When your debut album spawns a pair of Top-5 singles, and your rapidly growing, rabid fan base can’t get enough of your live show (even though you’re on the road six months out of the year), it’s easy to lock into a holding pattern and hang on for dear life to whatever formula brewed your popularity.
But Paul Wright doesn’t lock into patterns, hang on to formulas, or otherwise indulge in anything vaguely resembling “contrived.”
With every chord springing from his trusty acoustic guitar, indeed from the very core of his being, Wright is a rugged individual—a singular artist whose smooth, unfettered mix of hip-hop, alternative rock, reggae, pop, old-school jazz (and whatever other genres please his ear) defies easy categorization and any attempts at pigeonholing.
In fact, the only forces Wright tags with ultimate importance are the rivers of relentlessly catchy melodies that flow through his brain—and the God who puts them there. And both are in full effect on Wright’s intensely personal sophomore effort, Sunrise to Sunset.
“These new songs are about my heart’s desire,” the soft-spoken Oregon native says. “A desire that my walk with God would become more practical every day—from sunrise to sunset, not just on Sundays and Wednesday nights.”
The title track is emblematic of the deep desires in Wright’s heart. Anchored by a graceful, unforgettable acoustic riff and Wright’s easygoing, languid vocal, the bouncy track shimmers with eye-opening harmonies that underscore the tune’s simple message: From sunrise to sunset, help me not forget all that you’ve done for me / From sunset to sunrise, help me keep my eyes upon your glory…
“The cool thing is that with every sunrise and sunset, God gives us all fresh starts,” Wright adds. “So for me this album is also about new beginnings.”
It’s safe to say that Wright’s entire world went through a kind of new beginning with the success of his debut, Fly Away, and the heavy touring that came on the heels of its release. Wright had to learn a whole new way to live—and mostly without his beloved community back home.
“Being on the road was frustrating at times,” Wright confesses. “In a way I had to learn to live the Christian life on my own. But one of the good things that came out of my time on the road, besides meeting a lot of great people, is that I realized how much I really need God—how we all need him, just to get through our day.”
One of several songs on Sunrise to Sunset that manifests Wright’s deep-felt need is “Take This Life,” the album’s first single. It’s one of those tunes that hits so hard with gut-level lyrics that you actually spend more time thinking about your own spiritual life than how good the melodies are sounding. Forgive me for the words I spoke before they ever left my throat, my heart would rather rebel than obey…take this life, make it yours / do what’s right, oh Lord / you got to take this, take this life…
Continuing this confessional, soul-bearing theme is “Come Around,” a signature blend of Wright’s distinctive rapping style and more than a few flashes of rock guitar flavoring the heavily rhythmic track. Arguably the most inventive, complex, and poetic lyrical effort among his new batch of songs, the tune’s narrator is taking a friend to task for being a distraction from the path toward God—and Wright doesn’t sugarcoat how difficult a struggle such a confrontation can be.
Come around come around / no please don’t come around / you always bring me down whenever you come around…Well, it’s a new day, and I got a whole new way of livin’ / forget about the bad decisions and how I give in / listen to my heartbeat but don’t be beaten like an athlete cheatin’ and later is defeated / It’s bittersweet thinkin’ I can do it on my own kid, I need some friends to help me when I’m struggling and when I’m stumbling, fumblin’ and my world is crumblin’, being humbled and in need of something…
In the midst of such serious songwriting, there’s still plenty of room for the free spirit, carefree surfer, and spontaneous traveler in Wright to emerge. A quick listen to the pure joy exuded in “I Can Feel Your Love”—a sunshine-drenched, slightly ethereal track in praise of the simple pleasures found in a summer day, barbeque get-togethers, cruising with good friends, and kicking back while taking in the breezes and blue skies that God created—is proof enough.
Same goes for the hilarious interlude cut Wright slipped in the middle of the album, “Burrito Boy,” which details his intense love of Mexican food—so much so that he “fell in love” with the girl who prepared his meal at the Burrito Boy taco shack.
“I like to reflect on good times,” Wright reveals. “There’s so much darkness in music today, and I don’t want to be a part of that. I like to make people happy with my music and have fun doing it.”
Which of course still leaves room for plenty of poignancy in the songwriting. And Wright smartly bookends Sunrise to Sunset with a pair of tunes that hold a great deal of personal meaning for him—and likely for listeners as well.
Another future radio hit, “Heaven,” begins the album with brightly colored acoustic chords and full-throated, triumphant harmonies: I want to know what it’s like to be in heaven / looking back on my life having answers to my questions / cuz we don’t belong here forever, no no, we don’t belong here / and we’ll be dancing, singing, bringing our praises by lifting our voices to Jesus / there’ll be no more crying, lying, or dying when you and I are in heaven…
“I became a Christian when I was 12, and I was excited to know about heaven,” Wright reveals, “and this song comes from that place of excitement, of anticipation.”
Closing things is “Thank You,” a quiet number in appreciation to God for every breath that we’re given. “I wrote this after a buddy of mine passed away,” Wright explains. “It was an eye-opening experience for me. His death came out of nowhere, just really quick. So I wanted to thank God for his grace that I’m even alive, because my friend’s death showed me even more than life is but a shadow.”
Without your love I’d be dead, but instead I am alive because you saved my life / barely escaping death I cherish every breath that I breathe, and every death I see reminds me of where I’d be without you…
And for Wright, his soul-searching songwriting has led to transformations and changes that continue to impact him. “All of what’s happened to me in last few years has been a blast—a dream come true,” he says. “But still, I’m continually asking God what my next move should be. I want to know if I’m walking in his will. I want his spirit to flow through me. That’s what I want more than anything else.”
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