Following a stint in the Boston College marching band freshman year, Chris Paterno ‘15 sacrificed his drum-line days in favor of perfecting his act as a vocalist and guitarist. He found a community in BC’s Music Guild and Music Outreach programs, and eventually became vice president of the Music Guild. However, he also continued to propel his solo performance forward. His four years at BC culminated with finalist spots in both Sing It to the Heights and the Arts Fest Singer-Songwriter Competition.
In the wake of post-grad life, Paterno switched the focus of his musical career once more. An invitation to perform for 2,000 fans of the Philadelphia Freedoms in May 2015 offered an undeniable opportunity—but it also meant diverging from the solo path.
“I took the gig, but there was one caveat: it required a full band,” Paterno recalls. “I threw together a conglomerate of friends and then strangers to form a band, including my 9th grade English teacher... Some players came and went until we finally found the right mix of guys.”
Thus, somewhat incidentally, The Chris Paterno Band was formed. Paterno serves as the band’s lead vocalist and acoustic guitarist with Frank Rein on trombone, Mike Clark on trumpet, Greg Wilson on saxophone, Mark Hightower on bass, and Doug Parsons on drums.
Since their fateful performance last May, the group has been noticed by nine-time Grammy award-winning producer Joe Nicolo. Nicolo, who has worked with Billy Joel and The Fugees, signed The Chris Paterno band and invited the group to record their EP in his home studio.
“At first, it was difficult getting over the self-consciousness that comes with knowing the guy has recorded some of your favorite artists of all time,” Paterno says of the recording experience. “But Joe Nicolo really knows how to bring out the best in you and make you feel welcomed. He isn't afraid to tell it like it is, which really helped shape this project into a great product.”
Over a year of work has gone into the six-track, self-titled EP set to release Sept. 30. Paterno shared that a large part of the creative process occurred at BC, where his daily experiences and emotions easily translated into musical inspiration. With sweet familiarity in his voice, Chris Paterno lyrically questions trust in a lover, grapples with his ability to handle life’s pressures, and discovers promise in new opportunities. A relatable hit-you-straight-in-the-soul tracklist, to say the least.
As emotionally charged as promised, The Chris Paterno Band will remedy your troubles with its unique sound. The members describe their style as alternative-soul (“think John Mayer meets Stevie Wonder,” Paterno muses in our talk), but their upcoming release cannot be contained in one precise genre.
Horn flares in “Unfaithful” add a layer of heat that resembles a jazz ensemble while “Sweet Thing” sounds like a song off a Rusted Roots album with a clever twist of autotune. Acoustic guitar strums create a feel-good, bop-along rhythm underlying most tracks; however, incorporation of various musical elements and styles creates a pleasantly unpredictable listening experience.
Beyond a great listen, the EP benefits two charitable organizations to which Chris Paterno is closely tied: Project HOME and the Episcopal Academy Scholarship fund. Project HOME, which will receive 10% of profits, provides housing and services to homeless men and women in Philadelphia and provided a space for Paterno to offer free music lessons to disadvantaged youth back home. The Episcopal Academy, which will also receive 10% of profits, is where Paterno attended school from kindergarten to 12th grade and formed a bond with his 9th-grade-English-teacher-turned-drummer Doug Parsons. By donating a portion of the EP’s profits, the members of the The Chris Paterno Band hope to provide the same opportunities they had to the next generation of young performers.
Check out The Chris Paterno Band on Facebook for more details on their upcoming EP release.