From General Counsel for Starbucks and White House Task Force to Rock and Roll Musician, PAULA BOGGS Discusses It All!
Posted On 05 Feb 2016
Tag: A Buddha State Of Mind, All Access, All Access Music Group, Army, Army Airborne, Artichoke Music Listening Room, Artist Intervierw, Artist Interview, Bear Creek, Bear Creek Studios, Ben Harper, Bootsy Collins, Brittany Howard, Carnival of Miracles, Cave Singers, Evertt's Anchor Pub, Genghis Cohen, Gigging for the Angels, Grammy, I Can Really Love, Iran Contra, Jon Hyde, Keith Jarrett, Lenny's In the House, Leonard Cohen, Look Straight Ahead, Los Angeles, Marck Chinen, Maritime Museum, Music Hall Jazz Cafe, My Brother's Keeper Alliance, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, NASDAQ, Neil Young, Pacific Lutheran University, Paula Boggs, Paula Boggs Band, Puget Sound, Rockwood Music Hall, Sam's Bond Garage, Seattle- Brewed Soulgrass, Someone Else, Starbucks, task force, Tor Dietrichson, Trina Shoemaker, When You Dance, White House, Winston's Beach Club, Woodinville, World Cafe Live
Meet the new full-time musician, Paula Boggs! She was previously General Counsel for Starbucks, recognized by NASDAQ and Fortune as one of the best legal minds in the US, served on the White House Iran Contra task force and was trained as an Army paratrooper — she’s repeatedly shattered glass ceilings and broken gender and cultural molds throughout her life. She then decided to switch her focus to music — her album Carnival of Miracles was released last year. Paula also recently teamed up with both My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, which unites leaders across philanthropic, nonprofit, and private sectors to improve life outcomes of boys and men of color; as well as the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, the country’s first and foremost civil rights firm, to continue her civil rights work.
Just a couple days ago, Paula and her band performed to packed house at LA’s Genghis Cohen.
Learn more about this incredibly impressive woman in the following All Access interview:
Thanks for your time today! So, what were some of the highlights of you 2015?
So many to list…Paula Boggs Band released album Carnival of Miracles in March 2015 and we’ve been touring the US ever since including stops at Philly’s World Cafe Live!, New York’s Rockwood Music Hall, Detroit’s Music Hall Jazz Cafe, Eugene’s Sam’s Bond Garage and Pacific Lutheran University here in the Puget Sound — 15 shows in all. We’ve also had good press and interesting radio/TV appearances. As a band we’ve earned new fans, really nurtured a sound we call “Seattle-Brewed Soulgrass” and now finish each other’s sentences. Last Fall we also announced a partnership with NAACP Legal Defense Fund and My Brother’s Keeper Alliance using the remix of our song “Look Straight Ahead” and it’s associated video to help spark honest and constructive discussion and forward movement on issues of race in America.
What are you most looking forward to in 2016?
This year started with a live-audience taped TV show, opening for the Cave Singers and playing a two-hour acoustic set at Portland’s Artichoke Music Listening Room. We’ll visit more US cities in 2016, I’ll continue to write music, and it would be cool to play a few music festivals as we prepare to return to the studio to record a third album. We’ve committed to co-hosting two forums on race — one in Baltimore and a second in Seattle, accompanied by a benefit show.
So, you just went through a massive career change! Can you talk about making the decision to drastically change career paths? What do you think got you there?
Yes, I’m pretty much in my 3rd career…first an Army Airborne officer, followed by years as a lawyer and corporate executive before returning to music — perhaps my deepest passion from ages 10 to 30 — as a path for me, in this life chapter, to live a purpose driven life. My decision to leave law practice and Starbucks, where I spent 10 years as its chief legal officer, came slowly but purposefully, over a period of years as I rediscovered a deep passion for creating and performing music, met amazing musicians who dug the music I wrote well enough to form a band and realized I had achieved everything I wanted to or could at Starbucks — a great company — and in practicing law — at an age young enough to take this leap into the unknown — namely committing to take Paula Boggs Band, and our “Seattle-Brewed Soulgrass” as far as we can go.
Let’s talk about your recently released album, “Carnival of Miracles”. What was it like making that record?
Making “Carnival of Miracles” was both frustrating and exhilarating. It took two years, starting with different producers before reshaping much of that with Grammy-winning Trina Shoemaker at Bear Creek Studios in Woodinville, Greater Seattle. Though four of us have played together since 2008, the band went through a couple personnel changes during that 24 month period. We also started with a number of guest musicians before stripping down to a sound we now own. And we got better. I got better. Trina was the right producer and chief engineer of our album and Bear Creek, with its rural vibe, was the perfect place for us to record it.
How long were you working on it?
Officially, we worked on it two years but there are songs on Carnival of Miracles, like “Someone Else”, “Look Straight Ahead” and “Lenny’s in the House”, that appeared on our first album, 2010’s A Buddha State of Mind, that we rearranged, re-imagined on Carnival of Miracles.
What are some of your favorite songs on this record? How did the Paula Boggs band come together?
Wow, that’s like asking who is your favorite child! I suppose the story around “Gigging for the Angels” leads me to pick it. I wrote it after meeting a young musician at one of our shows and becoming a “friend” though social media only to learn he’d died within months of that— I just assumed I’d get to know him better. I wrote the song shortly before recording with Trina Shoemaker who led a discussion around fragility, death and loss, lighting candles and dimming the studio lights to create an intimate and vulnerable moment. Starbucks friend Jon Hyde plays pedal steel and the background vocals, banjo, stand up bass and guitar dance with each other. We also got to play the rough mix for Tristan’s parents at Bear Creek. Paula Boggs Band came together pretty organically. Percussionist Tor Dietrichson and I met through MySpace in 2006 and lead guitarist/banjo player Mark Chinen and I met through friends in Hosnolulu that same year. There are wonderful stories around each band member’s journey to Paula Boggs Band and why they stay.
What artists have consistently inspiring you and the music you’ve released?
Carnival of Miracles contains one cover, Neil Young’s When You Dance (I Can Really Love) and an ode to another great songwriter, Leonard Cohen (Lenny’s in The House). Both musicians have inspired me for decades as has an eclectic range of music from the Roman Catholic folk mass to spirituals and gospel music, to Keith Jarrett’s piano, to the europop I heard in Germany as a teen living there, to Bootsy Collins.
Who would you absolutely love to work with one day?
For our next album I’ve written a song I’d love us to record with someone like Brittany Howard or Ben Harper!
How often are you performing now? Where can people catch you live next?
Though we’re still building our 2016 tour calendar, for the next few months we’re playing 3-4 shows per month. Our next shows are 2/3 at LA’s Genghis Cohen, 2/4 at San Diego’s Winston’s Beach Club, 2/5 at San Diego’s Maritime Museum at an American Bar Association event before returning to the Puget Sound on 2/27 at Everett’s Anchor Pub.
Sure. In the wake of the Michael Brown/Ferguson and Eric Garner/NYC incidents, and too many others, Questlove? asked,”where are the musicians?” As a former federal prosecutor, African American mom and musician, I came to realize my unique tools in contributing to our national conversation and hopefully action plan around race. I rewrote “Look Straight Ahead” to make it more current and urgent, partnered with Seattle and LA based rapper J. Pinder to remix the song, making it more relevant and accessible and started looking for the right partners to amplify my and the band’s ability to make a difference. We reached out to NAACP Legal Defense Fund, our nation’s oldest civil rights law firm, because of its central role in using law to improve our criminal justice system. We also approached My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, the nonprofit sibling of President Obama’s My Brothers Keeper Initiative he formed in the wake of Trayvon Martin’s death. The Alliance is focused on mentoring and creating other pathways to enable better outcomes — particularly for boys and young men of color. From the stage, in interviews, through our music video and in other ways available to me and Paula Boggs Band, we’re urging Americans to engage, learn more and support the work of these two fine organizations.
At the end of the day, what do you hope is the message of your music?
We like to say we make music “that matters.” Not every song is about Trayvon Martin or Newtown though we don’t fear those issues. Hopefully our songs and how we perform them touch a range of human experience — love, loss, betrayal, redemption, joy, comedy, wisdom, perseverance, disappointment —authentically, in a way that entertains and is uniquely our voice. Even though some songs are “sad” a few days ago someone came up to me after a performance and said she found our music “hopeful” and “uniquely beautiful.” We don’t get that feedback every night but when we do, there’s no sweeter music.