Some vacations end up as nothing more than sweet memories and a few photos uploaded to Instagram. Not for Lancaster city songwriter Andrew Pauls, who releases his new four-song EP "Spain," today. Inspired by a nine-day trip abroad with his wife, Laura, in 2019, "Spain" serves as both a personal travelogue and a way for Pauls to internalize what he felt and saw on the trip.
Recorded over a period of months in 2020 at home - in the living room, bedroom and yes, the bathroom ("I don't know if you want to print that, but it was the most acoustically-treatable space," Pauls says over the phone, sheepishly) - "Spain" is a testament to the freedom of solitary work, even while reminiscing about a great international trip during pandemic times. "Spain" also features the mixing and mastering of fellow Lancaster musician, Jesse Barki.
In honor of its official release today, as well as the virtual album release show Pauls will perform at 7 p.m. on Youtube tomorrow, Feb. 20, we asked Pauls to describe the inspirations that influence the release, in his own words.
"It's sort of obvious, but it's the main thing. This is the first time that I've written a set of songs that are supposed to go together, so it was a cool project to put together. It all revolves directly around a trip I took to Spain with (my wife) Laura in September of 2019.
I had maybe written the songs within three months of getting back. When I was about halfway through the trip, I thought, 'I've been trying to write some songs, and these experiences are ripe for writing new songs.' And more than one, I recognized right away. We visited three main cities in Spain, being Seville, Valencia and Madrid, so it made sense to me to try to write songs about those three places. The first song I finished for the EP is the last track, and I wrote that the morning after I got back while I was still severely jetlagged.
I wanted to capture a little bit of each place and the feeling of, 'I'm home, now what?' How has me being somewhere else shaped me and how does it change the way I look at things now?' Granted, it was a nine-day trip, but it's still a powerful experience to be out of your element 24/7 for the time you're there."
"'Jet Lag' was the first song I was able to finish, and it's a very direct, visceral response to being sleep-deprived, going right into work and coming down from that high. Coming back, it's like, 'Everything is so American.' Even when people were speaking English in Spain - one of Laura's friends that we stayed with is American, but her partner is Spanish. Even hearing English, it was with a nice accent, so you come back and hear the dialect and think 'what is this?'"
"The first thing that comes to mind is architecture. I mean, we have things that are old in the United States, but not old old. Not 'cathedral filled with gold stolen from South America' old. Wonder at how old things were and wonder at a different way of living, a different pace. The neighborhood Triana, in Seville, is known for its ceramic work, specifically tile. That's one thing that sticks out in my mind, the patterns of the tile being a consistent thing that you saw all around. Really functional, and really beautiful, too, and that intersectionality was cool to see. Seville definitely has an older feel, in the main tourist areas and the residential areas. So, cathedrals can bring wonder, but so did the little parks."
"We had the privilege of staying with Laura's friends in Spain, so we had some built-in guides that took care of us. It was really, really nice to have people there that could help us experience the more 'everyday' type of things. Like, we went to the market with them, like they do every week. Going abroad, that's what I want to see. Obviously, I want to see some hotspots, if there's a monument or two in the 'Oh, you went there and didn't see that?' category. But what I'm more interested in is seeing how people live.
I think that feeling is most heavy in the two middle songs, "Madrid" and "Valencia.' 'Madrid' is very obviously about the life of our friend, being an American and moving to Spain and the bravery that comes along with that. Just describing her life - it was really cool to see their apartment, silly little things like that, like, what does an apartment in Madrid look like? How do you live your live here? 'Valencia' is a song specifically about a park in Valencia that used to be a river that flooded very regularly, so they diverted it and turned the riverbed into a park. There was also talk of making it a highway, and that made it to a line in the song.
I bring that up because it was a really cool, innovative thing to go see, but it was a large part of people's lives. They were playing pickup soccer games there, or going for bike rides there, so it was cool to be amongst people living their lives there."
Andrew Pauls' virtual release show begins at 7 p.m. on Saturday, Feb. 20. Click here to view the show.