Blues singer/songwriter Paul Thorn is the son of a preacher man. His musical career started very early in his hometown of Tupelo, Mississippi. “As a child, I sang in churches,” he said. “My first paying gig was at a revival with my father when everybody came around and put money in my tambourine. After the service, there was a little girl, also about three years old, who I had a crush on. I stuffed the money I got all down in my pockets. After the service, we sat around the back of the church and I bought her a Coke with the money I’d earned. That was my first paying gig, and I guess my first date.”
Thorn’s musical career took a while to get started after that because of a distraction provided by another relative, his Uncle Merle, a boxer. He learned how to box in the backyard and he began entering local tournaments. He won amateur bouts, became a pro and fought Roberto Duran in Atlantic City. “I didn’t win the fight, but then again, few that entered the ring with Duran did,” he said.
Over the next 12 years, he worked in a furniture factory during the day and played the blues at night. He was discovered by legendary manager Miles Copeland while he was performing at a pizza place in Tupelo. His first album, Hammer and Nail, was released in 1997. “When I got my first record deal, I was literally plucked from a chair factory and flown to Los Angeles. Everyone told me how great I was and how famous I would soon be. You learn pretty quickly that everything everyone says isn’t the whole truth. There can be a lot of darkness behind those big, bright lights.”
Thorn’s songs and music are known for their wit and grit and draw upon his gospel roots and his personal experiences. His song, “It’s Never Too Late to Call,” from the 2020 CD of the same name, was written for his sister, Deborah, who died in 2018. When he was on the road, he knew that after a late show, he could call his sister to talk because she’d be awake. His work is infused with the experiences that made him who he is and with the people he loves. They have even joined him on the journey. His daughter, Kitty Jones, co-wrote the song “Sapphire Dream” and accompanies her dad on vocals. His wife, Heather, accompanies him on “Breaking Up for Good Again,” about a couple that has had the ups and downs that come with marriage but knows they’re in it for the long haul.
Paul Thorn’s work has always been about life in all its messiness and glory. His faith and what it means to him has always been there, as well, as a legacy of a lifetime. “I’ll tell you where I got that from,” he said. “My father was a minister, and one of his strongest qualities was he had time for the big people and the little people too. In fact, I went and visited him and when I got there, there was a guy standing on the porch, dirty clothes, hadn’t had a bath. My mom walked on the porch and gave him a two-liter 7-Up bottle filled with water…and a plate of fried chicken for his supper and told him he could come back tomorrow if he didn’t have any food. They’re not talking about it. They’re just doing it. If I get it from somewhere, that’s where it came from.”
Thorn has mellowed as he’s gotten a little older and is a bit more at peace with himself. “I’ve been such a lucky boy,” he said. “I’m crying two tears of joy.”