Blackhawk Interview

There's just no two ways about it, BlackHawk makes music that is on the threshold of today's country scene. BlackHawk's debut album has sailed past platinum, riding the crest of the Number One Hit and four Top 10 singles. Their second release "Strong Enough", looks to be a worthy successor.
These guys have toured with Tim McGraw and Little Texas, Patty Loveless and Mark Chestnutt, Brooks and Dunn and Wynonna.
BlackHawk was named Performance Magazine's Best New Country Act for 1995, and received the 1995 TNN Music City News "Star of Tomorrow Vocal Group" Award.
We spoke with lead vocalist, guitarist Henry Paul, who was a founding member of the Southern rock band "The Outlaws".
Interestingly enough, the interview took place at 9:45 a.m., usually an ungodly time for most musicians to be up and about.

Q. You're up awfully early aren't you?
A. No. I wear many hats. Singer, songwriter is one of 'em.

Q. You know, the last time I spoke to you was 16 years ago.
A. Really, what was the opportunity there?

Q. It was The Henry Paul Band at the Landmark Theatre here in Syracuse.
A. Oh, cool, I remember that show. The Good Rats opened for us I believe.

Q. You sure do look different today, than you did back then.
A. Lots of curly hair, a big, black moustache that went all the way down to my chin, is what I had then.

Q. People ever think you're the same guy?
A. (Laughs). They don't think I look like him.

Q. Nobody would know unless you were there at the time, right?
A. Right. No one would know anyhow for the most part. I don't know hot to account for the things that go on. It's almost like a Twilight Zone. (Laughs). You know, the old episode where the guy kind of lives forever. People are all growing old around him, but, he's not.

Q. I really don't see many people making the equation that Henry Paul of the Henry Paul Band is Henry Paul of BlackHawk today.
A. Well, you know back then everybody did what they could to be unattractive. It was a whole different time, long-hair and all of that other bull-hockey.

Q. Wasn't Syracuse a "hot" city for the Henry Paul Band?
A. Yes it was. For whatever reason. There were other markets. In the course of the entire country, there were probably 10 or 15 markets where we could go in and headline theatres, and do 3-4,000 people. Pittsburgh. Kansas City. Upstate New York. Down in New Jersey. There were just places around that we were popular. We kind of spread ourselves thin across America, popularity-wise, but we did pretty good. We had a good time with that. That was a pretty good band, if I recall. I was always proud of the band we had with that group.

Q. What did you do after The Henry Paul Band ended?
A. Well, I got back in The Outlaws. Hughie Thomasson and I formed a new group called The Outlaws and we recorded an album for C.B.S. called Soldiers of Fortune. We toured through a declining audience, for me, right up until 1989 at which I hopped off that sinking ship so to speak, and went out on a regular commute to Nashville to write songs. That started in '90 really on a regular basis. At the end of '91 I had raised the interest of Tim DuBois at Arista Records. He was interested in signing me. I had secured a publishing deal with E.M.I. I was writing songs for E.M.I, music. In '92 we put BlackHawk together and he signed the group late '92. We recorded our first album in '93 and it was out late '93. So, the events that took place were somewhat slow in coming, but consistent in nature. A lot of what we do in BlackHawk was similar to a lot of the good things we did in The Outlaws and The Henry Paul Band, you know, 3 part vocal harmony, and guitar driven pop country rock. There are certain similarities. I guess at this point country music fans have sort of come around to a certain extent to our way of thinking, and it couldn't happen to a nicer bunch of guys. (Laughs).

Q. Was Rick Cun in The Outlaws with you?
A. No. I left the band before he joined. The band, sort of came apart bit by bit, and he was like one of the last members to join. While the group still mattered, he was one of the last members to join. He stayed with the group 2 or 3 years before he split and went into Christian music.

Q. You left when?
A. I left in 77, the first time. I left after the third album. The Henry Paul Band was together, making records and doing shows right up until 1983, which doesn't seem like that long ago, but, it is.

Q. What do you like about the Nashville scene? Is that really where your roots are?
A. Absolutely. That's where our band was 20 years ago. Part of the Southern California country rock scene, harmony vocals, although we had more of a guitar-driven group in The Outlaws than in The Henry Paul Band. This is guitar town, Nashville is. It's a large part of our sound. It was a very natural transition for me musically, to be here, and to make the record we made with BlackHawk, and to make the second album, and what we're working on for the third. You know how the music business is, you can't really fool anyone, with it. If it's not really there, you're not gonna cut through.

Q. It's kind of unusual to have your debut album go platinum, isn't it?
A. Double platinum! It's unusual for anybody to have success in the music business, with as many built in negatives as there are, and as many reasons as people can come up with to say no, yeah, it's a phenomena to have any success in the music business, let alone that kind of success. To sell 2 million copies of your first album is quite an accomplishment, one of which we're proud of. The second album already said a million pieces and continues to sell briskly. Somewhere out there, there's an audience for what we do. They're being real supportive of us.

Q. Why do you think people are being supportive?
A. I think we've come in and filled the kind of a musical void, between popular music and country music, and between songs and records that are easy to get a handle on lyrically and musically. I think we're playing pretty progressive music for the idiom and I think people are converting to country music on the heels of what BlackHawk does. The fans that are there in country music that like something a little more contemporary are voicing their acceptance of what we do in the way of sales and at radio, in the way of airplay.

Q. Who came up with BlackHawk? Was that you?
A. No. It wasn't me. Van (BlackHawk guitarist/vocalist) found that name as we were out searching for a name. He saw it on the side of a truck. It was I think BlackHawk printing here in Nashville. He brought it to work one night. It wasn't like, we got it, we got it, we got it! But, it was one of the names we liked.

Q. BlackHawk is supposed to have a high energy level on stage. What is there about your show that gets people on their feet?
A. There are no bands out there that do what we do, with minor exceptions. I can count on one hand the bands that approach the level of integrity and honesty and simple energy driven show that we have. Most of what we do is internalized. There's an intensity. It's very clear what's going on, and you're on the receiving end of it. They're kind of driven down to their chairs with it. When it's time to stand-up, there's somewhat of a natural reaction for them to say, 'Hey this is the real deal, and we're gonna participate.' I'm into shows like that myself. It's just a natural human reaction to what you do.

Q. How'd you get this Wynonna tour?
A. Well, those kinds of decisions are made at a high level. She obviously has to approve it. We have to account for something in the way of popularity. We have to bring something to the party. There was certainly enough on our part. It was a win-win situation. She was out doing something new. She wanted somebody that represented variety in the show. Obviously I don't think she wanted to bring another female artist out with her so, she picked us, basically.

Q. So what happens to you when this tour ends? Are you going back into the studio?
A. Yeah. We're gonna make a record in November. We're working on songs. That's what we've been doing. No rest for the weary.

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