The tension of justice and peace, rest and movement, unity and self-expression are at the heart of Possessed By Paul James’ followup to his 2013 breakout release
Konrad Wert is a man of many voices. As a Special Education teacher, he is articulate and intentional. As an advocate for justice in education he is passionate. But as an artist and musician, better known by his stage name, Possessed By Paul James, his voice is expressive, holding rest and action in tandem. After gaining recognition from NPR, The New York Times, CMT, and MTV for his celebrated live performances and 2013 Billboard-charting breakout release, There Will Be Nights When I’m Lonely, the Golden Apple-winning educator took some time to reflect and reorient and underwent two vocal surgeries. “The nature of being a school teacher, a public speaker, and a musician, you know, any ear nose & throat specialist will tell you that’s like a hat trick for getting a vocal surgery. So there was some time where I needed to really learn how to sing fluidly and in a healthy way while preserving the opportunity to continue as a teacher and articulate, speak, without duress.” After a few years away from music, Wert is returning with a new album, As We Go Wandering, (due January 31, 2020), bringing a rejuvenated voice to Possessed By Paul James. Where There Will Be Nights was crying out on behalf of the dilemmas faced by families, students, and teachers nationwide, As We Go Wandering brings a sense of peace. But as the title suggests, in Possessed By Paul James’ estimation, perhaps counter-intuitively, peace, rest, and movement dance hand in hand.
I have featured Mr. Konrad Wert many times before from several festivals from all over , and every performance has been an intense experience filled with riveting songs of passion. He is one of those intense one man bands that utilizes a plethora of instruments to bring forth his final product…Roots Music that stands the test of time. In the next few weeks we will be releasing an album review for this one.
This tension of justice and peace, rest and movement, unity and self-expression are at the heart of Possessed By Paul James’ music and performances. Raised Mennonite among pacifists and service workers in a small community in southwest Florida, Wert’s upbringing brought strict guidelines of what could come into the house. “The aesthetic was very church oriented,” he says. “We had this typified image of Jesus in the living room, Mary in the hallway, and a painting of the Last Supper in the bedroom. Musically, we didn’t get anything heavier than The Monkees.” Upon leaving home however, , Wert discovered punk rock. Coming from a rural town, Wert had been exposed to a lot of roots music, and where others would have merely seen a jarring conflict with their upbringing, Wert saw an interface. “I actually found that in many ways, punk was like urban blues, you know, just with more energy and amplification. I dove in and started getting to know the Stooges, Patti Smith. I realized ‘Wow, punk is beautiful. Punk is to the street, punk is to the listener.’” To paraphrase David Byrne, the punk movement was defined by attitude rather than style, something that sought to remove the boundaries between spectator and artist and making everyone a participant in what Patti Smith called, “just another word for freedom.” For Wert, Possessed By Paul James became a way to create an environment for expression and reflection in a way that can foster wholeness from a sense of community. “We could look at the complexities of expression, the conflict of ego and humility, and servitude within the Mennonite-Amish community and in our rumspringa – that was incredibly impactful for me. Because, how do you express yourself, and in a way that’s not completely arrogant? How do you do that in a way that reflects what really matters? That’s a huge element of what Possessed By Paul James is.”
Possessed By Paul James
“As We Go Wandering is about the question of where we go from here. How do we move forward,” says Konrad Wert. This tension is expressed at the very center of the tracklist, with “Be At Rest.” “All across the nation teachers see the same needs, fill the same roles, and ask the same hard and troubling questions: Students who are hurting, families fighting for the rights of their children, passionate teachers who constantly bear burdens that can become crushing,” says Wert. “Most troubling and devastating are the increasing numbers of human beings that are falling to violence within our schools. ‘Be At Rest’ provides an open image and feeling to all those hurting: ‘Raise up your voices, lay down down your sword and shield, be at rest. Come together on the foundations of peace and justice so we may heal, so we may help, so we may learn in order to do better for our children.’” So what about the name, Possessed By Paul James? “It’s partly just because of the way we play, maybe it’s due to anxiousness or anxiety, I don’t know, but just close the eyeballs and get it out,” says Wert. “But also, Paul was my grandfather, James is my dad’s middle name – so it’s a reference to something bigger than me, that there is something greater than ourselves, something that we’re in together. It’s important for us to acknowledge and be honest about that – the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are more than just ourselves.”
Come Back In My Mind
In The Dark Of Morning
Your White Stained Dress
I’m So Good At Absolutely Nothing
I Come From Southwest Florida
Be At Rest
When It Breaks
Dance With Me Tonight
Don’t Tell Me
Didn’t Know You When
Asleep With Both Eyes Open
As We Go Wandering
Here is the new single that was released early.
Single out now
“When It Breaks”
Possessed By Paul James
The Bluegrass Situation premieres new track from the celebrated teacher, activist and songwriter
Today, Possessed By Paul James released a new song, “When It Breaks.” Premiering the track Tuesday, The Bluegrass Situation spoke with Konrad Wert about life on the road, family, and his work as an artist and education activist, and teacher, who reflected on the themes of the song: “When the world comes crashing down around us what will we do? I ask this question when thinking of my children. How will I react when tragedy strikes?” Read the rest at The Bluegrass Situation >