A Conversation with John Paul Smith of Coal Creek Boys

The old saying goes, Never judge a book by its cover, but that’s exactly how I was introduced to Coal Creek Boys. I saw the packaging of  Out West on vinyl, something told me it was going to be a good album. When I dropped the needle on the record I was greeted by heartfelt storytelling and lush soundscapes. After just one playthrough, I was convinced it was in my top albums of the year.

Now that a few years have passed Coal Creek Boys are prepping a follow-up through Classic Waxxx Records.

However, The Wolf and The Bear is a slight change of pace. Everything I loved about Out West is there, but now there’s a slightly darker, heavier flavor to their sound. The stories are more emotional and personal. I had a chance to talk with Coal Creek Boys mastermind John Paul Smith, hoping he could shed some light on the new record.

For those who aren’t familiar. Whats the best way to describe The Coal Creek Boys?

John Paul Smith: The Coal Creek Boys, ideally, was a side project. A one-off Break from my rock band. It’s named after a ghost coal Mining town, behind where I grew up. To describe the band is hard. As it’s become the only project I’m involved with and 5 albums later I’m sure it will likely land me in another 5 haha.  It’s Red Dirt, Outlaw Country, Rock and always has a unique North American story or tell.

What was it that made you decide you wanted this to be your profession?

Truthfully? Slash. Where else can a guy fish, ski, be covered in tattoos, play super loud amps, and grow mega long beards? Oh wait, isn’t all this shit a trend now anyways? Guess I can finally fit in at a desk job. 

I’m a huge fan of the first 2 albums and I’m not generally a fan of country music. You don’t really limit yourself to one particular genre and I think that’s what really drew me into Coal Creek Boys. Who are some of your biggest influences when it comes to songwriting and performing?

Grateful Dead, Steve Earle, Bob Dylan, Townes Van Zandt, The Stones, Waylon Jennings, Johnny Cash, Early glam rock and then the blues. Throw in all the masters, National, Pixies, Sex Pistols, Black Flag. I refuse to be held into a Genre and maybe that’s why I knew better than signing with a major label years ago. There is no way I could sing about horses and certainly no fucking way I could ever play the same shit over and over! 

The Wolf and The Bear seems like another music shift.

I’m hearing some Steve Earle and even some Alice In Chains! Was darker, heavier elements a conscious decision going into the album or did it ‘just happen’?

It was a dark time in my life. A divorce, life and its curveballs. I was realizing I could never be everything to everyone. Defining myself as a Man.

With that said, the storytelling element is one of my favorite elements of Coal Creek Boys music. Each album tells a story. Whats the synopsis of The Wolf and The Bear?

This is a simple idea. It’s about the relationships we have with ourselves. Or the two people we become and in a round about way, the person we are perceived as and the person we are when it’s just us.

So The Wolf and The Bear is being released on vinyl through Classic Waxxx Records. How did that relationship come about?

Originally, we released our second LP on Vinyl ourselves. We added the coal from Coal Creek added to the white wax, got the album covers letterpressed in 1800’s fashion on a true 1800 letterpress. All of that and we sold them online. What we didn’t realize or think about how we had to actually mail all these albums out. Let me tell you, what a fuck around. We saw what Jonathan (of Classic Waxxx) was trying to do, wanted to do, and ideally doing. He believes the same idealism on giving fans a tangible product, and we worked together making these albums limited, rare, and special. It was helping boost the value for our customers. He’s fantastic.

You released an digital EP the same day as The Wolf and The Bear? Is there a difference within the songs on that EP that kept them separate from the album?

The Tall Pine EP was something that was aside for a Coal Creek Boys record. It’s more of a love story and album about being in this life.

I hear a lot of bitterness and anger running through the songs on this record. Without prying into your personal life, how important is music in terms of venting frustrations with life in general?

You need to vent that out, be the Bear, or Be the Wolf…


For more information on Coal Creek Boys, visit them on Facebook

The Bear and The Wolf will be available on vinyl exclusively at Classic Waxxx Records

The Bear and The Wolf, as well as Tall Pines EP, are available digitally now on iTunes


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Aaron The Audiophile

Son, brother, uncle, musician. I enjoy music of all genres, shapes and sizes, preferably the good kind.

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