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Daily Inspiration: Meet Paul Nelson

Today we’d like to introduce you to Paul Nelson.

Alright, so thank you so much for sharing your story and insight with our readers. To kick things off, can you tell us a bit about how you got started?
First of all, I have to say it is an honor to be included on the VoyageLA page. I always enjoy reading other artists’ and professionals’ stories so the opportunity to share mine is so appreciated! As a professional musician, I got a later start than most. I grew up racing dirt bikes all around the country and right as I was graduating high school, my family decided it was time to call it quits and go to college. It was a combination of injuries and money that made it a really difficult decision, and I felt like I was losing a big part of who I was considering I raced competitively from the time I was 5 to 17. I really struggled to find something where I could put my energy into and enjoy as much as I enjoyed riding a motorcycle.

I was studying Exercise and Sports Science in my early college years and playing in the marching band at my school, the University of Georgia. I had thought if I stayed involved in the sport of motocross, maybe I would be happy and motivated. The more time went on, I really just struggled to find joy in the sport if I was not riding. At the same time, I started getting opportunities to play my trombone around Athens, GA, which is actually a really cool music town filled with indie bands, rock bands and classical music. I joined the jazz bands at school and found myself considering a career in music more and more. My parents were really not cool with it, but I decided to jump the ship on motocross and exercise science completely, and in my third year of college, I changed my major to music and basically started college all over at the age of 20. It was difficult, uncomfortable, and I did not really know what I wanted to do in music. If I could make a living playing or teaching, I thought I would be happy.

Fast forward a few years and I found myself leading a band with friends from school, finding opportunities to record music, write music and teach at several schools around North Georgia. I got to tour with a few groups, recorded on over 20 albums and just loved the unpredictable nature of where freelancing was going to lead me next. I took a shot my last year of undergrad and applied for some schools around the country with the idea that I had more to learn and that I wanted to try and move to a larger city to find more legitimate opportunities. I ended up being able to attend the University of Southern California for my master’s and really found a place that feels like home in Los Angeles. Today I am freelancing in both a classical and commercial world, I am writing original music for my big band and connecting with students and audiences in a way that makes me feel connected with my community in a special way. I am very thankful for the path that life has provided for me!

Thanks so much for the kind words, we’re very fortunate to have connected with so many incredible folks over the years.

So – digging a bit deeper into your story. would you say it’s been a smooth road, and if not what are some of the biggest challenges you’ve faced along the way?
Life is probably never a smooth road for anybody and I have surely had my hiccups along the way. I come from a humble family, we never had a lot of money or anything. My parents provided the best they could and I have always been thankful. Moving across the country to a city where the cost of living is more than triple what I grew up in had to be the hardest part. I basically worked full-time my entire college career while juggling classes and other opportunities. I suppose I have become an expert on getting by while letting the candle burn from both sides.

Can you tell our readers more about what you do and what you think sets you apart from others?
I am primarily a trombonist and composer/arranger. I particularly love to play the bass trombone in any setting but also play the tenor trombone. I take joy in contributing to other artists’ projects, whether it is writing and arranging music, offering an ear for the general sound, or playing trombone.

I spent a lot of my time in the past few years honing my craft on orchestration and writing for ensembles of various makeups. Big band music has been a passion of mine since I was in high school and I look forward to launching ‘Paul Nelson’s Big Ol’ Band’ early next year. The band will feature my closest friends in LA in an 18-piece ensemble with original music and arrangements and incorporates the use of electronic effects on my trombone where it fits!

We’d be interested to hear your thoughts on luck and what role, if any, you feel it’s played for you?
My friends have always believed that I have bad luck. I have had a lot of unique and uncomfortable experiences in life. They have shaped me to be a better person and I honestly would not change my life experience for anything. I grew up in a chaotic household. My dad has been married four times and I experienced a lot of changes in my life constantly. New schools, new friends, new towns and states. I was not always cool with moving and I got really tired of not having a say of where and how I wanted to live. I really never felt like Georgia was the right fit for me and the last few years I was living there, I was really unhappy and struggling with a lot of personal turmoil. Getting the chance to leave and start fresh in LA is something I consider good luck. It brought so much positive change to my life and gave me the opportunity to be the person I want to be.

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