However your Oscar night was, St. Paul & the Broken Bones had a better one.
The soul band from Birmingham, Ala., spent the evening as the musical entertainment for Elton John’s annual Oscar viewing party, which was held in West Hollywood and raised $7 million for the Elton John AIDS Foundation.
“It was quite something,” says lead singer Paul Janeway, 33, on the phone from Cincinnati. Janeway recalls he and his seven-piece crew playing after the now-notorious Best Picture snafu, where “La La Land” was briefly given that honor over actual winner “Moonlight.” But dude was too busy being intimidated by the audience.
“It was a very odd place to be, because we played – there were a lot of very wealthy people, which is very uncomfortable… I’m not used to being around that kind of money.”
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John even jumped onstage to sing “I’ll Be Your Woman,” a track off the band’s latest album “Sea of Noise.”
“He wanted to do ‘I’ll Be Your Woman,’ and we were like, absolutely,” says Janeway. “You’re not gonna turn him down.”
John has been a very big fan of the group, going back a couple of years to when John called Janeway personally a few years ago to give him and the band props.
“I was going to get fitted for my wedding band, and he called me on the way to that,” Janeway remembers. “And it was this crazy exchange. He’s just a fan of the band. Rosanne Cash introduced us to him. She’s good friends with him, and it was one of those weird situations. And it’s kind of blossomed since then.”
What’s also blossoming is the band’s popularity. Since forming in 2012, this gaggle of blue-eyed soulsters has been gaining fans both famous and not-so-famous. Their first album, 2014’s “Half the City,” was recorded at the legendary FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, produced by Ben Tanner (touring keyboardist for Alabama Shakes) and distributed on Single Lock Records, a label formed by Tanner and former Civil Wars guitarist John Paul White, one of the band’s staunchest supporters.
They also had a song on the soundtrack for “Fifty Shades of Grey,” a movie whose erotic subject matter the Christian-bred, teetotalling Janeway (hence the “St. Paul” nickname) apparently wasn’t aware of before he gave permission to use the song. “I thought it was some sort of rom-com,” he says, chuckling.
For last year’s “Sea of Noise,” the band got together with British producer Paul Butler (Devendra Banhart, Michael Kiwanuka) and mostly recorded the album in Nashville.
“We all kind of fell in love with the way his records sounded,” says Janeway. “So we got in contact with him and he was interested.”
Needless to say, since they were in Nashville, the band got him hooked on hot chicken. “I would send a runner down to get Prince’s Hot Chicken…The whole studio would have grease all over the place.”
Butler, Janeway and the band worked night and day to come up with a Southern-fried sound that also showed them evolving as a band, which is why they recorded in Music City.
“We did the Muscle Shoals thing – OK, cool,” says Janeway. “You know, I think, for us, that’s home and that’s where our roots are. But for us, if we’re going to expand, let’s do different studios, different producers – and we’re gonna continue with that.”
They will also continue to quiet naysayers who think a bunch of white guys, lead by the booming, gospel-tinged voice of that accountant-looking Janeway, can’t do hard-edged, old-school, Southern R&B.
“To me – and I’ve had this conversation with black friends and we’ve talked about it – you’re either good or you’re not, you know,” says Janeway. “And whether you’re black, white or whatever, people can see through that (expletive). And if it’s inauthentic and it comes from an inauthentic place, then people will go, ‘Nah.’ And I don’t think we get that as much now.”
St. Paul & the Broken Bones will do their thing at The Ritz Friday night, and Janeway is hoping spectators will purge themselves of bad vibes during the show.
“You just want people to walk away more positive than they were before, so it’s more therapeutic,” he says. “Because, to me, music is a spiritual thing, and I want people to walk away like they’ve done something, like something’s been released.”
Who: St. Paul & the Broken Bones
When: 8 p.m. Friday
Where: The Ritz, 3820 Industrial Drive, Raleigh
Info: 919-424-1400 or ritzraleigh.com