Don’t let the name fool you. St. Paul and The Broken Bones are anything but broken. This seven-piece band from Birmingham, Alabama featuring frontman Paul Janeway, is equal parts gospel-rooted soul and southern charm.
Growing up in church in rural Alabama exposed Janeway to gospel sounds that are evident with each croon, shout and wail uttered. Although as a teenager, he had his sights set on becoming a preacher, he found his way into the light of a slightly different calling.
The surprising roar bellowing deep from the heart and soul of Janeway finds itself solidly supported by the powerful rhythm and blues of each instrument, including a proper horn section.
The IN spoke with trombone and tuba player, Ben Griner, just as the band was preparing for a show in New Orleans.
“This time last year I was still in college. Now I’m waiting to play a show in New Orleans. I never thought a year out of a college I’d be doing something like this,” Griner said. “We have been hitting the road hard, from coast to coast, playing just about every big city in the U.S., and the reaction has been incredible. It’s been absolutely ridiculous.”
Just after their Hangout Fest appearance, St. Paul and The Broken Bones will be flying across the ocean to London. This ongoing momentum paints a telling picture of the energy that’s been continually picking up since the initial buzz that surrounded the release of their first EP at the end of 2012.
Following the release of their debut full-length album, “Half the City” just a couple of months ago, the pedal has been pushed to the floor as the band has received nonstop attention, been featured across countless platforms including NPR and made debut TV performances.
Going into the making of the album, the band was simply excited to get the album out there, having no clue what was to come on the other side.
“There wasn’t a lot of calculation,” Griner said. “We put it out on a small label and were just excited to have it out. Everything from that point has been icing on the cake.”
Since the band has quickly become known for an engaging live performance—one that draws you all the way up to the altar, so to speak—the album was recorded in a way to remain as true to this live element as possible.
“We definitely realized the reaction we got from the live show was due to the close interaction,” Griner said. “We were toying with ways to record the album and knew it had to be done live. We tried our hardest to make it as much like the live show as we could.”
When they were approached by and provided the opportunity to record with Ben Tanner of the Alabama Shakes, they finished writing the majority of the album in a short time, collaborating to pull together the many pieces and parts.
“We wrote the bulk of the album in about six weeks. Someone would have an idea and we would jam on it,” Griner said.
The album was released through Tanner’s newly founded Muscle Shoals, Alabama-based label, Single Lock Records. Tanner, along with Single Lock Records partner, John Paul White of The Civil Wars, not only helped bring the album to fruition, but continue to serve as both friends and mentors to the group.
“John Paul and Ben have just been so great,” Griner said. “They have been in bands that have gone through similar things. They have been helping us keep our heads square on our shoulders and pointing us to the next steps.”
Although these next steps have taken St. Paul and The Broken Bones across the country and beyond, home remains the Southeast United States, and more specifically, the great state of Alabama.
While Griner himself isn’t a native Alabamian, after a decade spent in the South, it’s his home now, as well as a place he loudly praises, and one he and the rest of the band don’t plan on leaving anytime soon.
“Even though some of us are transplants, we’re all Southern guys now. I don’t think we would want to come from anywhere else,” Griner said.
“Alabama is a place you don’t necessarily think of, but there’s so much rich history, it’s almost like there’s something in the water. Great artists have come out of here. And obviously The Shakes and Jason Isbell are killing it right now.”
It’s safe to say fans feel the same way about St. Paul and The Broken Bones. In just a short time, the band has been able to deliver something that is a rarity in today’s world, taking listeners back in time by offering music that is so deeply rooted in age-old soul, yet brought to life with an unshakeable, redefined vibrancy. To complete the experience, members of St. Paul and The Broken Bones are always dressed in their Sunday best.
“Our music is definitely rooted in Muscle Shoals ‘60s southern soul,” Griner said. “From the beginning, we knew we had a powerful lead singer and tried to build a foundation around that. We just try to make music that is fun to play and we think is good.”
ST. PAUL AND THE BROKEN BONES
Sunday, 6:15-7:30 p.m.