Interview: Paul Cauthen Worked Through ‘a Hollow Moment’ to Create New Album ‘Room 41′
While Paul Cauthen was at work creating the songs on his new record, Room 41 (out Friday (Sept. 6) via Lightning Rod Records), his personal life was in shambles. A devastating breakup meant Cauthen had to leave his home in Wichita Falls, Texas, and he spent the next two years living out of Dallas' Belmont Hotel -- in room number 41, naturally -- on an alcoholic, drug-fueled spree, spending as much time as he could drunk and high, and as little time as possible sober.
"Everything was about to be planned out for my life. I was gonna get married. Now, I went to being single and in a hotel room writing songs, and being a -- you know, I was in some self pity," Cauthen explains to The Boot, leveling a long, weary sigh at the person he was during that period. "I was acting like an idiot there for a minute. I was dating a lot of different girls, just trying to find my heart again. I was in a hollow moment in my life."
While Cauthen allows that his period of excess and debauchery was probably a necessary stage of moving through his heartbreak, he doesn't romanticize the way he acted back then. "I don't like to have to tell my mom that the f--king song is called "Cocaine Country Dancing," you know? And talk to my mom and grandmother about this, about my drug frenzy and acting like an idiot," he admits.
"I went through some hospital visits, just pushing myself to the end, you know, pushing myself to the max," Cauthen continues. "Did bathing in all that darkness and despair help me musically? I don't think so. It's just what happens."
Even in the throes of his despair, however, Cauthen never stopped writing, and he never stopped thinking about what he wanted to accomplish from a musical standpoint. "I was reaching for a bigger sound the whole time," he says. "'How am I gonna stand out? How is this gonna be different than what everybody's f--kin' playing?' you know? So I was reaching for what was left of center, rather than what was comfortable, and that led me into some other pathways, sonically."
The singer considered naming his new record after its leading track, "Holy Ghost Fire," which he calls "the bread and butter" of the project. "It's just the most honest, I believe. The quickest and easier to write. It was one of those that I felt like it can be the backbone of the record," Cauthen notes. Plus, it has the religious undertones that Cauthen, the sole grandson of a fourth-generation preacher, knows well and had often embodied in his music up to that point.
"But I wanted to step away from the religious thing for a minute and be even more honest about [the fact] that this was all created out of a hotel room. So it's better to call it Room 41," Cauthen continues. "I feel like I wanted to step away from a title track. I wanted people to be able to look at the record and take from it their own perspective, rather than me kinda putting a stamp on it."
It's been over a year since Cauthen packed up and left the Belmont, and his antics and drug-fueled escapades have given way to a life that's more steady and sustainable. He was 30 years old when he moved into room 41, and he turned 31 during that chaotic time. Now, he's 33, and in the midst of his "Jesus Year" -- the age that scholars believe Jesus was at the time of his death, and the age at which many people feel that they will be, in some sense, reborn.
"I think about that a lot. My mom called me on my birthday and wished me a happy birthday, and I said, 'It's the year of our Lord!'" Cauthen crows with a laugh.
"Hopefully I can make it a little longer," he adds. "It just makes me feel like it's my time to blossom -- or maybe it's my time to die. Who knows."
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