Hometown: Concord, N.C.
Band Members: Paleface (vocals, guitar), Monica “Mo” Samalot (drums, vocals)
Album: The Show is on the Road
For Fans Of: The Avett Brothers, Langhorne Slim, Tom Waits
The title track of Paleface's new album, The Show Is On The Road, is one of those songs you'd be glad to hum for the rest of the day—and it puts a grin on the faces of Paleface and bandmate Monica “Mo” Samalot, too. “It makes me happy, 'cause it’s what we’re doing,” says Samalot, who joined forces with the one-time solo anti-folk balladeer a few years ago. “It’s what we wanted to do when we were in New York. We wanted to leave town and hit the road.” And that they did, ditching their band Just About to Burn, decamping to Concord, N.C. and becoming a touring duo in the process.
“It’s a nice little record, and we had fun making it,” Paleface says. Recorded live for the most part, Road unabashedly strips away the more elaborate instrumentation of Paleface's last album, 2008's A Different Story, and marks the beginning of a greater journey for the now-duo: making their sparse, country-tinged acoustic guitar, vocals and drums combo work in recorded and live settings. “It’s not gonna tear down the walls and make a million dollars and whatever. But it’s OK, because we’re working toward something, and the next record will be that much better.” Believe it or not, according to Paleface, that record is already written; he and Mo just need to decide how to go about recording it.
But that's a welcome problem, considering the troubles Paleface had during his anti-folk days in New York City, when a heavy drinking habit nearly felled his career. For the better part of the 90s, not even Danny Fields—the legendary Ramones handler and Paleface's own manager for nearly eight years—could get through to him. After he shaped up, he began to offer younger musicians the same advice he'd rejected from Fields. “The smart ones—some of them would take it. Then, there was the other ones who didn’t take it,” Paleface says. “At the time, I called it 'Danny Fields’ revenge'.”
Making music with up-and-coming artists has helped Paleface, too. Six years ago, New Jersey singer/songwriter Nicole Atkins organized an NYC show that pulled Regina Spektor, Langhorne Slim, Jaymay and the Avett Brothers all in one room—a night that would change Paleface forever. “When I came back, after I had my illness from drinking and I was sick for a long time and I was out of the business and I wasn’t doin’ anything... there was all these people,” he says. “For me, it was great. I just fell back into being a songwriter, and I knew it was great place to be. There was just so much talent there.”
Paleface is now signed to Ramseur Records, the former label home of the Avett Brothers, who appear on Road (and for whom he originally penned the catchy title track). The duo plans to further their bond with other up-and-coming artists on subsequent albums, though they've already reached Paleface's goal of releasing 10 records this decade. “Somebody asked Dylan, like, why does he write songs?” Paleface recalls. “And he said, ‘Well, because I need something to play.' I need something to play.”