Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
E-mail this article
Leave a Comment
Print this Article

Fans of guitarist Ellis Paul know him to be a leader of the Boston folk scene, and a disciple of Woody Guthrie who helped bring about the romanticized acoustic circuit with an urban folk rock style that helped renew interest in the genre over the past two decades.

Those following Vienna native Robbie Schaefer have enjoyed his guitar playing for the folk-rock band Eddie from Ohio for years and his kid-friendly tunes that have entertained audiences of all ages.

On Thursday, the two will team up for a night of contemporary folk music at The Barns, re-creating a successful shared billing from years past.

“We’ve done this before and it was really great, so I am happy to be heading back to Wolf Trap for this show,” Paul said. “It’s such a great venue and Robbie and I have a great time together.”

With 17 successful albums and 14 Boston Music Awards to his credit, Paul is considered one of the most prominent acoustic singer-songwriters around, but somewhat surprisingly, music was not what he originally set out to do with his life.

“As a kid I used to draw a lot and was pretty active with sports,” he said. “When I went to college (at Boston College), I was a track athlete and didn’t have much time for the arts, but an injury suddenly gave me the time.”

While in college, Paul taught himself the guitar with the help of the “Hits of the 70s” songbook, and soon developed a passion for writing his own songs. By 1989, he was playing any open mic night he could find, joining Boston folk luminaries such as Dar Williams, Vance Gilbert, Jennifer Kimball, Martin Sexton, Patty Griffin and Catie Curtis.

“Just as I did as a child, I loved creating picture stories in my head, but now I was putting them to music,” Paul said. “I graduated when I was 21 and within five years, I was a full-time musician.”

That was 26 years ago, and although Paul had his struggles like most musicians early on, he knew that music was his true calling in life.

“There are differences between the me now and the me I was in the early ’90s,” Paul said. “I have a reliable fan base that keeps a roof over my head, for which I’m so thankful. And I think they’re also willing and forgiving enough for me to go through any evolution I choose, as long as the core of what I do is honest, and that I continue to write songs and stories about the things I see around me.”

One of those differences was his foray into more family-oriented music with the critically acclaimed “The Dragonfly Races” album, and its 2012 follow-up “The Hero in You.”

“To me, if you can engage the parents without losing the kids, that’s the whole goal. I want them to enjoy it together,” he said. “Listen, if you enjoy my songs, even if you have no children in your life, I assure you this will be regarded as one of my most important and best received projects, and I believe you will enjoy it.”

Songs about Rosa Parks, Jackie Robinson, Rachel Carson, Tee Tot, Martha Graham, Albert Einstein and Thomas Edison fill the new recording.

“I spent the last year writing about people who made significant contributions to our culture, and in doing so, helped to change the course of our country’s future,” Paul said. “Strangely, I started regaining some pride in the process. These people reminded me of how lucky we are to be living here, and that the opportunities here demand that we live boldly.”

Paul promises to play these songs at the concert. Schaefer also will play some of his new kid-friendly songs, including “LaLa Love,” written in honor of and inspired by the OneVoice project LaLa Love, and featuring the Vienna Elementary School 5th Grade Choir.

Reflecting on his quarter century in the biz, Paul definitely feels he has grown as a musician and a songwriter.

“I feel as if I’m more a part of a community now than just a songwriter singing about my own struggles and the struggles of the friends I see around me,” Paul said. “Maybe that’s the difference between being a singer-songwriter and being a folk musician, that transition into more of a community sense of writing.”