Paul James Coutts Utters A Tale Of Two Cities

By Tory Rosso
Photo: Fish Griwkowsky

Occupying a sonic landscape somewhere between Ted Leo & The Pharmacists and Judas Priest, Paul James Coutts crafts unadulterated rock and roll for the working class.

He’s caught between his dual identities, both as a Calgarian and an Edmontonian, having released more than 12 albums across his storied career in seminal Alberta bands including Twin Fangs, The Primrods, XL Birdsuit, Free Judges, and The New 1-2.

“I was a part of the Calgary scene for 30 years before I moved up here. I feel more Calgary than I do Edmonton sometimes. I put out six records in Calgary before I moved up to Edmonton, and then I put out about another six records. It’s a bit of a duality with my identity,” says Coutts.

His latest production, Utterances, was recorded in basements and a living room between 2017-2018 by Calgary’s own Chris Vail; the record was inspired by invocation and transformation.

“I left it in the hands of someone else. In this case, a great friend (Chris Vail),” says Coutts. “We experimented much more with the production of sounds. He arranged instrumentation, mixed and produced it, ultimately. I usually have more of a hand in that, but Chris nailed it at the demo stage and you should never stop something that’s all right. It turned out as well as I ever wanted it to, I’m pretty happy about it.”

When Coutts isn’t busy writing, recording or performing, you can typically find him getting lost in a novel or traversing Alberta’s badlands. Exploring external hobbies and passions has been part of the musician’s transformation, indirectly exposing him to new influences.

“If you’re just making music for music’s sake all the time, you’re kind of stuck in this weird incestuous loop. I came to the realization that I could do more things. It informs your playing and your music. Take a pottery class or read a history book, those things can influence your music,” says Coutts.

Paul James Coutts performs Saturday, Sept. 7 at the Palomino (Calgary)