“World Famous” a product of love and family

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First Posted: 12/2/2014

“A lot of my family’s history is in these songs,” begins Paul Loomis, regarding his latest solo recording, “World Famous in Bloomsburg.” “We’ve sung (or made up) some of these all over South America. And, I love that so many friends (and my kids, Anna and Zeke) are on this album, playing and sometimes singing.

“Whenever I hear it I can picture the fun we had in the studio, and the album is a document of that connection and that fun.”

Loomis, who is a professor of mathematics at Bloomsburg University, recently held a CD release party at that city’s Moose Antler Exchange for his latest concoction of witty folk, topical social commentary, and instrumental eccentricity – his third original album. Loomis likes to think of this sonic stew as all-inclusive, not being subject to sub-genre scrutiny.

“I define folk music broadly, so that even if there are elements that feel like bluegrass or punk or country (or all three), it’s still folk music,” he says. “I would call a few of these pop songs, but they’re recorded acoustic, so they sound more folky. We have one (“Digali”) that’s kind of a sing-along, but it goes into this Middle-Eastern banjo/tuba/percussion bit in the middle. It’s all music that people would sit around and play with each other, with a focus on fun and community more than commercial success, so I think it’s all folk music.”

The music on “World Famous in Bloomsburg”is a long time coming, with listeners nudging Loomis to release the songs he’d been performing in a live setting since his last record.

“I’ve been playing many of these songs live for years – my last album came out in 2009,” he says. “It got to the point where people would say ‘Hey! I like that song! Is it on a CD?’ I’d have to say not yet…so it was time to record another album. Jeremy (dePrisco, who recorded and produced) and I started in March, with first drafts of songs. We kept going through August or September, and the mixing took us into October.”

Loomis’ knack for crafting a biting piece of no-nonsense narrative began when he first picked up a guitar 22 years ago. He says he was always more interested in writing his own songs as opposed to focusing on technical proficiency or cover material.

“I listened to punk when I was younger, and a lot of folk since,” he notes. “Partly because of that, what I do is still pretty simple. My kids play trombone and violin, though, and we started playing together for fun. And, I have friends who play bass, or tuba, or mandolin, or interesting drums, and I think ‘I want to play with so-and-so…’ So we try it, and figure out what sounds good and what doesn’t.”

For Loomis, his music seems to be not only therapeutic, but even visionary – in the sense that it’s led him to where he wants to be.

“There’s a song on my first album called ‘Something Good’ that starts out, ‘Woke this morning with the feeling that something good would come,’” he explains. “I wrote that song about 20 years ago during a rough time, but somehow those words came out of me one day when I was playing. So writing that song helped me see around the corner to where things could get better. I think music has a way of helping us through tough times, either by giving us the idea that it can get better, or reminding us that other people have troubles too.”

Loomis is happy that his musical and professional lives can intersect, as well. He seems common ground in both sides of what he does.

“I’m a mathematician, and a teacher of mathematics,” he says. “Both math and music require, at the basic level, a set of technical skills. At a deeper level, though, they both become more about creativity. And, while performing is entertainment and teaching is education, there are things that are common – things about rapport with a class or an audience, about having a crowd with you, so that even if your next song (or lecture) is a little more difficult to get into, they are willing to stick around.”

Foremost, Loomis wishes the listener a sense of enjoyment from his music. Secondary, perhaps, would be a little inspiration.

“I think it’s a fun album,” he says in closing. “Still, maybe it will make people think about a few things in a way they haven’t before.

“My ideal world has lots of people listening to music together as they do things – cooking, eating, washing dishes, playing games, travelling. Even better, it has people playing music together, just for fun. This album is like a soundtrack to that ideal world.”