Paul Adelstein of Doris (and Private Practice): The TVD Interview and (signed) Vinyl Giveaway

Paul Adelstein has been making music for over a decade, but you probably know him best from his role as Dr. Cooper Freedman on TV’s Private Practice, or from one of his many other big- and small-screen appearances alongside some pretty big Hollywood names. The Chicago native also dabbles in directing, scoring films, writing, and music production. But with the release of his second LP, All the Details (out today!), and a spring/summer tour in the works, Paul Adelstein might become better known as the frontman of his band, Doris.

It’s easy to see how All the Details—which is full of Adelstein’s smart, wry, and sometimes satirical songs—has already been compared to the work of Randy Newman and Harry Nilsson. Songwriting takes center stage on this “come for the music, stay for the lyrics” record. It is a collection of musical short stories played out in folk rock, powerpop, piano-based, early-‘70s ballads, and a smorgasbord of other influences that even Adelstien is at a loss to name. He jokingly describes his music as “sad songs with a snappy beat.” However anyone chooses to describe it, All the Details just may be the one of the most surprising albums of the spring.

You’re obviously a man of many talents. What was your first love: acting, film, writing, or music?

I think music was probably my first love because I just always, always remember it [in my life]. My mother and my sister played piano, and I remember falling asleep and hearing them practice and stuff. I was always hanging around the piano, but I started acting pretty young, too. But there’s something kind of essential about music that’s always been with me. I mean, I think I’ve always been a bit of a performer, I suppose; there’s no denying that.

So, you don’t consider yourself an actor first, and then a musician?

No. There was a time in my early twenties when I was getting a lot of advice that I really needed to pick between acting and music. I had started a band and joined a theater company the same year, when I was 20. That rattled around in my brain for a long time, and I just realized, eventually, that I didn’t have to, and I couldn’t. It’s just the way I’m built—to do both those things. And they actually complement each other for me, personally, but I can only speak for myself. If I’m blocked up musically, I love to be able to go get out of my head and act and vice versa, too.

How did Doris come about? Why not do a singer/songwriter thing by yourself?

Well, I played in many bands in Chicago, and then I wanted to do one that was an outlet for my songs. And so, me and some friends started Doris, and we put out a kind of noisy rock record around 1999, and then I ended up moving to LA a couple of years later, and I had a whole bunch of songs that I’d been recording and wanted to put out, which I did in 2005, and I just called it Doris. It just felt better to have a band, even if it’s a band of constantly changing parts and I’m the only constant. And the same thing is true on All the Details. That being said, some of the guys from the original Doris do play on the record, so there’s some continuity. I’m not the only constant.

How do you approach songwriting?

My approach to songwriting has been… This is a hard thing to answer without sounding like a total pretentious asshole. [laughs] But the way that it’s always worked for me is that either it’ll come out all at once, and I’ll have to go back and fill in some blanks musically or lyrically, or more often than not, I’ll have a chorus with lyrics and have no idea where those lyrics came from. But a lot of times it’s a little bit a stream of consciousness or a bunch of words that go well to a particular melody that I’m screwing around with, and I’ll change a word or two to make it make sense. I like packing in a lot of imagery, and I like telling a story, certainly, but I like to keep them a little opaque so that people can bring whatever they can to it. That’s my favorite kind of songwriting. I find it a great way to try to get an emotion across even if you can’t get every specific lyric while you’re listening to a song.

That’s the whole “show, don’t tell” thing that English majors hear about.

Exactly.

What inspired you to set “Ladybug Luck” to footage from On Any Sunday?

I was talking to a friend of mine, Kyle Davidson, who’s a video director and who lives in Vancouver, and we talked about doing a video for one of the songs. I sent him [“Ladybug Luck”] and the idea was to come up with something that was just a complete contrast to the song, but also kind of told a story that could maybe fit with the song. And we were going back and forth with some ideas when I got a late-night email from him saying that he was onto something. Very early the next morning I got the video as it is. He had seen the movie a few times, but he’d been watching it on TV and said, “I need to cut this movie to that song; this is a perfect narrative for it.” I just loved it the first time I saw it. So, I take no credit whatsoever for it, but it really works.

Many have compared the music on All the Details to Harry Nilsson or Randy Newman. How would you describe it?

[Laughs] I have trouble with it, frankly! I’ve been trying to come up with things so I can say it without saying it in sixteen sentences. I mean… the way that I approach it is: whatever song I have, I’m trying to honor. So some of the songs on the record sound kind of like whiskey-soaked, late-night bar songs, and then some of them sound like sitting around, playing acoustic guitars, farmhouse songs. I just try to make them sound like whatever the song wants to sound like, and then I try to craft them in such a way that an album will be cohesive.

In terms of how I would specifically describe it… [laughs] I would say… I don’t know, sad songs with a snappy beat? Or something like that! It’s so hard to do without invoking somebody else, so, if you have a sentence to describe it, please tell me because I desperately need one, as you can tell!

We think you guys can help Paul out. Check out the music video for “Ladybug Luck” above and let us know how you think Paul’s music should be described. Enter to win an autographed copy of Doris LP by leaving us a thoughtful one-liner description of Doris’ music in the comments to this post for a chance to win a copy of All the Details – on glorious 180-gram vinyl!

One winner will be chosen a week from today on Tuesday, February 28th, and must have a North American mailing address. 

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  • AdrienneChrista

    Doris’ music is like my grandma’s Thanksgiving dinner: rich, fulfilling, a hint of soul, and left me pining for more.

  • alyxboi

    Doris Music, Piano Man meet’s modern day with great lyrics and amazing piano backrounds. Paul Adelstein rocks the piano in this new album.

  • SUPPORTING YOUR LOCAL INDIE SHOPS SINCE 2007


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