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Paula Atherton: Behind the Beats

Each week we'll take you 'Behind the Beats' to learn more about the artists that play on our airwaves. This week: Paula Atherton


We featured Paula Atherton in this year's Behind the BEATS magazine. You can see it and the rest of the magazine here, and find the extended version of the interview below.



Allen Kepler: You have been dominant on the charts over the past two years with two tunes in our Top 20 of 2022 (Keep It Comin’ and “Ready Or Not”), and this year “Open Road” was a huge hit and “Dancin’ Shoes” is currently climbing the charts. What is your process for selecting and releasing a single?  


Paula Atherton: First I go by what I like- if a producer has an idea for a track and I like it, or I’ve written something I’m thinking could be a single, I always run it by my radio promoter, David Kunert, at Future Groove Promotion.  He is the expert, and I feel a big reason why my music has done so well over the past few years.  I am very thankful for the radio programmers and the radio network we have as artists to get our music out to the public.  We can’t do what we do without the support of radio. 


 I think it’s important to work with producers that know how to get the best out of you, and understand you as an artist, so they can show you in your best light. I found that working with different producers changes things up a bit also, and keeps your sound fresh.  I certainly don’t want to make the same record over and over again, and I’m sure people don’t want to listen to that either! 


AK: Any secrets to your success that you can share?

PA: It’s not easy, but as writers and improvising musicians, we have to strive to grow, and see where we can go with our music.  It’s a challenge on one hand, but what a blessing it is to be able to do what you love, and hopefully make people happy with your music!


AK: You certainly connect with radio programmers and listeners alike. What is your process for selecting and releasing a single?  

PA: First I go by what I like- if a producer has an idea for a track and I like it, or I’ve written something I’m thinking could be a single, I always run it by my radio promoter, David Kunert, at Future Groove Promotion.  He is the expert, and I feel a big reason why my music has done so well over the past few years.  I am very thankful for the radio programmers and the radio network we have as artists to get our music out to the public.  We can’t do what we do without the support of radio, it’s how people hear our new releases, sometimes find out about shows, etc.  If all the people involved in this process are working together, that is the first step to the song you are promoting to be successful.  


AK: And you do concerts throughout the year. How does your live performance compare with what you put together in the studio?

PA: In the studio is where your ideas come to life.  You start with an idea, and keep working on it until you have a song.  I love this process of creating something that wasn’t there before.  There are so many intangible things in music.  All the hard work it takes to get to the point where you have the skills to play well and express yourself.  Performing show after show.  The recorded studio performance is something tangible that you can hold, and document your music.  


Live is all about the audience!  The way I think about it, you do all the practicing, all the work in the studio to make the recording just how you like it, and then the performance is about connecting with the audience, hoping to lift them up with your music. I always give 110% to my audiences; I respect them, and respect that they took money out of their pocket, and time out of their day to come see me perform.  I will always give them my best.


AK: You play both the sax and flute. Do you have a favorite?

PA: I kind of view things through the eyes of a writer- if I want to tell a story, I’ll write lyrics and it will be a vocal tune.  Sometimes I hear a melody in my head with sax or flute playing it.  It starts from the song, and what sound would be best for that song.  


AK: And you are a singer as well…

PA: Voice was my first instrument.  I was always in chorus in grade school and college, and loved it. My first performance in the city was when I was in college, in a 20 voice acapella vocal ensemble, where we had to sight sing the music. Very challenging! When I started working as a musician in my late teens, I just sang and played flute.  I was studying jazz, scat singing, singing solos of artists such as Lester Young, Roy Eldridge, Charlie Parker, etc., and doing the same on my flute.  I started feeling like I needed more colors in my music, which led me to get a saxophone, and start playing that!


I love expressing myself through singing a song.  I still do some shows in NY singing and playing American songbook (and similar) repertoire, and will probably make a recording of that repertoire at some point.  The voice can be very personal, and I love that aspect of singing.  I love connecting with an audience by singing a song.


AK: As a writer and producer, you have collaborated with some truly cool artists. Please tell us some highlights.

PA: My 2nd release, “Groove With Me” was the first time I reached out to guest artists to play on my recording. Greg Adams from Tower of Power played on “JB” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.”  Chieli Minucci played on my first single from that release, “Block Party.”  Onaje Allen Gumbs played keys on “Send Down An Angel.” Bill Heller from the Rippingtons is on “Light As Air,” and has played on many of my recordings. I met Nick Colionne around this time, and he was on my next 3 releases, with “Sassy Strut,” (Enjoy the Ride), “Remember When,” (Ear Candy), and “My Song For You,” which Nick wrote for my 2018 release, “Shake It.”  At this time, “My Song For You,” has close to 4 million streams on Spotify. Gail Jhonson from Jazz in Pink is on “Breakdown,” (Ear Candy).  2020s’ “Can You Feel It” is where I started using outside producers more prevalently, and it worked out!  The title track, “Can You Feel It,” produced and co-written by Greg Manning, wound up being my first #1 on Billboard! “Summer Song,” produced by Nathan Mitchell, also on “Can You Feel It,” went #1 in 2021.  Paul Brown produced, “Ain’t No Denyin,’” from the same release.


My 7th release coming out in 2024 has songs produced by Curtis Harmon (Pieces of a Dream), Greg Manning, Adam Hawley, Jacob Webb, and Lou Gimenez.


AK: And who is on your wish-list for future collaborations?

PA: Jeff Lorber, Paul Jackson, Jr., Jarrod Lawson, Marcus Miller, Michael McDonald, Cindy Bradley, Ilya Serov, Tim Bowman, Sheila E.  I could go on… I am currently collaborating with David P. Stevens on a track, and Carol Albert on some of her music as well. 


AK: What can we expect in 2024?

PA: You can expect my 7th release in early 2024, which as of yet is still unnamed.  I’m currently booking 2024, and already have a bunch of shows in the US that I’m looking forward to. 


In February, I’ll be coming to Orangeburg, SC Feb. 10th (Sulit Luxe Affairs) to play a Valentines’ Day show with Wille Bradley, and on Feb 24th, I’ll be performing at the Fannn Music Festival in Sugarland TX.  The festival in Sugarland is through the F2F foundation.  F2F is in Houston, and I am on the board.  We raise money for instruments for students whose families can’t afford them.  I am very passionate about music & art education.  I love seeing the look on a childs’ face when they are presented with their own instrument!  It’s magical! Dionne Warwick will be performing, and is now Ambassador to F2F!


I’ll be at the Berks Jazz Festival April 7th with Jazz in Pink, San Padre Island March 10th, Tampa FL May 26th (Uptown Music & Arts Festival), June 1st in Stockton (Weber Point Events Center), to name a few.


Learn more about Paula Atherton on her website.

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