BURRILLVILLE – Paul Juneau says that music has always been important to him, but the role that it played in his life changed dramatically four years ago.
A West Warwick native, he credits his high school’s vibrant music department with first igniting the life-long passion.
“I wasn’t much of a sports guy, so that’s what I turned to,” he said.
A mostly self-taught guitar player, Juneau studied musical theater at Rhode Island College, and took vocal training under Thomas Lawlor.
But in the years that followed, family life took precedent. Juneau married, moved to Burrillville and soon became a father, starting a career as an EMT/paramedic.
Four years ago, however, plans changed after Juneau suffered a major back injury on the job, when a stretcher malfunctioned and he had to catch the patient. Undergoing surgeries and unable to work, Juneau found himself in urgent need of a new focus.
It was in the pickup lines at Callahan Elementary School that he formed a friendship that eventually would help him to move forward.
“I think when I really became intrigued by Paul was when I saw the Jedi lightsaber walking stick he made,” said Brian LaFauci, producer of Juneau’s recently-released first single Paint by Numbers.
“I was really bored at the time,” Juneau said with a laugh.
The men became fast friends during afternoons outside the elementary school awaiting their respective kids, discussing everything from music and family, to LaFauci’s non-profit Safari RI, an organization that aims to create engaging experiences for families, and to get them out to explore state.
When LaFauci organized a music competition as a fundraiser for the organization, he encouraged Juneau to participate.
“He kind of gave me that first push to get out there,” Juneau said. “It gave me the opportunity to play in front of people.”
Juneau was eliminated in the first round of Safari RI’s singer/songwriter competition, but it seems he came away with something more valuable than a win.
“That was the catalyst, for sure,” he said. “I got addicted to playing songs for people that meant something to them.”
Juneau has since become a frequent performer on the local music scene, playing country, blues, rock and soul – finding solace in the art, with a focus on music that has meaning for both him and his audience.
“Any song that moves me, I like to play,” he said. “I think it’s provided a purpose. It’s a way I can help others that’s not as tangible as being an EMT.”
“I think that music can really change people,” Juneau added. “I think of music as a living, breathing, thing.”
And it was once again LaFauci who recently provided the catalyst for the Burrillville artist to take his talent to the next level.
Working on his first book, a story about fatherhood, LaFauci was looking for a song to accompany the project.
“Paul was the first person I called,” he said.
The newly crowned “producer,” said he’s always had an appreciation for music, and a talent for writing, but little musical ability.
“My contribution was purely the starting lyrics,” he said. “Paul took that and made something out of it.”
The pair called on several members of Pascoag-based band Ready for the Picking to help with the song, with Juneau leading as guitar player and singer. Violinist Mari Ingesson was added to the team, with Bob Barton on bass; Joe Gravino and Chris Rodzen on guitar; and Dan Murray on drums.
Juneau says the outcome of the collaboration, recorded at True Music Studios in Smithfield, has been very well-received. Released August 2, Paint by Numbers is now available on Spotify, Apple Music and iTunes.
“People really gravitate toward this song,” Juneau said.
“The premise takes you on a journey where this dad is wishing (fatherhood) was a little more spelled out,” LaFauci said. “It culminates in the reversal of that.”
“I think what I loved about this project is Brian kind of forced me to slow down,” said Juneau, noting he will soon be headed back into the Smithfield studio to cover a Billy Joel song, with the eventual goal of producing an album.
And it seems it’s just the start of what’s to come from two fathers, who enjoyed combining their talents.
“I’m still new to all this,” said the artist. “I have a couple originals that I’ve written over the years that I’ve started to re-tool.”
“We have two other songs lined up,” said LaFauci. “Paul and I are definitely on a journey for a long time, because this process was awesome.”
Fans can hear more, and follow Juneau’s progress at https://www.pauljuneaumusic.com/.