Q&A with a Blues Musician – Tall Paul Sabel

“Tall” Paul Sabel
Harmonica Player “Tall” Paul Sabel, originally from DePere, WI, started
his journey in music oddly enough during his first year of Physician
Assistant school at UW Madison. On a Monday night he heard Westside
Andy Linderman playing harmonica into a bullet microphone and a
tube amp with The Blue Monday Band which was led by Clyde
Stubblefield. Paul was mystified by the sound and felt an immediate
calling to learn how to do that. At the time, he had been
re-awakening his creative side and decided to go at learning
the harmonica with the mind of a child—no inhibitions and
no pressure for time—and he learned the basics of harmonica
faster than he had learned anything before. With stops in Chicago
and Green Bay, Paul ended up in Madison and keeps a somewhat
low profile as harmonica Player for the Ryan McGrath Band.
He has been working all along as a physician assistant and is
father of two young children but had managed to make
it to The Knuckledown Saloon and sit in with Reverend Raven
and the Chain-smoking Altar Boys featuring Westside Andy,
The Madtown Mannish Boys, The Cash Box Kings,
and Brandon Santini. He is happy his wife Silvia supports his
love of music and performing live. Always looking to add to his
repertoire and musical style, Paul recently started to study via
Skype with harmonica player Jason Ricci.
You can follow Paul by liking his musician page
Tall Paul Sabel on Facebook. Look for gig updates and hopefully
soon some new posts featuring live performances and
informational videos.

1.  What do you do for fun when you are not playing?
STUFF WITH THE KIDS.  Going to parks, hiking, reading stories.  For
myself I like to hike, bike and work out with kettlebells.
2.  How did the Ryan McGrath band get started?
When Ryan moved back to the area after attending school at Montana
State, he formed a trio with local bass player and drummer.  The bass
player happened to work in Stoughton ER which was one of my
sites when I moved back to the area after my 5 years in Chicago. We
talked one night and he invited me to play a party they were
hired for and Ryan and I clicked right away.  That was around
Oct 20, 2014 which was 5 days before my son Soren was born.  Ryan
happened to get married right after than as well so we both had
big changes in life as we met and started playing music together.
3. Who are your biggest musical influences?
Westside Andy, Glenn Davis, Gary Primich, Jim Liban, Jerry Gonzalez
(jazz trumpeter and conguero who I have found to be my spirit
animal in music, I watch his Detroit jazz fest live performances on
YouTube all the time), Charles Mingus, Big Walter Horton,
Little Walter, James Cotton, Mitch Kashmar, RJ Mischo, Flynn
McGee, Bret and Clyde Stubblefield, James LeFevere, Joe Filisko.
4. Who is/are the most famous person(s) you’ve shared the stage
Jorge Chicoy in Cuba probably.  I played a gig with Sociedad Habana
Blues, a band that Charlie Musselwhite connected me to when
I told him I was going to Cuba and asked for advice on playing
harp with that music. That band opened up for Chicoy’s band and
in between Chicoy asked if I would sit in with his band.  I did and they
broke it down at a point and it was just him and I going back
and forth.  He was playing all these insane jazz licks with effects
and I’ve got a harp and a vocal mic.  I thought to myself, what can
I do that he can’t?  So when my turn to match him came up,
I switched the gears and did my best train imitation on harp
and brought the house down. Afterwards he told me I was
welcome on stage with him anytime. I got to sit in with
Charlie Musselwhite once too and he’s probably more
famous but I just remembered that. Charlie was playing a 3 night
casino gig in Green Bay in February and I offered to show
him around town. 
Long story short, he likes second hand shops and pawn shops and I
brought him to a place where he figured out they had a few switch blade
knives hidden behind the counter in a cigar box and bought one.
He told me you never  know when you might need a good knife. 
Still in his blood from Chicago days.  Anyway, he let me up for
the song Cadillac Women on the last night of his residency at
the casino.  Billy Flynn was there and I think he ended up mailing
the switchblade to Charlie so he wouldn’t lose it at the airport.
5.  Tell us about your first paid gig.
Biker bar next to red letter news in early 2000’s. I made $11.  
6. If you could play another instrument beside harmonica, what would
it be and why?
Drums because my son wants to play them and I wish I could teach
7. If you could collaborate with another musician who
would it be? 
Alabama Mike.  He sang on the album Howlin at Greaseland which
came out around the time my daughter Arya was born in 2018 or so. 
I used to console her and rock her to that album but really love
Alabama Mike’s delivery And would love to meet him someday.
8. What’s the most important skill to have as a musician right now? 
I don’t know.  I guess it’s social media marketing .
9.  Describe Ryan McGrath Band fans in 3 words.
Addicted, loyal, intelligent 
10. If you could change one thing about the music business,
what would it be?
Pay me in Bitcoin or pay us for streaming our music.
11. What is your opinion about cover songs?
I love covers as long as it’s not cover band style and we can improvise. 
People want to hear stuff they know.  I’m not going to try to replicate
note for note covers, but I do cover songs and introduce as such. 
I also want t to sprinkle in original stuff and hopefully people are
open to new stuff.  Music is communication and if people aren’t open
to new stuff, they will be stuck and miss out. 
12. Tell us about one of your music teachers.
DeWayne Keyes is a Madison legend in my mind.  If not for him I
wouldn’t have started.  He gave classes through the UW extended classes
or something like that and I took his course after seeing fliers all over
campus for 4 years.  I took that course after hearing Westside Andy
at Okay’s Corral and knowing I wanted to play harmonica.  DeWayne
is a great teacher and really inspired me.  He had a handout with
harmonica players to check out and I took it to the library and
checked out cds of those artists and figured out who I liked and
didn’t like.
13. What advice would you give to young musicians?
Go for what you truly love.
14.  What are the benefits of listening to music? Playing music?  
LISTENING IS CRUCIAL.  I can get practice reps in from listening alone
while on my bike going to work.  It may be out of necessity but it works. 
It’s like practice reps in sports.  And even if passively listening you
want to have good music around you all the time.  You never know
what soaks in. The chromatic harp line I play in part of Play With
My Mind on Heat and the Hammer I got inspired from a John
Fruschante guitar line from intro to Snow Hey Oh from the
Chilli Peppers. I heard it at home the day before my recording
session when my wife had the song on as part of a kids dance party. 
It triggered an idea and I went and wrote it out. Always be receptive
to the universe guiding you to create music.
15. If music were removed from the world, how would you feel?
Very dead and no emotion.
16. How much time do you spend listening to music each day
or week?  Playing music?
It depends.  I go in streaks where I’m checking out new music or
listening to stuff that stirs the memories and spend hardcore hours
going at it but lately it has been very sad where I’m listening to
sports radio and trying not to think about music because there
isn’t much to look forward to and if I don’t have deadlines,
less likely to carve out time to practice with the family
obligations there.
17. Is there a song that makes you emotional?
Sound of Silence, original but the Disturbed version has really
moved me to tears.
18. What is your least favorite type of music?
Whatever category the song What Does The Fox Say is in as it’s my
son’s favorite song and I feel like I’m hearing that more than
good music so my ears may be getting contaminated with annoying
pop sh*t.
19. Karaoke –  Yeah, or nah? 
Nah, unless I’m drunk in Tokyo which I have been And for some reason
it’s not as annoying there.  Probably because I was drunk.
20. Who should answer these questions next?
Westside Andy

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