New York native Paul Brill has lived a familiar story within the music business. Learning how having major-label money tossed about under one's nose can be an anchor wrapped around the spirit is part of it, as is learning how to run the business on one's own terms, kicking around Los Angeles with stars in eyes, recording demos, dissolving a promising band, etc. It started for Brill when he moved to Vermont and began writing and performing music, but he only stayed there long enough to hone his chops before he fled the cold winters of Vermont for Los Angeles. In L.A. Brill started a band called Envelope with friends from Vermont, later changed to SF Envelope to avoid confusion with another band of the same name. The group kicked around L.A. for a while, touring here and there, but it was when the bandmembers moved up to San Francisco that SF Envelope gained sudden momentum. The group toured the U.S. a few times, and after recording a demo had a sudden major-label bidding war that dragged on so long the band eventually split up under the pressure.
Disappointed, Brill moved back to New York, pulled out of the industry, and became involved in the East Harlem School at Exodus, a multifaceted job where he taught, fundraised, and did a multitude of other tasks to help out underprivileged students. The work was inspiring for him, and at the urging of friends from Portland, OR, Dave Camp and Nancy Hess, Brill focused some of his inspiration into recording some of his music and having another go in the industry. Brill asked Camp to come to New York City to produce some sessions, and with the help of old-time/bluegrass outfit Milkweed as the backing band, they laid down the tracks that became Halve the Light, which Brill released on his own imprint Scarlet Shame Records in 2001. While touring for Halve the Light in 2002, Camp and Hess again insisted Brill record more music, but this time in their Portland-based studio. In four short days, the three musicians had pieced together an EP follow-up to Halve the Light and Brill dubbed it Sisters, implying the second, full-length release, also called Sisters, that appeared two months later in 2003.
For the full-length Sisters, Brill enlisted Giovanni Fusco, who engineered Halve the Light, to produce, and again the record was knocked out in a short time, albeit with more decoration than Brill's previous output. During this time, Brill had been involved in a project -- well known and supported by industry giants such as Paul Simon and Bonnie Raitt -- called Little Kids Rock, an organization devoted to bringing free music classes and instruments to disadvantaged children in public schools. Working for the organization as a fundraiser, Brill helped distribute a recording of songs the kids wrote themselves, titled Little Kids Rock: Coast to Coast, via Scarlet Shame. Soon after, Brill holed up in his home studio for the winter of 2003-2004 to record his third long-player, New Pagan Love Song, which was released in October 2004. ~ Gregory McIntosh