to football games. I dragged trash down the road, swept the carport, worked in the yard. I lost money, but I can’t say I suffered.”
Punches and jumps in Thorn’s youth
“When I was young, I didn’t think I would ever die,” Thorn said.
He is a former professional boxer, who was attracted by a boxer uncle.
“I started wanting to do everything he did, because I thought he was cool,” Thorn said. “It was a hobby at first, then the next thing I knew I was world number 29 as a middleweight. I wasn’t the best fighter in the world, but I was pretty good. I was able to fight on national television against the world champion, Roberto Durán.”
Young Thorn was also a skydiver, but like boxing, that’s something from his past.
“I haven’t skydived in over 20 years,” Thorn said. “I have almost 200 jumps, but that was a long, long time ago.”
The confusing artistic side of Thorn
In addition to making music, Thorn puts his creativity into painting. He has created several pieces during the pandemic.
“I was home and had time,” Thorn said. “I’ve done more art than I’ve done nothing.”
This led to a new kind of collectible for his fans.
“CDs were a big part of our revenue at live shows. When they left, we had a deficit in our merchandise,” Thorn said. “This lady who works with me, she had the idea of taking some of my art and making puzzles out of it.”
They started with 1,000 puzzles of his work “Mess Around And Get A Buzz” because they had no idea how the fans would react.
“We were shocked at how many people love doing puzzles,” Thorn said. “I think there are less than 50 left now. When we’ve used up those 1,000, we’ll do another puzzle with different illustrations.”
Along with his other merchandise, the puzzles are available online at http://www.paulthorn.com.
Thorn’s take on social media
Those who follow Thorn online have seen his sense of humor through regular music videos, telling short stories.
“I laugh at myself more than I laugh at anyone else,” Thorn said. “It will always be funny.”
Some of his latest articles are about how to keep the last bit of syrup in the bottle, a message from a masked devil telling people to get out and fly, and one about how his wife saw bigfoot.
You can follow him and see his videos on Facebook @thornpage.
Contact Montgomery Advertiser reporter Shannon Heupel at email@example.com.