Get to Know Vinnie Paolizzi Through His Self-Titled Debut Album Track by Track

I always take the long way around / Yeah, I probably could have been there by now, Vinnie Paolizzi sings on the country blues number “It Ain’t Easy” featuring Ben Chapman. The song comes from a personal place as the singer/songwriter has spent the past decade honing his songwriting chops and artistry. His self-titled debut, out now, highlights this growth.

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“Making a living will make you feel like you’re dying in the music business,” Paolizzi tells American Songwriter of “It Ain’t Easy,” which he wrote with Chapman. “We were both having a particularly tough week when this song came to be. All we wanted to do was jam and write what we felt, not what we thought someone wanted to hear.”

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The Philadelphia-raised, Nashville transplant’s debut features 10 tracks written or co-written by the singer/songwriter. Produced by Mike Harris (Old Crow Medicine Show), The Vinnie Paolizzi LP showcases the artist’s vivid storytelling and captivating vocals. Below are the stories behind Paolizzi’s songs in his track-by-track of The Vinnie Paolizzi LP.

“Proud of What I Did Today”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Derek Bahr, Chase McDaniel)

“Proud Of What I Did Today” talks about taking it one day at a time starting with the opening line I’m not trying to run for office, I don’t have some master plan; But I’m working hard to be the best version of what I am. This theme of self-acceptance is something I’ve always struggled with, undoubtedly because of the simple geography and circumstances of which I came to country music that sounds like it was made a long time ago. I can spin myself into some dark places when I try to live all my days at once and this song reminds me, and hopefully some others, that today is all we have. As a songwriter, there are so many variables outside of my control, that I have to remind myself that I can only do, what I can only do. The thought of going to bed knowing that I did the best I could is comforting to me, even when the day isn’t a successful one. Having pride without being prideful is an art, and I won’t let you know if I ever master it. 

“Something We Said”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ryan Nelson, Colton Venner)

“Something We Said” came about in a way that many songs in Nashville do. I wrote the chorus before a scheduled writing session and when I played it for my co-writers they shrugged and said, “What else you got?” I stowed that chorus in my back pocket and walked around with it for a week or two until I sat down with Colton Venner and Ryan Nelson, two of my favorite songwriters in town. In his usual way, Ryan came in already firing on 10 and loved the chorus that was burning a hole in my pocket. We started messing with an old ’76 telecaster leaning in the corner and the opening riff was born shortly after. Colton and I went back and forth on verse structure and before we knew it, most of the song was tied up. One of the best parts of the songwriting community in Nashville is that a Florida man, a Texan, and a Philadelphian can sit down and write a song about a universal truth and come out with something they all love. 

“Left My Heart Behind”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Nate Fredrick, Meg McRee)

There was a time, in the year that shall not be named, when we all grew restless and needed to get back to making music and writing songs together. Two of my oldest friends in town, Nate Fredrick and Meg McRee sat outside in a driveway, 5-7 feet apart, and did what we love to do. Listening back to this song I remember the feeling of being cooped up and the release that writing a rock n’ roll song brought all of us that day. Nate and Meg both bring such wonderful energy to the creative process and take me out of my comfort zone in the best way. Meg sang the harmonies that brought this recording together and Mike burned up the solo section with some secret vintage gear that you’ll have to wait for the VH1 Behind The Music episode to find out about. 

“If It Would Only Rain”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Adam Hood)

Adam Hood is someone that I very much look up to in the songwriting community and writing with him lived up to my expectations. I had the title and not much else when we sat down and Adam led me through a heartbreak song master class, I’m pretty sure we were finished in an hour. The melodies of this tune capture the feel of the 70s singer/songwriter records that folks like me emulate to the moon and back. This was one of my favorite songs to record and I was honored to have Adam sing background vocals. 

“Cairo”

(Vinnie Paolizzi)

I made my last EP “Private Sky” in Springfield, Missouri, with the last little bit of money that I had. On the way home I drove through Cairo, Illinois, a classic speed trap town that goes from a 45 to a 30 in the blink of an eye. They got me going 47 and with a ticket for $175, I was on my way. A while later I was thinking about some folks in my life who reached a breaking point and just left their hometown one day, seemingly out of nowhere. I thought a ticket like that could be someone’s breaking point and Cairo is the perfect place to leave. I wrote, played, and sang every note of this song on my own so it holds a special place for me on the album.

“As Far As Goodbyes Go”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Bryan Frazier)

Some songs take 20 minutes to write from start to finish, this one took a year. I sat down with Bryan Frazier, a Virginian who grew up quite familiar with I-81. I have spent years of my life on that highway back and forth from Pennsylvania to Nashville. We talked about a breakup happening in one of the towns along that highway, Salem, Roanoke, Winchester, Troutville, any of those, one sounds more fun than the others. There’s something poetically simple about heading two different directions on an interstate and not chasing each other, knowing it’s for the best. The narrator leaving a $100 bill under the front seat of their former partner because they know the car is on its last legs is the ultimate, “I want you to move on.” Recording the obvious nods to Jackson Browne and David Lindley came shortly before David’s death in 2023, Mike and I are massive fans of their playing and their friendship that lasted over 40 years.

“Johnny Was a Baptist”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Tyler Halverson)

Tyler Halverson always has good weed. He is also a deeply spiritual person that I consider a dear friend. I love to think of Jesus as a great guy who helped people no matter what they could do for him. He was a wise carpenter, Tim The Toolman Taylor and Wilson put together, with good hair. I’m pretty sure I yelled this song idea at Tyler for 30 minutes before he was on board to write it but we threw down an incoherent, yet pious worktape and I went home and whittled some more over the next few days. This song was destined to die in a Dropbox folder but rose again only when Mike asked me for some “real Vinnie songs.” The fact that I pulled this one out of my files shows a level of psychosis that would require more paper than I can afford for this article but I always loved this song. This person that we revere was, after all, a person. He walked and talked and if he were alive today, he’d go help his buddy build some benches and fix the roof. I know he’s famous for the wine stuff but I picture Jesus with a cold Coors Light and a pencil behind his ear sitting down with his crew on the tailgate of a Golden Dodge Ram. 

“It Ain’t Easy”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ben Chapman)

Ben Chapman and I moved to Nashville around the same time back in 2018. He was young enough that I remember sneaking him into bars that shall remain nameless. We are buds and have shared stages, friends, and an office at RCA for a few years. We both know the road we chose, ain’t easy. Making a living will make you feel like you’re dying in the music business. We were both having a particularly tough week when this song came to be. All we wanted to do was jam and write what we felt, not what we thought someone wanted to hear, I’m pretty sure the original work tape is 7 minutes long. I was so grateful to be joined by Ben on this track and he sang like he was getting attacked by leeches or label executives. 

“Blame It On the Ivy”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Derik Hultquist)

This is the oldest song on this album. Derik Hultquist and I had just met and I was coming out of a relationship that I was wearing. When I was a landscaper I always heard to never plant ivy unless you wanted it everywhere because it grows out of control. Old feelings can grow and hide our real selves, this song was telling the next love to “Blame” the fact that I was distant or hesitant on that “Ivy.” Derik has such a way of weaving specific beautiful details into a story that are so relatable and tangible and I love writing with him until every line is perfect. “Ivy” was recorded all live on the floor with the band in one take which gives it a beautiful gravity. 

“Ahead of Me”

(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ben Danaher)

Ben Danaher and I have both been at this songwriting thing for a while. Some days it feels like we’re hanging on by a thread but we have to keep reminding ourselves that our best days are coming around the bend and this is all going to pay off. I love old R&B music and this was my attempt to throw a few elements of that into the mix on your way out the door. “Ahead of Me” was the first song we recorded and the perfect way to say goodbye and thank you for listening to my debut album. 

Photo Credit: Brooke Stevens / Courtesy IV PR

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