Paul Sanchez is one of the most intriguing musicians in New Orleans. "I was born across the street from the Mississippi River," he says, and he grew up in the blue-collar Irish Channel neighborhood, historic home to stevedores and river pilots. Never one to be catergorized or stay in the lines, he has a musical career as varied as New Orleans itself.
Sanchez is a vocalist, songwriter and guitarist. He was a founding member of the rock group Cowboy Mouth, and toured with them for 15 years. He left in 2006, just after Hurricane Katrina had upended his home city. "My life had already changed," he says. "I just had to finish changing it."
He and his wife, Shelly, lived three months in Belize while weighing their post-Katrina options. Sanchez was familiar with lots of American cities, but none offered what New Orleans had. "I really dig New York, Boston, San Francisco and Chicago," he says. "But I couldn't live in any of them."
He eventually returned home, performing both as a soloist and with a revolving troupe of fellow musicians he dubbed the Rolling Road Show. And he found a city undergoing changes, some for the good. "To me, New Orleans is now what New York was to F. Scott Fitzgerald in the '20s, or what San Francisco was to Kerouac in the 1950s, A city electric and bursting with the energy of becoming." he says. "It's moving forward. The world has taken a look at New Orleans, and it looks very attractive. People are coming here because they love the idea of New Orleans, and they're bringing with them some of the romance and poetry and energy we lost in the flood."
He published a book in 2009, Pieces Of Me, which deals with his sense of loss and rebuilding after the flood.
Much of Sanchez's past three years has been consumed with writing and recording a musical about New Orleans based on "Nine Lives," a book by former New Yorker writer Dan Baum. Sanchez's friend, the Los Angeles-based lyricist Colman deKay, had recommended he read it.
"I read the book, and I loved it," Sanchez says. So he and deKay started writing songs based on the nine real-life New Orleanians Baum profiled. They recorded a few songs, then the musicians they recruited got involved, adding their own songs and improvising on the fly at the studio. Songs written by Shamarr Allen and Matt Perrine and songs co-written with Michael Cerveris, John Boutte, Irma Thomas and more.
"It wasn't about any one writer or person," Sanchez says. "It was about all of us, because that's what it took to make New Orleans over again. The more the piece became about community, the more I think it captured the spirit of the book." NIne Lives was released on January 24th 2012.
Paul also found time amidst all of this work to record his 6th post flood CD:
Paul Sanchez and The Rolling Road Show -- Reclamation Of The Pie-Eyed Piper featuring Alex Mcmurray, Shamarr Allen, Craig Klein, Sonia Tetlow, Debbie Davis, Arsene Delay, Matt Perrine, Eric Bolivar and the legendary Washboard Chaz.
Meantime, Sanchez performs at Chickie Wah Wah and other venues around the city and he's continued to embrace the changing city. Sanchez knows another scene will arise, another era will begin. "It won't be mine anymore," he says, "it will be the young people's. And I'll be glad for it."
Paul appears as himself in season one and two of the HBO series Treme. He has released six CDs since the flood.
He resides in Treme and still lives, sings and breathes New Orleans.