From Clemson SC, a small southern college town on the East Coast , to the bright lights of the West Coast's San Francisco, Paula has followed music's call. Not only a livelihood for her, read on to see how music also helped her overcome her learning disability.
Before Paula Harris became a vocal phenomenon, she was one of the first diagnosed cases of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder in South Carolina in the seventies. Paula’s inability to concentrate caused problems in school and made her feel like a social misfit until she discovered through singing she could use principles she learned in music to function more normally in daily life. She compares it to the difference between performing an entire catalog of songs to singing one song. Most people focus on ultimate long term goals, but for someone with ADD, it's much more obtainable to focus on one short term goal, like singing one song. Paula applied the short bursts of intense focus approach to everything she needed to do outside of music. Each short achievement became a step towards the larger goal. She found it changed her life and allowed her to thrive without the need for Ritalin, Adderall or the normally prescribed drugs.
Before this awakening, while growing up in the small college town of Clemson, South Carolina. Paula found she could escape into a world full of music and the classic sounds of soul, doo-wop, jazz & blues. Her father was even a roadie for several big names in the industry during Paula’s childhood which heavily influenced her developing taste in music. Paula’s grandfather, an barber in a “Barbershop Quartet” also influenced Paula through his records of the Great American Songbook, Swing, and Big Band as well as his involvement in the Gospel world. But Paula‘s decision to be a vocalist solidified when she received acceptance for the first time as people were drawn by her voice and mischievous personality. Paula gained confidence through thousands of performances and has gone on to perform with show choirs, musical theater, and even Broadway numbers, as well as multiple symphonies before turning to her child- hood rooted love of soul, blues and jazz for which she has achieved much success. She has also harnessed her short attention span and unique method of accomplishing goals and uses them to wear the hats of lyricist, song writer, producer, publicist, and band- leader ( or as she calls it “Professional Cat-herder”)
At one point, Paula retired from singing after years of being a cast member in a musical theater in Myrtle Beach SC and a “hired gun” with the prestigious Carere Orchestras in Atlanta GA. But the undeniable void where music had always been drew her back to the stage. Dan Aykroyd nailed it when he selected her an his favorite new release and “Blues Breaker” then said “At an age when most aspiring singers are ready to call it quits, Paula is set to roar out of the gate. There is a reason for her confidence as she has the kind of chops that can handle a delicate ballad or shout down a 12 piece horn band”. And roar she did. Paula culled a band then entered and won her local Blues society’s “Battle of the bands” She then went on to win the regional competition for the Bay Area as well. A week after that, she and crew won the Monterey Blues Festival’s “Battle of the bands” and a head line slot at the festival. The following year they competed in the largest “Battle of the bands” in the world, The International Blues Challenge, held annually in Memphis TN. Out of the roughly 140 bands from almost every state and more than 20 countries, they brought home top three honors. Paula’s successful blending of the passion of blues, the sophistication of jazz, and the funky grooves she grew up with, meshed with an irresistibly impish on-stage personality make her an act that refuses to be put into the niche of one genre.
For her most recent album, “Speakeasy”, Paula wanted to explore her affinity for mid-century blues and jazz in a collection of mainly original music with a vintage vibe. Her goal in using the classic piano-bass- drum format was to capture the sleek sound of the 50’s and 60’s nightclubs, when jazz and blues were the “Pop” music of the day and lived side-by-side on the charts in perfect harmony. A time when both genres were easily approachable and accepted by everyone. The result is a synthesis of Blues, Jazz and Soul that will not be put into a micro category but instead has shown to possess a mainstream appeal to fans of all three genres. “Speakeasy” is a modern day take on a classic retro sound. Whether you consider it “Sophisticated blues” or “Jazz for the masses” They combine elements as widely ranging as the funky piano of Billy Preston and the sly “Peggy Lee” finger snapping jazz feels, to the gorgeous velvet texture of a Dinah Washington Ballad all the way to the roof shaking passion of Etta James.
The Press has used many comparisons trying to accurately describe Paula. She is one of those rare “Genuine singers” who can authentically sing the full spectrum of both Jazz, Blues and almost anything else she attempts. Lou Rawls described her as “A thin vanilla coating on a dark chocolate soul”. She has been called “The Rightful Heir of Etta James”(At the Crossroads Magazine), Compared to Ruth Brown (The Monterey Herald), "The great Sarah Vaughan" (Blues Blast Magazine), and called “A Force of Nature” (Cashbox Magazine) “Living Blues Magazine” said “She’s a sassy singer with a remarkably wide range, perfect intonation and astounding breath control. She knows the value of subtlety when the material calls for it and achieves an uncanny balance between tenderness and virtuosity” Her off-the-beaten-path song selection, and hook driven lyrics bursting with humor, passion and soul, are delivered with stunning vocal prowess and her impish down-to-earth southern style. She reels in music lovers from multiple genres. Peppering her shows with hilarious stories from her small-town upbringing and sharing the equally funny and often nostalgic inspirations for many of her original songs, combined with spectacular arrangements and the unbelievable energy her band always delivers. All these things stand to justify why her shows are always packed with an ever expanding fan base. She is fearless, she knows who she is and holds nothing back. It is simply irresistible! Blues411 said “Paula is a superb vocalist, song writer, and interpreter of the music she sings. Her ability to take and hold center stage is amazing indeed. Her live performances are heady, slinky and downright sexy! She mixes Jazz & Blues with ample attitude and sheer joy. There is no room for disappointment when this lady sings the Blues!" This is further evidenced by the fact that after being nominated eight times in various categories at the Northern California Entertainers and Music Awards, Paula won the title of “Best Female Blues Singer” in Northern California last year and is again nominated for 2020.