Thursday, February 17, 2011

Industry Insider Series #1 - Michael Paulo

      Welcome to the first installment of our Industry Insider posts. Every month we will feature an expert in their particular field of the music business. Our intent is to give all of you excess to some inside tips straight from the pros, that in most cases took them years of trial an error to achieve.

      This month we are pleased to have had the opportunity to conduct an e-interview with smooth jazz saxophonist Michael Paulo. We had the chance to work with Michael at his last concert in Hawaii, (smooth jazz nights concert series) featuring another great in the smooth jazz world Brian Culbertson.

For those who may not know Michael here's a quick bio ( you can check out his full bio and upcomming events at his website )  

          One of the most versatile and cosmopolitan saxophonists in pop, soul and contemporary jazz for nearly 20 years, Michael Paulo has added his distinct saxpertise to a virtual who's who of artists, including Al Jarreau (Paulo's longest term touring association), James Ingram, No. 1 Smooth Jazz Trumpeter and guitarist Rick Braun and Peter White, Oleta Adams, Kenny Loggins, Patti Austin, Jeffrey Osborne, Jeff Lorber, David Benoit, Carl Anderson, Bobby Caldwell,  Johnny Mathis and more. Paulo grew up in a musical family (his father a pianist, his mother a singer, his siblings all playing instruments) and though he came upon the sax relatively late at age 15, he quickly became first horn player in his high school band and was playing professional gigs around the islands within a few years. Rather than accept a scholarship to North Texas State, he chose a more adventurous road by joining Hawaiian pop/rock band Kalapana, which had some success on the mainland but was most popular in Japan. After playing regularly and recording on all four of Kalapana's albums from 1975 through 1979, Paulo recorded a solo album for Japanese release on Trio records. In addition to exposing him to the Japanese jazz audience, Tats in the Rainbow gave him the opportunity to work with legendary pianist Herbie Hancock.
         Paulo moved to Los Angeles in 1981 and quickly established himself by playing with percussionist Ray Armondo and a local R&B outfit featuring members of Rufus. Two years later, he caught his big break when Al Jarreau hired him for his touring band. The young saxman became an integral part of the Jarreau experience while touring the world for the next decade. Paulo also gained international recognition as a result of his work on Jarreau's famed "Live in London" release.
         In 1988, Paulo met producer Robert Kraft while recording a solo for singer /songwriter Vonda Sheppard . Impressed with the young saxophonist talent, Kraft secured Michael a major recording contract with MCA Records.


  Afflatus - Michael what inspires you to keep going in this business? Also how did you over come a lot of the challenges?

Michael I Love what I do. I got into music because I loved and enjoyed it. If you have this attitude it will carry you through the ups and downs. Hard work is also part of the equation but in the end it helps facilitate to enjoy yourself even more!

Afflatus - In your opinion what does it take to "make it"? Is talent enough?

Michael - There is no real formula. I had the opportunity to go to college and get a degree. I thought to myself that if you study hard you can become whatever you want as far as professions because a lot of it is mapped out. Music always intrigued me because there was always that gray area that you can't put your finger on. You can't predict if people will respond to your playing or when you write a song. You can write a song in your mind that you think people will love then you perform it and it falls flat. You can practice real hard to play a solo then no one claps. There is a certain x factor that you can't predict. All you can do is throw it out there and play your heart out and see what happens.  I liked the challenge of that early on . Not knowing. I do believe you do need a certain amount  of Charisma to succeed.  You can work real hard practice, play the right notes but for some reason some people can play  the same way  but the crowd will react differently to each individual. I always felt that if you didn't have this then it is tough to make it as a professional or achieve any level of higher success. You can have talent and get over. To Make it can mean a lot of things. In this case I guess it means becoming popular, earning money. There a lot of people who have made it and have no talent..Remember that. Our true gift as artist is to be able to change lives through emotional experiences from our performances. That is what people want . They want you to make them feel good about their lives. At the end of the night if you didn't make this happen then you didn't make it..

Afflatus - How much of your time is set aside for practice and how much time for business? 

Michael - Earlier on a lot of time went into practicing. While in school I would practice all day. The older you get and the more ingrained things are it takes less time to practice. I mostly practice when I take a gig that is more musically challenged. Most gigs I do these days are now a matter of having fun. So in that respect I have more time to devout to business pursuits.

AfflatusWhat is your take on digital downloads?

Michael - Digital is the reality of the time. As much as older musicians always appreciate the sound of analogue the masses have moved on and this is where we have to live.  

AfflatusWhat have you done to adapt? 

Michael - I have learned to use all aspects from the recording to the commercial side. Sharing files over the Internet is one of the biggest conveniences these days. I don't have to leave my house to record a solo for someone. I can just beam it over and if I need someone to do a session for me  I send them the files and they send it back. Gotta love that. So live gigs have really become one of the few ways where we all can play together these days. If I am at a gig and need charts or song files I or other musicians can access them instantly. This is great!

Afflatus - What are common mistakes or misconceptions you see young musician make?  

Michael - Book a gig and people will show up. No you have to give them a reason to show. You have to market your self. Promote the artists you present. If no one knows you can have the greatest band onstage but no will show up.  the other one is I 'll make a record and become famous. Recording you music is definitely the first step but again you have to go out and let the world know. Understanding the business is so vital these days especially since not a lot of record labels take chances on new artists any more.. Remember your talent and music is a product that needs to be sold and marketed like anything else if you want to make a living at it.

Afflatus - If you could start over what things would you change?

Michael - Like they say if I knew what I know now thirty years ago I would be dangerous. Sorry that's not going to happen. So I accept things how they are now and enjoy what I have..

Afflatus Was there a moment  when you knew you could make music your life's work? 

Michael - When I first joined Kalapana at the age of 19 I played in front of 11,000 people for the first time. The response I got was phenomenal. I knew it then.. 

Afflatus - Any advice for upcoming musicians that want to go national? 

Michael - Move to the mainland and hang with the best of them. Don't be afraid to put your two feet forward and play . That's the only way to find out what you're made of..When I first moved up on my own I would go to jam sessions and wait till someone asked me to play. Guess what ,  I never got asked and after awhile I figured the only way I was going to get heard was jump in at the first opportunity. If I didn't there were ten other guys willing to jump in..It's like dropping in when you're surfing . If three guys try to drop in on a wave with you , just gun for the front and stay there . They'll get the message. And don't wipe out!

Afflatus - Is there anything else you want to add that I may have missed?

Michael - Integrity means a lot in the long run. Be humble and always thank full for what you have.

We at Afflatus would like to express our gratitude to Michael Paulo for taking the time to share with us some pearls of wisdom that can only come years of experience....Mahalo

To find out where Michael will be next you may find him at

For more info. on Michael's Pacific Rim Jazz Festival

For general info. on Michael's 7th annual Temecula Wine Festival 2011 or call 951-696-0184

To find out info. on Michael's "Smooth Jazz Nights" concert series

Till Next Month


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