Proprietor of the St. Louis sound, blues n’ soul songwriter Paul Niehaus IV is inching towards his long awaited new album, If I Stay Too Long, which hits streaming services November 17th.
Niehaus IV’s accomplished artistic journey has led him to diverse musical traditions as both an artist and producer, weaving blues, jazz, country, and rock into a unique auditory tapestry.
Born and raised in The Gateway to the West, Niehaus IV studied music and folklore in school, and has since attained a nomination for a Blues Music Award (Best Rock Blues Album) for a record he produced for Jeremiah Johnson in 2020 called Unemployed Highly Annoyed. In all, five albums he’s worked on have gotten Blues Blast Music Award nominations to date.
After producing dozens of albums for other artists over the last seven years, his very own debut album is now waiting in the wings.
And today, his latest single, “Keep On Pushin’,” has been released, which Nihaus IV describes as “a song about adventure and possibility.” The song delivers a soulful grooviness from the jump, with plenty of bluesy gospel undertones throughout. It’s catchy, uplifting, and well-produced, and an enticing teaser for the upcoming album.
We got to chat with Niehaus IV to learn more about the St. Louis scene, the new single, his upcoming album, and much more.
So what drove or inspired you to first listen to blues music and then start playing/writing it?
I got bit by the blues bug when I was 15 and got a CD of BB King’s Live at The Regal. I had been playing trumpet and saxophone at that point but hearing the expression of BB’s guitar inspired me to get a guitar. I think I was especially drawn to BB’s distinctive vibrato which made his guitar sing out like a human voice.
I see that you describe yourself as a “Curator of the St. Louis Sound.” What does that mean to you?
The “St. Louis Sound” is a mixture of many influences including Blues, Soul, Rock, and Country. I learned directly from many of the masters of the St. Louis music scene. I consider myself part of the rich lineage of St. Louis musicians and take seriously the legacy of my hometown’s music. The late great Oliver Sain is someone I look up to and strive to be like. He had his finger on the pulse of the city’s music scene and helped bring many artists to national acclaim through his studio and production. I’m honored to be a Curator of the St. Louis Sound.
What’s the St. Louis music scene like these days in general?
It’s fantastic! I truly believe it’s one of the best music scenes in the country. Every night of the week there are multiple clubs/venues featuring high quality live music. If you need a session musician for recording, there are many people to choose from for any given instrument and genre. I’m so thankful to have carved out a niche in the city as being known to many as the go-to producer and engineer for Blues and other Roots music.
Your new single, “Keep On Pushin’,” is out today. What can you tell us about the backstory and inspiration behind this song?
This song is directly inspired by my favorite artist of all time, Mavis Staples. I co-wrote the song with my partner Jackie Teuber. The genesis of the song is actually a guitar loop I made that underlies nearly the whole song. I had the opportunity to get backstage at the Fox Theater in St. Louis when Mavis was playing there last summer. I pitched this song to her team (she wasn’t at the soundcheck) and when I didn’t hear back from them about it, I decided to record the song myself. A lot of people tell me it’s their favorite song on the record. It’s about pushing through adversity because “God has got your back!”
What made you choose this song as one of the singles to be released compared to the others from your upcoming album?
To select this song for the next single, I asked some close friends and people I work with, and this was the song that seemed to be most recommended. I think the groove is just so funky and infectious that it hooks people in. I played all the instruments on this song as well as sang lead, and the great Cherise “Resee” Louis sang the amazing background vocals.
Speaking of the new album, If I Stay Too Long, is there a common theme or thread throughout this collection of songs?
The common tie is that all the songs are heartfelt and in the broad category of “Americana.” I like a wide variety of music and genres so I didn’t want to make an album that is narrowly defined in terms of style. My focus for the arrangements is the same for most of my productions: focus on the song and what the song needs/wants. While I love “wall of sound” productions, I tried to include only the parts that belonged with the song.
How has producing dozens of albums over the past 7 years prepared you for your debut album? What was the most fulfilling part of recording it?
Producing dozens of albums over the last 7 years has given me confidence in my “taste”, which is the most important thing a producer can be in touch with. On one level, it’s all subjective and anything goes, but the more you can hone in on what you like and what you don’t like the easier it becomes to make decisions. I’m unashamed of my personal tastes in music and can probably come off as very opinionated.
My first goal when producing is to make something that I like and enjoy. If you start putting the audience’s reaction before your own personal taste you are getting it backwards. I make what I like, and I have no control how audiences react. The most fulfilling part of recording the album is the moment you get the album back from mastering! You’ve heard these songs so many times with so many subtle mix changes, but hearing back the mastered WAV files is so rewarding.
I see you’ve toured in 46 US states, Mexico, and Canada, among other milestones in your career. When reflecting back so far, what are one or two pinnacle moments for you as an artist?
I’ve loved being able to tour all over the country and get to know all the different regional flavors of this great country. There are many many places I’ve played that are so expensive and exclusive that I never would have had the opportunity to explore these places without music.
Back in 2010, I first toured to Montana, specifically Butte, Montana, which I fell in love with. I stayed in touch with some friends in Butte from that trip and since 2016, I’ve been taking an annual road trip (only missing one year) to Butte which is the highlight of my year. One year I even stayed in Butte for an entire month! I played drums in a band there and washed dishes for income, and had much time to explore Montana and go to hot springs (one of my favorite parts of Montana). Another standout experience was getting to stay and play in Key West, Florida for an entire week. I walked miles and miles that week around the island and I’lll never forget the experience.
What does success as a musician and songwriter mean to you?
Success as a musician and songwriter can mean as little as getting enjoyment out of playing and writing, even if it’s just on the couch at home by yourself. It’s important to take joy in playing and writing music for oneself and not fall into a “rat race” mentality where you’re never content. That said, my aspirations as a musician and songwriter are to have as many people hear my music as possible. I also plan to continue collaborating with other artists and writers, as well as try and place my music in such opportunities as movies and commercials.
What might you have in store post-album release? Touring, working on the next album, etc.?
I would love to be able to tour to support this album. So far I’ve been unsuccessful in getting any interest in booking me out of St. Louis to speak of. I would even love the opportunity to do a tour opening up for another artist/band on the road. If I don’t get the chance to do this, my plan is to continue doing as many shows in and around St. Louis as I can as well as to continue making as many records at Blue Lotus Studio as possible.