Paul Robert Thomas: Song Lyricist
Paul Robert Thomas is a song lyricist from London, and works with artists and bands worldwide.
TSM: Paul, thanks so much for taking time out of your schedule to do an interview for TSM. I’m honored with the opportunity to have you in the magazine. 🙂
PRT: I’m thrilled that you asked me Jessica and it’s an honour for me to appear in your great and popular magazine!
TSM: First of all, I know that you wrote poetry in your teens but only started to write song lyrics later on in life – during a waiting period of time with a court case related to your previous work as a police officer in London. What inspired you to start writing song lyrics at this time?
PRT: Well, it was 1996 and I was off work waiting for my court case against the police to begin when I answered an advert in a Dylan magazine called Isis that I subscribed to. It was from a German composer, Stefan Pauleit who was looking for a lyricist to marry up words with his music and so I thought I’d give it a bash and we formed a songwriting partnership we called ‘The Grils.’ (since renamed ‘Hamlet’s Utopia’). At that stage, my words were more or less still poems, but over time I learned to adapt them into the structure necessary to become song lyrics – you know basic song lyric form of verse, chorus, bridge, verse, chorus etc, etc.
TSM: What’s your process for writing lyrics? And where do you get your inspiration from?
PRT: I write because I believe that creation is a gift from God and is good – in this case the creation of a song. That might sound a bit pompous but I believe it to be true and so themes for lyrics literally just come to me. It could all start from lines an actor might utter in a film, or in a TV program, or from what I might read in a newspaper, or on the internet, and sometimes these lines seem to come to me out of thin air (am I crazy, well we all are a bit:) and so, of course, I must write these lines down in a little notebook I always carry around with me. I might not look at what I’ve written down for weeks, months or sometimes years, or I might suddenly have other lines come to me which I know are linked to the other lines I have already written down in my notebook. So, a few lines, or a whole verse might be created this way, and if or when I am later inspired to work on the structure of a whole set of lyrics then I will sit down and consciously start to try to put it all together. However, of course in any song the most important elements are the first line and most of all the chorus or hook which really needs to be catchy, or to stand out for some other reason because without these you won’t have a good song, and also the lyrics must have their own melody, you know lines of words have a melody and I always write to a melody or to a musical pattern in my head and so, strangely enough, I more or know how the basic song will sound before I get to hear the 1st demo of it. Of course, sometimes I just sit down and write a set of lyrics straight off, usually over a few days, particularly if they are for a themed album such as our next album, Scared of America – Volume Three is.
TSM: Tell us about your latest album Belief and the inspiration behind it.
PRT: As a result of our co-written song, “Christmas Time With You,” co-written with Michigan’s Angela Predhomme opening the Hallmark Movie Channel’s 2018 film, ‘Christmas on Honeysuckle Lane’ starring Angela Witt and Colin Ferguson, I was contacted by Sir Cliff Richard’s P.A. who invited me to write and submit original songs for Sir Cliff’s then upcoming 2020 tour. I went to work with a number of worldwide artists from Canada, Germany, Switzerland and The UK creating songs, with the majority written with my songwriting partner Paul Odiase in our songwriting partnership called ‘Les Paul’s’ (The Paul’s), but alas the songs were not accepted as Sir Cliff’s 2020 Tour was cancelled due to the Coronavirus with no expectations as to when the next tour would take place. So, I decided that instead of waiting for his next tour, bearing in mind that Sir Cliff is now 80 years old and nobody knew when touring and concerts would be allowed again, that l would include a number of the songs that I had co-written for Sir Cliff Richard with other international artists on our new album Belief which is, as the album title suggests, about belief, and the album was released at the end of November 2020 through my own record label, Swiss Cottage Recordz in partnership with the USA’s Studio City’s Unlimited Sounds Publishing and Distribution LLC.
TSM: You work with artists/bands worldwide, including our mutual friend Orly Vardy. I really love the song “See the Stars Tonight” that I know was chosen in the Top Twenty of Honorable Songs Ballad Category 2009. Tell us more about this song.
PRT: One of the first 45’s I ever owned, which was given to me by my late uncle was Billy Fury’s version of “A Thousand Stars in the Sky” and I guess I just expanded on the theme of Billy’s song to make the shining stars in the night sky represent the souls of all those who have died and shine forever as a reminder to us of their souls which should never be forgotten. Billy sings “Each night I count the stars in the sky…” The first verse of “See the Stars Tonight” is “See the stars all shine tonight, Across the sky, Too many to count, I sometimes try, I lay on my back and stare, At the diamond sky up on high, See the stars all shine tonight, Across the sky…” I remember as a child lying near the top of Primrose Hill near my family home in North London, and just looking up in amazement at the beautiful shining stars in the dark night sky as I tried to count them all but discovered that there were too many to count!
TSM: When did you first start working with Orly Vardy?
PRT: I was contacted by Orly’s record producer husband Ofer Hamerman and he told me that they were looking for a suitable song to enter for a Romanian Eurovision type song contest. So, I sent them the lyrics called “Love Me Like There’s No Tomorrow” which Orly then recorded with Ofer’s great music, and we created a fantastic song that unfortunately didn’t win but I’m convinced it should have:)!
TSM: I know that your most current and productive songwriting is with Paul Odiase. How did you both connect and tell us a bit about the projects you are working on together with him.
PRT: Paul contacted me a few years ago, I don’t remember if via Reverbnation or via Facebook, I have a thing that I don’t myself ask artists to work with me, the invitation must come from them. Anyway, our first song together was “Better Days,” and when I heard the song it knocked me out; it is an amazing song and was included on the first of the two albums that we put out one after the other, Holy Land Revisited and P.O.P., and once I heard that first song we had created together, it was a slam dunk! We have thus released 14 albums together, we usually release on average two albums per year, and we are currently actively working on our 15th album called Scared of America – Volume Three, and as a child of the 60’s the album is about people and events happening in that era, for instance there are songs about the alleged murder of Marilyn Monroe, the disappearance of Jimmy Hoffa (my favourite song so far), about a film I saw in the 60’s, The Wizard of Oz that starred Judy Garland as Dorothy, (the film became a symbol of the LGBT movement), a song about John Wayne (really is about America), also a song about the letter that Robert Johnson’s grandson wrote to me and I am currently working on lyrics for a song about Bob Dylan. For another project, we also have written a number of songs with part unreleased Dylan lyrics in a project called Dylan Found, and yesterday I finished lyrics about the Covid-19 pandemic that Paul Odiase asked me to write and the song should be ready in a few days. As you can see, we like to keep ourselves busy!
TSM: You’ve also seen your songs played live in concert many times in the UK and Europe. To be able to hear your songs live must be a great feeling. What was it like hearing your very first song live in concert?
PRT: I visited London for a couple of weeks with my son in 2008 and we went to see one of my song collaborators – the young and very talented Luke Jackson in concert and he played a couple of favourite songs of ours “One November” and “Tommy Gunn” which were exciting to hear live and I hope that Luke Won’t mind you seeing these songs from back then, he is now a major folk artist and he kindly agreed to co-write and perform our song ‘Show Me The Way’ as the last track on our latest album BELIEF. I’ve seen many of my songs played by artists I work with in videos, but seeing them played live is something special. We then popped over to Bremen in Germany with good old RyanAir and saw the young German Indie band The Dunnos play two of our songs in a rock concert there which was also a thrill. I also jammed with the main German band I was working with, Guitavio on Dylan’s ‘Knocking on Heaven’s Door’ when they got me on stage to sing, for the first time in my life, and I hadn’t even been drinking!
TSM: Who are some songwriters you admire and look up to?
PRT: As I wrote on my Bio on my music site “Bob Dylan was like the father I never had, he taught me so much and still is.” Through Dylan’s works I discovered the new worlds of the great poets and authors, as well as the Bible, and old folk and gospel songs, which were the cornerstones upon which Rock and Roll was born and flourished.
Growing up in the sixties, I was definitely aware of and liked The Beatles who wrote some great songs, most of which were based, as were The Rolling Stones songs, on old Folk and Blues songs, in fact, I went to school a stone’s-throw from The Beatles Abbey Road Studio. There have been some great lyricists and songwriters through the years from Cole Porter (I released an album with Berlin’s Michel Ackermann called Cole Porter’s Blues) Rodgers and Hammerstein, Lennon & McCartney, John & Taupin, Rice and Webber, but none of them come near to the range and quantity of Bob Dylan’s works – the majority of which are also based on old Folk and Blues songs. “If a composer or lyricist today has no knowledge of and doesn’t draw upon tradition then he ain’t worth the pen he writes with, nor is his music” (another quote from the Bio on my music site)!
TSM: If you had the power to do something in the world today, t would it be and why?
PRT: I would make judges walk the urban streets alone at night and let them feel what it’s like to be afraid of being mugged, raped or attacked, and perhaps then when they have a convicted offender before them in court they would hand down an appropriate sentence to match the crime i.e. A life sentence which meant that the offender serving his natural life in prison suffering hardship, and not six or seven years of playing pool, watching colour TV and playing computer games in prison for murder!
I would also build more prisons to house the growing prison population, thereby creating more jobs in the construction industry and Prison Service.
In these days of rising crime, I would double or triple the presence of uniformed police officers on the streets. I’d make a lot of them walk on foot patrolling their beat, and would kick the majority of them out of their luxury office jobs, remind them that they are highly trained police officers first, and pen pushers and computer buffs second, plus that their job is to protect and serve the community in which they work, and from whom they receive a high salary and then a high pension.
I would create luxury State run old peoples homes which would cost double or three times as much to house each pensioner in as it does to keep a prisoner in jail, so an old person wouldn’t have to see out their last days in cold, hunger, poverty and loneliness, as covered in a recent song of ours “Tommy, Tommy” from our album England, Once My England that takes a critical look at a country I was born and grew up in!
TSM: What is one of your favorite quotes (or lines) that inspires you?
PRT: “A room without books is like a body without a soul.” (Cicero) and “To live outside the law you must be honest.” (Bob Dylan).
TSM: Anything else you’d like to share? And where can our readers find out more about you and your music?
PRT: Well, as I indicated, I’m always happy to work with any artist wishing to put music to my song lyrics, no matter what style of music with the aim of releasing the songs for release as albums/cd’s or digital downloads. My main music site is: https://www.paullyrics.com, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org and anything or everything is only on an equal 50/50 basis.
TSM: Thanks again for doing this interview and wish you the best of luck with everything in the future.
PRT: Thank you so much Jessica, and wishing you and your readers good luck and all the best:)!