Paul Cauthen Remains True to Himself on ‘Country Coming Down’ [INTERVIEW]
It should be no surprise to anyone that's heard Paul Cauthen that his third full-length release, Country Coming Down, comes with an explicit label. That label is a hard one, too, as two of the ten tracks include that word that isn't allowed on radio in their respective titles, including the first single, "Country as F--k."
"If you want to judge me and judge my music, I don't want you at my show," Cauthen tells The Boot of how he feels about the warning labels and terrestrial radio support. "I don't give a damn. I'm not here to be judged, and I'm not going to cast judgement on you. We're talking about a [expletive] song here. We're not talking about me giving world peace to the Middle East. It's not that big of a deal. Either you like it or you don't."
"I'm just lucky to have a job to perform and give people a good time in that little 90 minutes or two hours of an evening," he says. "And hopefully they can take that throughout the rest of their week or throughout the rest of their month and try to exude some light on somebody else.
Country Coming Down was produced, recorded and performed at Modern Electric Sound Recorders in Dallas, which Cauthen calls his home studio, with Beau Bedford and Jason Burt. It's a big, gaudy, disco-infused country record, and Cauthen hopes that it can make an audience move its feet. Indeed, it also includes tracks like "F--k You Money," "Champagne & a Limo" and "Cut a Rug."
"I wanted to put out a good-timing record," he says. "I was so tired of all the sadness and darkness. All of the headlines are sad... [telling us] what we can't do, what we should do. How we should live, how we shouldn't live. This is about having a good time and forgetting about all of the [expletive] noise and letting yourself just enjoy your surroundings. It's a really good record for a boat and a lake and drinking beer and barbecuing. Good-timing. You know what I mean?"
Cauthen has never shied from talking about his religious and conservative upbringing in Texas. He was raised in the Church of Christ in Tyler, where dancing isn't allowed. His arrival as a solo artist was marked by his 2016 debut record My Gospel. As he has grown himself, he's taken stock of how he differentiates religion and spirituality and re-evaluated what faith means for himself.
"We've got to step away from a religious outlook," Cauthen says. "It's more about a spiritual outlook. When we're in the studio, we always say, 'Let's follow the spirit.' I haven't gone to church in a while, but I get to go to church every time I'm up on stage. I know that's what I'm called to do. I do it because I feel called to do it and it doesn't feel like it's a job. That's the most spiritual thing about my whole existence. Letting my true colors fly musically and not having any barriers or boundaries is freeing as an artist."
The freedom to say what he wants is something that he credits to his team and the folks at Thirty Tigers. By avoiding major label deals, he's maintained his own artistic integrity. He's spent more than a decade surrounding himself with people that haven't tried to tell him what to do.
"I'm not one of those guys that signed my life away to a major label and just let them force feed it to everybody where it's hitting everybody at every dadgum Foot Locker and Discount Tire at all times. I'm a different artist. [Thirty Tigers president] David Macias has been a godsend. He invests into art and music because he loves it. He's a passionate human. Those are the kind of people I like to work with. He's done a good job for Jason Isbell, Sturgill [Simpson] and a bunch of different artists. I'd rather him get points on these records -- a guy that believes in what we're doing -- than some guy that just looks at me as a [expletive] number."
He went on a short run of what he called "warmup" shows this spring, and the new material is already being embraced. While the second single, "High Heels," was only released in March, audiences already seem to know every word. That wasn't because of radio.
"People were singing 'High Heels' before we even dropped the song," he says. "It's been the most beautiful response I've ever had with a record in my life. They're singing 'Country as F--k' as loud as 'Cocaine Country Dancing,' and that song has been a big hit for years. I'm very lucky to have that kind of response, and it's all organic."
Later this month, Cauthen will hit the road at full throttle beginning with two dates at The Commonwealth Room in Salt Lake City. He's hand chosen the artists that he'll bring along to open, including Joshua Ray Walker, Leah Blevins, Taylor McCall and Jaime Wyatt.
"I've got to be a fan of them," he says of his openers. "I've got to believe what they're doing. Life's too short and there's too many hard-working artists that get overlooked because somebody that's got a bunch of money behind them that's 22-years-old and has a good smile -- they want to stuff them in front of me when I've been on the road since 2007, trying to just win souls every night with my voice and my showmanship. I believe people that deserve it get those spots. If I'm going to bring thousands of people into shows, I want thousands of people to see real artists."
"Mine is the slow burn," he says. "But my fire gets bigger every day and the embers aren't going out. A lot of these quick flash-in-the-pan artists have their youth stolen from them by some big record exec that puts a [expletive] load of money in and they can't get out of debt for 10 or 15 years of touring because they put so much in front of it."
Cauthen's Country Coming Down Tour includes a stop at Nashville's Brooklyn Bowl on April 30, as well as multiple festival appearances, including Hangout Music Festival in Gulf Shores, Ala. To see a full list of his upcoming tour dates, visit Cauthen's official website.