Eugene songwriter Paul Quillen tells me the first guitar he ever owned was a “disaster-of-a-piece-of-plywood guitar with a Hohner neck screwed on to it for $50 that I never paid.”
That debt has stuck with Quillen. “I’ve been planning to find his address and send him a check. I’ve honestly felt guilty about it my whole life.”
Now Quillen has released a self-titled EP — his first — of bracingly intimate neo-classical and contemporary indie folk. He plays a nylon string acoustic guitar, giving his music the dimly lit melancholy of early Leonard Cohen.
“I wanted to learn more finger-style guitar and figured classical guitar would be the best approach,” he recalls. “From then on, I’ve played a classical style guitar and have been possessed by this neurotic love of rolling arpeggios.”
Joining Quillen’s guitar and fragile, chocolate-y baritone are Julia Frantz and Corwin Bolt, adding string accompaniment with violin and upright bass. The EP was recorded locally at Gung Ho Studios.
“I was crazy fortunate to have two fantastic musicians who were willing to play on the recording for doughnuts and coffee at practices,” Quillen says. “They really helped make it feel like a worthwhile pursuit.”
There’s something self-effacing about Quillen’s music, as if he’s sharing dark secrets with us via lyrics both personal and rooted in the natural world.
“I don’t know that these are the best songs to have as my first public offering,” he says with typical modesty. “I feel fortunate to have the ability to communicate through music.”
Without a recording, Quillen couldn’t reveal himself properly.
“That is certainly a gift for artists to be able to open up to the world in a way that transcends, or can exist without logically constrained, wholly verbal interpersonal communication,” he says. “That is my ultimate goal for writing and sharing music: a communication aid that picks up where my ability to verbalize drops off.”
Paul Quillen’s self-titled EP is available at paulquillen.net and all major online streaming services.