Local musician hopes to make it on his own
By Rick Foster (Sun Chronicle Staff)
When songwriter Phil Ayoub sits down to tell a reporter
about his new record,
he handles questions with the aplomb of someone who already knows the next topic.
Not surprisingly, really, since Ayoub was once a journalism student who later went
on to earn an MBA from Boston College.
"Thatís my little something to fall back on," says Ayoub with the knowing grin of
someone whoís been asked at least a thousand times if he thinks he can really make a living
as a musician.
He thinks he can.
After grad school, Ayoub hooked on with an investment company. It didnít take him
long to come back to music.
"This is what Iíve always really wanted to do," says the Seekonk resident and former
leader of the Boston band Riverside Train.
Ayoubís new band makes its debut tonight at The Times Bar in Boston.
Infused by Ayoubís canny songwriting, masterful keyboard tracks from Tim Bradshaw
and drumming from the Doobie Brothers and former Vertical Horizon percussionist Ed Toth,
"Schoolbus Window Paper Heart" is filled with potent hooks and evocative lyrics.
"White Feather," the opening track, provides Ayoubís take on the 9-11 attacks. The albumís
title is a line from the song which recalls a newsclip showing how children responded to the bombings.
"A lot of other songs that have been written, like Springsteenís "The Rising," talked about
the victims," said Ayoub, recalling the contradictory feelings of powerlessness and defiance that
characterized the public reaction. "This is more about the rest of us."
"Lying and Stealingí" with its kicky chorus, zeroes in on the conflict between love and honesty,
while "River to Ocean," possibly the best track on the record, provides an emotional rescue with
a paean to the joys of letting go.
Ayoub isnít about to let listeners off with an earful of cotton candy, however, and uses his
observational skills and sense of irony to invade unexplored songwriting territory.
"American Highway Rest Stop" is what Simon and Garfunkel would have seen if their bus had
stopped on the way to "Look for America." And "Fourth District Court of Bristol County," which
occupies a hidden track on the record, tells of Ayoubís own bizarre experiences there as a juror.
"There was a weirdness to it," said Ayoub, who spent much of his time in a jury waiting room
on the basement level. One minute, a woman juror was amiably passing out mints. Later, court officers
could be seen marching around defendants in chains.
Ayoubís adventure into the realm of the solo artist began after winding up his sojourn with
"Riverside Train" in spite of positive media reviews which included a rave by sports commentator
Peter Gammons, who publicly compared them to the Black Crowes. But things didnít work out.
"We had gone to the point where it was do or die, and we didnít," said Ayoub.
The transformation began when he answered an online ad from producer Tim Bradshaw, keyboardist
for pop singer David Gray, seeking new talent. Bradshaw liked what he heard on Ayoubís demos and
signed on to produce the album.
Back in Seekonk, Ayoub credits his family for helping him launch a solo career. He and his band take
their next big step tonight.