Okay To Be Different: Interview with Musical Artist SaulPaul

"Okay To Be Different" is a new album by SaulPaul, an indie singer and songwriter who focuses on family-friendly music.

Okay To Be Different is a new album by SaulPaul, an indie singer and songwriter who focuses on family-friendly music and publishes under 8 Pound Gorilla RecordsOkay To Be Different features seven original songs including “Ace It,” which was written as an ode to graduates and comes with a celebratory music video. Acceptance and understanding are the key themes on this album and many lyrics center on themes such as self-esteem and friendship.

SaulPaul collaborates frequently with other artists such as Alphabet Rockers’ and 123 Andrės. SaulPaul’s 2020 album titled Be The Change received praise on National Public Radio, Billboard and The New York Times, along with continued international radio play. SaulPaul frequently hosts presentations and TedTalks events such as this latest Be the Change talk. He is active with the Recording Academy (GRAMMYs) and works tirelessly to uplift other BIPOC artists with organizations like Family Music Forward, Kakuza Fest and the Children’s Music Network. SaulPaul was a featured performer on “America’s Got Talent.”

This Saturday (May 22), he’ll host his second annual virtual graduation party, open to all with free admission. RSVP for the “Class of 2021 Graduation Celebration” presented by the BTC Network, here: https://btcnetwork.live/classof2021.

SaulPaul recently discussed his career and more via an exclusive interview.

Meagan Meehan (MM): How did you get interested in music and songwriting and did you always gravitate towards the children’s genre?

SaulPaul:  I was a college student, and I wanted to pick up an instrument. At the time, I was working at the university gym part time as a personal trainer, and I posted a sign to barter my personal training services for music lessons. By the luck of the draw, a guitarist decided to barter with me. She is now the chair of the Berklee College of Music guitar program. She was a great teacher, but it did not “click” for me till a couple of years later. I haven’t put my guitar down since. And in regards to the children’s genre, I have always served youth. Then one day it struck me when I was attending the Grammys as a board member of The Recording Academy show, that there was an “official” Best Children’s Album genre.

MM: What typically comes to you first, the melody or the lyrics?

SaulPaul: It depends. For me, that’s the magic of music and the spice of life. I’m masterful with my craft but that part I don’t get to control. What I do control is my intent. And the vibe. And the actual lyrics. The melody is usually there. I just have to find it. Lyrically when I perform a song, whether live or in studio, the melody is tied to how the lyrics sounds so by that point…it’s a chicken or the egg situation. Either way, I’m making a chicken omelet!

MM: What inspired you to create the Be the Change album and how has that helped raise awareness about your work?

SaulPaul: I have been sharing the “Be the Change” message for quite a number of years through live performances and presentations. But because of what was going on in the world – a pandemic, the murder of George Floyd, a racial injustice awakening and more – I was prompted to seize the moment and insert my message of hope. My album Be the Change (2020) was par for the course for me. My mission for over a decade has been to entertain, inspire and empower. I just recognized that the time was right to encourage my fellow humans to “Be the Change.”

MM: What inspired the songs on the new EP, Okay To Be Different?

SaulPaul: Over the course of my career, I’ve realized that I don’t easily fit in one box. My reality is that I rap, sing, play classical acoustic guitar and heavily utilize my favorite tool – a loop pedal. I share music that resonates with little listeners but their adults like it just as much. And because I’m simply a songwriter who is inspired by diverse sounds, my musical recordings often fit into various genres. Basically, I’m different. And I realize that’s okay. Not only is it okay, it’s what has allowed me to become very successful at most things I pursue. The same freedom I am walking in, is what I want to share with young people. That’s what inspired the songs on Okay To Be Different.

MM: How many songs are on the album and do you have any personal favorites? If so, which ones and why?

SaulPaul:  There are seven independently unique songs on Okay To Be Different. The production is rich and the lyrics are layered. This album is all about the heart and mindset. My goal is to inspire kids to celebrate their individuality through acceptance of others and self-confidence. If I had to describe each song with one word, I’d list them as….Joy. Hope. Heart. Friendship. Energy. Inspiration. Motivation. The basic message is to love yourself and love others. My favorite is usually the last one I heard. As it stands, the last one I just listened to was “Champions.”

MM: Why did you decide to write “Ace It” for graduates, and what was filming the music video like?

SaulPaul: I wanted to give voice to the wide range of students who are focused on their goals and want to do great things in the world. I know a lot of them. I engage with them all the time. I’ve had the chance to hear their challenges. And I’ve had the chance to celebrate their successes with them. And when it came to the video, I wanted to bring that narrative to life in a cool and intriguing way with some attractive visuals. Shooting this video was my largest production yet. We filmed in multiple locations as well as a sound stage. We had actors and storylines. And the car we featured in the video was a favorite of the students we had on set. Overall…filming “Ace It” was FUN!

MM: What are plans for the music videos for the other songs?

SaulPaulSaulPaul: Because each song is unique and a world of its own, I believe each song deserves its own music video. So, I’m currently working toward that goal. First was the video for “Best Day Ever.” That video turned out amazing! I worked closely with the Steven Hernandez, the animator, and my ideas mixed with his ridiculous technical skill allowed us to create an innovative and new live animation style. Then was “Ace It.” And most recently I completed the video for “Champions,” which I sneak-previewed at my first live performance in over a year, which took place at a Major League Rugby match!

MM: What’s the best fan feedback you’ve gotten about your music?

SaulPaul: I’m so honored by all positive feedback, it’s impossible to choose. Some recent feedback that comes to mind includes…someone sharing that my words inspired them to choose to live their best life. Someone else said they listened to the song “Live and Learn” and they cried. To me…that’s high praise. And some feedback I got from some of my young listeners regarding the song “Best Day Ever” was that…I was spot on with everything I mentioned in the song!

MM: How do you hope your career evolves over the next five years?

SaulPaul: I hope to win a Grammy, grow my platform, increase my impact, continue to get paid to do what I love and empower millions of others to #BeTheChange through my unique brand of entertainment and inspiration.

MM: What are your ultimate goals for the future and is there anything else that you would like to mention?

SaulPaul: I recently launched a socially conscious beverage company. It’s called Change Water. I’m excited about growing Change Water into a global brand that does good across the world.

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To learn more, visit SaulPaul’s official website. Listen to his songs on Spotify. The video for the new song “Ace It” can be watched on YouTube: https://youtu.be/PiBoZMdzSZE