Meet Paul Colman Trio
Sometimes, try as you might, you just can’t find the right word. Other times, as is the case with the music and members of the Paul Colman Trio, too many words come to mind. Words like direct, honest, fun, energetic, no-nonsense, electric and open.
Those adjectives come into play thanks to the commitment the members of the Paul Colman Trio (guitarist/songwriter Paul Colman, bassist Grant Norsworthy and drummer Phil Gaudion) made to each other long ago as friends and brothers in Christ first, and musicians second; a commitment clearly reflected on their Essential Records debut, New Map Of The World.
The Paul Colman Trio got its start in 1998 when Colman, who had already released two well-received solo albums in his native Australia, recruited drummer Gaudion for a trip to the United States. Upon returning home, the duo decided to add a bass player, turning to longtime friend Norsworthy, and the affectionately dubbed PC3 was born. The band went on to become the most successful independent artist in Australia’s history, dominating radio and garnering the title of Artist of the Year in 2000 and 2001, as determined by The Rock Across Australia charts.
“There was this chemistry from the word ‘go’ when we started playing together. No one was fighting anybody else musically, and there were already 30 or 40 songs that I’d written that worked well with this setting,” Colman says. “The collaboration that happened when we came together, that to me was what made the magic.”
“Our first gig was in front of 3,000 people at the Melbourne Zoo, and it started to take off from there,” Gaudion recalls. “People seemed to really enjoy the performances and the interaction with the audience, and it just sort of exploded. Paul had a lot of gigs lined up already, so we just started to play them as the Trio rather than just Paul alone. We launched a CD in the middle of ‘99, and from there it’s continued to go up.”
It was one of PC3’s self-released CDs that made it into the hands of two different people who would have an impact on the band’s rapidly changing future. Completely independent of each other, the music found its way to both Third Day’s Mac Powell, who invited the band to open for them on an Australian tour, and veteran producer Monroe Jones, who immediately took up the band’s flag and arranged for PC3 to record its U.S. debut.
“I got an e-mail from Monroe when I was in Africa, a message which had nothing to do with either record companies or other bands, and he got the music before he knew there was any connection,” Colman recalls. “I think the thing with Monroe is that it’s another thing where God’s timing was there. Monroe was ready to do something different, and we were ready to have a great producer and a great sounding record.”
The music on New Map Of The World does, indeed, sound great: a no-nonsense pop/rock, lean (and in appropriate cases, mean) and littered with sonic hooks that only amplify the band’s straightforward message. It’s great art, great storytelling and great fun—all wrapped up in one package.
“When you’re looking at making music that wants to say something in three-and-a-half minutes, but not to the point of ramming it down somebody’s throat, the goal is to have songs with not a lot of fat on the bone,” Colman explains. “There are other bands out there that are more arty in their little finger than I am in my whole body, but do they really connect with the audience? That’s the question we ask ourselves all the time…are we connecting?”
That question is easily answered by the album’s standout track “Turn,” with its timeless message to look inward before criticizing outward, nestled neatly within a driving musical track. “When I started writing the lyric, it was directly at the church,” Colman says. “I think a lot of people in the church pray for revival in the land, but tend to forget the fact that God has to do it in us first.”
And although “Turn” wasn’t necessarily intended to be an audience participation song, it seems to have turned out that way. “Kids in Australia have spontaneously started to do this thing when it gets to the chorus where they put their hands up in the air, jump up and down, and turn around as they do it,” Norsworthy comments. “We never told them to do it or asked them to do it, it started happening spontaneously. It’s been great.”
While the Paul Colman Trio certainly has its share of rock moments, the instrumental prowess and heart for God also combine to create some very worshipful moments on New Map Of The World, such as the song “Fill My Cup.” “That song’s about somebody being so empty in life, they just surrender themselves. It’s a cry out; there’s nothing more I can do in my own strength but ask God to fill my cup.” Gaudion says. “It’s become more of a worship song, and people kind of rejoice in the chorus. It’s something where they put their hands in the air and really invite God into their hearts.”
As Colman notes, “The verses and chorus are really a cry and a prayer; it’s more like a Psalm. I think a lot of contemporary worship songs focus so much on the praise, praise, praise that it sometimes takes some confessing and agony to get there. It’s an interesting juxtaposition between the verses and the chorus in that there’s first this disconnection and then this release, and the music does that as well.”
As a songwriter, Colman sits unafraid to peel back the curtain on what touches his heart, such as the origins of the song “Africa.” “That song was written in Nairobi in February 2001 on a trip with a child development organization. My wife and I were in Kenya for 10 days, and my heart was just broken. The first morning I got up to sing in front of these beautiful, gorgeous African people who were singing old Baptist hymns that we’d thrown out for being silly and old, they were singing with such gusto,” Colman reflects. “I stood up to sing, and I couldn’t because I was crying. I couldn’t even speak because I was so moved.
“‘Africa’ is special for us because it’s got a great feel around it. Monroe did a great job on the strings in that they’re very bizarrely wonderful. I think you get that image of the old-school, patronizing, western British invasion feeling versus the chanting, droning, African indigenous music feeling.”
This year finds many challenges and opportunities on the Paul Colman Trio’s horizon. Along with the release of New Map Of The World> well as a wholesale relocation to the U.S.), the band will open on a 50-plus-date Third Day “Come Together” tour, a jaunt that will put it in front of a brand new, yet very accepting audience. But while the band members are poised on the verge of taking the States by storm, they know that’s not their ultimate goal.
“Coming to America is just the next phase for us. It’s not necessarily just our dream,” Colman remarks. “Our main dream has always been to follow God and to love others. America’s just the next venue for us to keep doing what we’ve always done.
“A lot of things Jesus said about working out your issues before the sun goes down we take literally and seriously. Therefore, we don’t consider our music our ministry; we consider our lives our ministry,” he continues. “The tour bus, backstage, the day off, the sound check, the gig, we feel all these things are just as important as the others in terms of what God’s saying and what we’re saying with each other.
“When Jesus was asked in Matthew 22 what the most important thing was, He said to love God and love one another. The day we realize that music isn’t the tool we want to use anymore, we’ll do something else. But until then, we feel very called to come to America. Everybody looks to America as the leaders of the world in culture, in economics and everything else, and we want to be here at a time of change and challenge and serve the people of America