I always take the long way / Yes, I might have been there by now, Vinnie Paolizzi sings on the country blues song “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. His self-titled debut, out now, highlights this growth.
“Making a living will make you feel like you’re dying in the music business,” Paolizzi told American Songwriter of “It’s Not Easy,” which he wrote with Chapman. “We were having a particularly tough week when this song came out. All we wanted to do was write what we felt, not what we thought someone wanted to hear.”
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The Philadelphia-raised Nashville singer’s debut features 10 tracks written or co-written by the singer-songwriter. Produced by Mike Harris (Old Crow Medicine Show), Vinny Paolizzi It showcases the artist’s vivid narration and catchy vocals. Below are the stories behind Paolizzi’s songs in his score Vinny Paolizzi.
“Proud of what you did today”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Derek Bahr, Chase McDaniel)
“Proud of What You Did Today” is about taking it one day at a time starting with the opening line I’m not trying to run for office, and I don’t have a master plan. But I work hard to be the best version of who I am. This topic of self-acceptance is something I’ve always struggled with, no doubt due to geography and the simple circumstances through which I came to country music that feels like it was made a long time ago. I can get myself into some dark places when I’m trying 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 a lot of variables outside of my control, so I have to remind myself that I can only do what I can do. The thought of going to bed knowing I did my best is comforting for me, even when the day wasn’t a success. Being proud without being proud is an art, and I won’t tell you if I ever master it.
“Something we said”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ryan Nelson, Colton Fenner)
“Something We Said” came out the way many Nashville songs do. I wrote the chorus before a scheduled writing session and when I played it to my fellow writers they shrugged and said, “What else do you have?” I stored that chorus in my back pocket and toured with it for a week or two until I sat down with Colton Fenner and Ryan Nelson, two of my favorite songwriters in town. In his usual fashion, Ryan came in really shooting 10 and loved the chorus that was burning my pocket. We started messing around with an old ’76 telecaster leaning in the corner and the opening tune was born soon after. Colton and I were going back and forth on the verse structure and before we knew it, most of the song was tied up. One of the best parts of the Nashville songwriting community is that a Florida man, a Texas man, a Philadelphia man can sit down and write a song about a universal truth and come up with something they all love.
“I left my heart behind”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Nate Frederick, Meg Macri)
There was a time, in the year that will never be remembered, when we all felt restless and needed to get back to making music and writing songs together. Two of my oldest friends in town, Nate Frederick and Meg McCrary, sat outside in a hallway, 5-7 feet apart, and did what we love to do. Listening to this song, I remember the feeling of closure and release that writing a rock and roll song that day brought to all of us. Nate and Meg bring such amazing energy to the creative process and push me out of my comfort zone in the best way. Meg sang the harmonies that brought this record together and Mike burned up the solo section with some old secret gear that you’ll have to wait for on VH1 Behind the music The episode to learn about.
“If only it would rain”
(Vini Paolizzi, Adam Hood)
Adam Hood is someone I look up to the most in the songwriting community and writing with him lives up to my expectations. I got the title and nothing else when we sat down and Adam led me through a heartbreaking song master class, and I’m pretty sure we finished within an hour. The melodies of this tune capture the feel of 70s singer-songwriter records that people like me emulate to the moon and back. This was one of my favorite songs I’ve ever recorded, and I was honored to have Adam sing background vocals.
I made my last EP, “Private Sky,” in Springfield, Missouri, with the last little money I had. On my way home, I drove through Cairo, Illinois, a classic speed trap city where speeds go from 45 to 30 in the blink of an eye. They had me go to 47 and with a $175 ticket, I was on my way. After a while I was thinking about some people in my life who had reached a breaking point and left their hometown one day, seemingly out of nowhere. I thought a ticket like this could be someone’s breaking point and Cairo was the perfect place to leave. I wrote, played and sang every note on this song on my own, so it holds a special place for me on the album.
“As far as goodbyes go”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Brian Frazier)
Some songs take 20 minutes to write from start to finish, but this song took a year. I sat down with Brian Frazier, a Virginian who grew up familiar with I-81. I’ve spent years of my life on that highway back and forth from Pennsylvania to Nashville. We talked about a breakup that happened in one of the towns along that highway, Salem, Roanoke, Winchester, Troutville, any one of those towns, one seemed more pleasant than the other. There’s something poetically simple about heading in different directions on a highway and not chasing each other, knowing it’s for the best. The narrator leaving a $100 bill under his ex’s front seat because he knows the car is on its last legs is ultimately “I want you to move on.” Clear Nods to Jackson Browne and David Lindley was recorded shortly before David’s death in 2023, and Mike and I are huge admirers of their playing and their friendship that has lasted over 40 years.
“Johnny was a Baptist.”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Tyler Halvorson)
Tyler Halvorson always has good weed. He is also a deeply spiritual person and I consider him a dear friend. I like to think of Jesus as a great man who helped people no matter what they could do for him. He was a wise carpenter, put together by Tim the Tollman Taylor and Wilson, with good poetry. I’m pretty sure I screamed this song idea at Tyler for 30 minutes before he was on the plane to write it but we dropped a loose but solidified working tape and I went home and cut back some more over the next few days. This song was going to die in a Dropbox folder but only came back when Mike asked me for some “real Vinnie songs”. The fact that I pulled this song from my files shows a level of psychosis that would probably require more paper than I can handle for this article but I’ve always loved this song. This person we respected was, after all, a person. He walked and talked, and if he were alive today, he would go help his friend build some benches and fix the roof. I know he’s famous for his wine stuff but I imagine Jesus with a cool corsage light and a pencil behind his ear sitting with his crew on the tailgate of a gold Dodge Ram.
“It’s not easy”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ben Chapman)
Ben Chapman and I moved to Nashville around the same time in 2018. He was young enough that I remember him sneaking into bars that shall remain nameless. We’re buds and have shared stages, friends and an office at RCA for a few years. We both know that the path we have chosen is not easy. Making a living will make you feel like you’re dying in the music business. We were going through a very difficult week when this song came out. All we wanted to do was write what we felt, not what we thought someone would want to hear, I’m pretty sure the original tape was 7 minutes long. I was so grateful that Ben joined this track and sang like he was being attacked by leeches or production company executives.
“Blame it on the ivy”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Derek Hultquist)
This is the oldest song on this album. Derek Hultquist and I had just met and I was about to end the relationship I was in. When I was a landscaper, I always heard to never plant ivy unless you want it everywhere because it grows out of control. Old feelings can grow and hide our true selves, this song was telling the next love to “blame” the fact that I was distant or hesitant about that “ivy”. Derek has a way of weaving beautiful, specific details into a story that is so relatable and tangible and I love writing with him until every line is perfect. “Ivy” was recorded live on the floor with the band in one take which gives it a beautiful gravitas.
“In front of me”
(Vinnie Paolizzi, Ben Danaher)
Ben Danaher and I have been working on this songwriting 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 ahead and that it will all pay off. I love old school R&B and this was my attempt to bring some elements of it into the mix as you walk out the door. “Ahead of Me” was the first song we recorded and it’s the perfect way to say goodbye and thank you for listening to my debut album.
Photo credit: Brooke Stevens/Courtesy IV PR