The music of Paul Bradley Atkinson has been on a continuing path of growth and change much like his life. Born and raised in Wilmington, NC Paul was born into a musical family. His mother and sister played piano, his father played guitar, and all three were gifted singers. Folk music - and music in general - was always a part of the sounds and memories of his childhood. When he was twelve his father began to teach him the ins and outs of basic chord structure accompanied with some of the simplicities of folk artists such as John Denver, Harry Chapin, and Cat Stevens. Within a year Paul wanted to delve more into the guitar as his musical influences began to drift further and further into more complex music such as the Grateful Dead, Led Zeppelin, and Jimi Hendrix. It wasn’t, however, that Paul was merely star-struck by the classic rock icons, it was the impact of the songwriting, the intense chord structures, and the history of sound that he heard in these artists that drove Paul to desire more out of the 6-stringed box that he was starting to play.
Through high school, Paul continued to hone his skills through various bands, jazz ensembles, and multiple years of guitar lessons with the locally revered, JK Loftin. Though the impact of jam bands such as Widespread Panic played their role in Paul’s love for music into college, the introduction of a new era of singer/songwriters catapulted him into pursuing music as a serious career. Artists such as Counting Crows, Ryan Adams, Ben Harper, Jack Johnson, and David Gray proved to Paul that truth and meaning IS still within the lyrics of modern music. The inspiration found from artists such as these along with the freedoms and trials of being out on his own for the first time pushed Paul’s pen to fill journals, napkins, receipts, and pretty much anything that could hold ink as the lyrics began to flow. At age 19, Paul played his first solo gig at the Raw Bar at Wrightsville Beach “because my friends forced me to share this music that only their ears had heard.” During this show, Paul could see a reaction from the audience while playing his original songs that seemed to impact them as much - if not more - than his cover songs. That moment: the crowd, the mood, the sounds, Paul knew he had found his path. Gigs and his fan base around the Port City began to grow. By the time Paul was 22, he was supporting himself fully on his music.
In 2002, Paul went into the studio and recorded a 12-track solo album entitled As You Imagine There. The 500 pressed CD’s sold quickly. Shortly after, Paul met his future wife, Kelly, and together they moved to Boulder, Colorado where he began work on his Masters in World Religion. Themes of love, searching, and spirituality naturally found their way into his songwriting. In 2003 and 2004, Paul led a band called The Ripple which - little did he know at the time - had the Indie Acoustic sound that would before long dominate the airwaves, alla The Lumineers, The Head and The Heart, and Mumford and Sons. With the addition of keyboard, drums, bass and violin, he (and his fans) could sense a change in his music. It began to broaden. He could hear a greater sound, thus, pushing him to record his next album with The Ripple entitled Into the Sun (2005), comprised of fourteen of Paul’s originals.
Though Paul Atkinson and the Ripple achieved local success playing at coffee houses, bars, and festivals in the Boulder CO area, he moved back to Charlotte, North Carolina and began playing solo again. Here, the emotions of change, returning home, and growing up found release within the confines of Paul’s songwriting. He soon started The Paul Atkinson Band and released Music for the Journey (2007) produced by the esteemed Scott Sawyer of Raleigh, and The Attic Sessions (2008). While recording The Attic Sessions with studio musicians Mike Stuart (lead guitar) and brothers Mike Rosado (drums) and Dan Rosado (bass) in 2008, an immediate synergy of personalities and sounds was discovered. As a result, the four musicians formed Paul Atkinson and The Good Life. They played many gigs across the Carolinas from 2008-2010. Meanwhile, Paul continued to write new songs as well as play solo acoustic shows in Charlotte and beyond, including a monthly gig at the famed Evening Muse.
In 2011, Paul and Kelly welcomed their first son, Reeves, and life took on a whole new beautiful direction. Live performances and studio recordings took a backseat to growing a family and his small business, Southend Reclaimed, which sells reclaimed wood. He continued writing songs and playing music during this time. “Songwriting is my way of making sense of the world. And playing music is my release, my escape, my peace,” says Paul. And indeed during these years, Paul’s songwriting and performance grew deeper as his life experiences did as well. In 2014, they welcomed another baby boy, Fisher. And in 2017, baby girl, Lila, came into the world. Paul is a family man through and through and loves nothing more than spending time with his family. They live in Davidson, NC.
Starting in 2019, the urge, the yearn, the calling to do more with his music once again grew to the point that something had to be done. With the push from Kelly, Paul set the intention to once again give his music life. As Paul says, “When you have something that means this much to you, you want to share it. It doesn’t feel right to keep it to yourself. If it can positively affect others even a fraction as much as it has positively affected me, then that is a powerful gift that I must share.”
And with that mission in mind, Paul headed back into the studio with Charlotte producer, Jason Scavone, and recorded the EP, By The Way, comprised of three of Atkinson’s originals backed by incredibly talented studio musicians. He then went back in the studio in 2020 with Scavone and recorded 14 original songs. The first release from these sessions - Welcome to Yourself - was released in early 2021, and more releases are set to come out in late 2021 and 2022.
Paul’s music is at once unique and familiar. It’s the subtle poetic lyrics that liken to Van Morrison and Neil Young, the meaning behind the lyrics that one can hear in Bob Marley and Ben Harper, the rhythmic riffs reflective of Dave Matthews and the Grateful Dead, and the introspective, melancholy yearnings of Americana greats like Ryan Adams, Jason Isbell, and Chris Stapleton. Paul encompasses a century of music in his tune and a joy and sincerity that can only be found through a song.
In a word, Paul’s music is authentic. There is an authentic love for music that shines through and an authenticity in his songs that connects and inspires.
By Neil Cribbs