Interview: Nashville’s Vinnie Paolizzi Raises the Standard for Songwriting in Self-Titled Debut LP

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Vinnie Paolizzi explores the realm of songwriting through intentional words that express his character in his debut album, ‘The Vinnie Paolizzi LP.’
Stream: ‘The Vinnie Paolizzi LP’ – Vinnie Paolizzi

I am so proud of this album and how much I’ve put into it, it’s like my fingerprints are on each song.

A singer/songwriter is the modern-day poet, where the sound of an instrument and voice parallel the mighty pen and paper.

In midst of urban uprise, music can become more about production than connection – and it all starts with what words are being used.

Vinnie Paolizzi has a way with words, in fact, he is so well-spoken that he helped form an event through a community of songwriters. After moving to Nashville in 2018, Paolizzi knew nobody, and it wasn’t until he met Rob Schneider that things changed. Schneider had been running a weekly songwriter showcase called “Revival” at the Tin Room. Vinnie fell into the role of helping him book and manage socials.

“Rob would book about half the lineup with all the songwriters he knew, and the other half was with people that I had met through going out every night and trying to meet people.”

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

Paolizzi would find himself in four or five places that had music every night. He’d drink soda water because he was an Uber driver, and that’s how he met people. Even through the pandemic, Paolizzi had a deep desire to keep this community going. This is where Fam Jam came to life in 2021, and many artists had the opportunity to perform and share their music with other creatives.

“We’ve had a lot of really cool people come through and that was one of the ways I tried to keep a platform for others. Especially the people that had helped me out over the years, we’re a crew that rides together and goes to each other’s shows.”

Paolizzi’s self-titled debut album The Vinnie Paolizzi LP features many of these people he’s met and kept relationships with through Fam Jam.

“That’s how my crew is all featured on the record as writers,” he smiles. “Some of my songs even feature them singing on them.”

The Vinnie Paolizzi LP - Vinnie Paolizzi
Vinnie Paolizzi’s self-titled debut album, ‘The Vinnie Paolizzi LP,’ released November 17, 2023 via Gold Rush Records

The young artist has immense gratitude for the community and friendships that have been built through his music. Coming from a big Italian Catholic family in Pennsylvania, Paolizzi was able to walk out of the Philly music scene with that sense of relationship and intention that helped him once he moved to Nashville.

The Vinnie Paolizzi LP includes 10 pieces with collaborations featuring Ben Chapman, Adam Hood, and Meg McRee – all people Paolizzi has met through the songwriting community. Paolizzi explores a world of intention, creation, and connection through songwriting that allows people to learn who Vinnie Paolizzi is as both a person and artist.

“It’s my first time doing a full record, so I feel like along with the excitement, I’m just having a learning experience both good and bad.”

In an interview with Atwood Magazine, Paolizzi breaks down his LP with humility and honesty of the process and journey it took in creating his first full album.

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:: stream/purchase The Vinnie Paolizzi LP here ::
:: connect with Vinnie Paolizzi here ::
Stream: ‘The Vinnie Paolizzi LP’ – Vinnie Paolizzi

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan


The Vinnie Paolizzi LP - Vinnie Paolizzi

Atwood Magazine: Hi Vinnie! I was looking forward to chatting about your LP, because I know you’re closing in on release day. How are you feeling in anticipation of it?

Vinnie Paolizzi: It’s interesting because it’s my first time doing a full record. Along with the excitement, I’m having a learning experience, both good and bad. Overall, I’m really excited and I am constantly feeling like I need to do more, but there’s only so much you can do to make it get everywhere, which is what we’re trying to do already.

Right. You’ve already released three out of the 10 songs and that seems to be having some pretty good feedback. How would you say people have been reacting to these pieces that you've released already?

Vinnie Paolizzi: We started releasing in May and it’s been a long rollout. I felt like that was the best way to do it with all the content that we had. So, each one is getting more and more playlists and streams so it’s all good. It’s interesting because whenever I release stuff, I feel like the ones that I’m not the most sure about are the ones that people like the most. That seems to be how it is even just showing the record to friends. I wouldn’t have expected that.

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

Whenever I release stuff, I feel like the ones that I’m not the most sure about are the ones that people like the most.

It must be cool seeing all kinds of different reactions. Before going into the LP, I know you're really big on community, you come from a big Italian family and background. Can you just tell me a little bit more about yourself and how you got started into music?

Vinnie Paolizzi: I grew up outside of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania from a big Italian Catholic family—that probably whatever your stereotypes—they’re exactly that. My parents were huge music fans, but not really players of any kind, but I just got obsessed with music when I was that rock and roll kid age like 10 or 11. I started a couple bands and played through high school and college and after I was playing just every crappy bar and restaurant you could possibly think of for three hours at a time.

The one thing about the Philly music scene was that it just felt like there was no community. I didn’t feel like there were people helping each other or sharing shows. It all seemed very competitive, and there weren’t that many gigs, so it felt like you had to protect whatever you had.

I needed to change, so I moved to Nashville in 2018 and I knew zero people, but I ended up meeting my friend named Rob Schneider who was running a weekly songwriter showcase at a place called Tin Roof, and the show’s called Revival. He needed someone to help him run the socials and books on people. He is more established and has some big songs with bigger artists and he knows this whole other class of songwriters. He would book about half the lineup in our book and about half the lineup with just the people that I had met through going out every night and trying to meet people. That’s how my crew is all featured on the record as writers. Some of my songs even feature them singing on them.

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

Wow, that sounds like a great start!

Vinnie Paolizzi: Out of that, I started hosting a show called Fam Jam, which started in 2021. That show was once a month, a songwriter show, and a lot of really cool people came through. That’s one of the main ways that I’ve tried to give people a platform, especially the ones that have helped me out over the years. We’re a really good crew of 25, we ride together, all go to each other’s shows. There’s probably 10 of us that are really close, but there’s a group of people that are, our class, I would say—like high school. I’ve been really fortunate to, not in an arrogant way…but I’m at the nucleus of a lot of those friendships, just because I had that booking role for so long, and I still do. I’ve introduced a lot of friends to each other, and I’ve been super grateful to be doing that role for the last six years now.

That’s awesome to come from a community that's not as unified to one where you are able to bridge people together through songwriting It's really cool to have people involved on this LP and it I can imagine it’s very rewarding.

Vinnie Paolizzi: Yeah, it’s taken a lot of work. We started recording this in June of last year and I’m filming everything myself. I’ve done a ton of work and I’m still hiring people to do some things—I’m neck deep in this stuff. It’s taken years of doing side hustles to save up money for mixing and mastering and trying to get vinyl put together to get all the backend stuff done. I feel like if nothing else, I am so proud of this album and how much I’ve put into it, it’s like my fingerprints are on it.

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

I feel like if nothing else, I am so proud of this album and how much I’ve put into it, it’s like my fingerprints are on it.

That leads perfectly into my first question about the LP, because you start with “Proud of What I Did Today.” You can see a lot of this gratitude that you feel, not only to be creating music, but simply to be alive. What does this song mean in explaining who you are as an artist and setting up the rest of the album?

Vinnie Paolizzi: I would say it’s hard to define expectations in what we do, and I think simple goals are manageable goals that are really important—or else you’re just constantly disappointed. I was expecting so much to happen so quickly in a certain situation, and I realized that the only thing I can do is do every single thing I can in a day, so that tomorrow I can say that I did my best. There’s no, “should have done this” or “could have done that.” It’s “Well, at the time I did every single thing that I thought I could do.” That’s really what I have lived since writing that song. Before that I felt like I was just throwing effort at the wall and seeing what happened and not really being conscious of it. Now I am a lot more centered with all of that.

It seems a lot more intentional in where you're placing your expectations and not putting it to where you'll be disappointed, but also having a plan for where you want to go. Then we shift to “Something We Said,” which is a little more reminiscent. I like how you say, “There's chips in the paint and rust on the wheel.” It’s got a bluesy feel and then “Left My Heart Behind” has a similar theme. Could you tell me more about this?

Vinnie Paolizzi: I love especially ‘70s, blues, and R&B music. Obviously, the songs aren’t straight up blues or RnB songs, but if you really dive down the format, that’s what we were going for and putting in modern clothes. “Something We Said” is one of those songs where you’re like, do we still love each other or are we just going through the motions here? I think even good relationships sometimes feel like that and it’s hard, because you have to constantly communicate. I feel like I’ve learned that since I’m married now, but I feel like I’ve also learned so much about who I am and who I want to be like within a relationship just by communicating.

Then “Left My Heart Behind” I wrote with Nate Frederick during the pandemic. We just wanted to write something with some energy because everyone was writing all these really depressing songs which is understandable why everyone was doing that. We were just so sick of being grumpy. Meg has a powerful, bluesy voice that I think I think it was Nate who was going on about some situation he was going through with a girl or something and we just talked for maybe a half hour.

I have the original work tape of it, and it’s funny because you could hear a thunderstorm about to start because we’re sitting in the driveway, and we were going through songs. I dug that one out and my producer Mike really liked it. We ended up mixing on it which was really special and that was really fun one to play live.

Was Meg Mcree there during this songwriting process?

Vinnie Paolizzi: Yeah, she was. She might be one of my favorite songwriters in town honestly. She was one of my very first friends when I moved to Nashville and her boyfriend Ben is also featured on the album. I knew them separately and then introduced them, and now they’ve been together for four years now.

Wow. Matchmaker over here!

Vinnie Paolizzi: That’s my big claim to fame!

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

I love especially ‘70s, blues, and R&B music. Obviously, the songs aren’t straight up blues or RnB songs, but if you really dive down the format, that’s what we were going for and putting in modern clothes.

Well, that's awesome. I also know that “If It Would Only Rain” was another collaboration with Adam Hood. I really like how you guys wrote it, talking how the weather is almost an excuse to let sadness happen. Could you tell me about the writing process with Adam for this song?

Vinnie Paolizzi: If you don’t know Adam’s music, he’s been around for a long time and he’s one of my favorite songwriters. I really looked up to him for a long time and I was really intimidated about writing, but honestly, we wrote that whole song in an hour and 15 minutes. I just came in with a title and he was like, “Okay that’s cool. What if we did it like this? Or like that.”

The second part of the first verse, he just, busted out in five minutes, it was crazy. I remember almost taking notes being like, I don’t know how he just wrote that entire six lines in 45 seconds – I want to be able to do that! It was a cool process, and having him come sing on the album was a really nice gesture. He did not have to do that. He’s a really busy guy so I appreciate that he did that.

How did you guys get in contact?

Vinnie Paolizzi: It was through “Revival,” that songwriters show that I hosted for a bunch of years. He had been playing there for years, even before I was involved in it. He’s been in that scene for quite a while.

That’s a cool way to get connected for sure.

Vinnie Paolizzi: Yeah, it’s a very cool show. Unfortunately, COVID changed it around. They still do it once a month at a different venue and I played that one. But something about the weekly shows before was really fun for those first three years I was living in Nashville.

Going back to this Philly to Nashville pipeline, I like how you paint a really beautiful picture of this town you’re leaving in “Cairo.”

Vinnie Paolizzi: It’s actually a town in Illinois, of all places. Two years ago, out from Missouri, I ended up there on the way home, and I spent all of my money in my bank account. It wasn’t very much but I got a speeding ticket on the way home. I had to borrow money from my wife, my girlfriend at the time, to pay this insane speeding ticket, because it’s just a classic speed trap town.

So that’s only half a true story, and I made up the rest of it after that first verse. That was one of my favorites just because I played and sang everything. That’s just one guitar and me and I wrote the song on my own. That’s the only one that’s like, completely 100% made by me.

How did that challenge your songwriting?

Vinnie Paolizzi: It was like the feeling of “I need to get out of here” because I was like that when I was in Philly. I was ready to bail so I wrapped that narrative around it. It was a pretty depressing place. If you ever drive through it, it flooded in the early 1900s as an old shipping town and it just completely flooded, it’s very decayed. Very strange place. It’s almost an island to Kentucky and Illinois and Missouri. It’s this weird spot. It’s almost like people are trapped there.

That seems like a good place to build off a song from. Eventually you go into “As Far as Goodbyes Go” and “It Ain't Easy” where you're shifting away from that stripped acoustic feel to a lot of layers instrumentally. I think it was really cool hearing that production with Mike Harris, your producer. How was adding in these instrumental layers and bluesy feels with Mike?

Vinnie Paolizzi: It was great. He plays guitar for a band called Old Crow Medicine Show and he’s the founder of the band Apache Relay back in the day. He’s just got really good taste with all that stuff. We just had a great time and I’m definitely not as good of a guitar player I’m a guitar player and it was nice to stretch out a solo a little bit. Those two songs are really high energy.

Yeah, those would be so good live.

Vinnie Paolizzi: Yeah, they’ve been really fun. We played them three times so far. Just showcase stuff in Nashville.

“It Ain’t Easy” is such a powerhouse song and I know Ben Chapman was on it. How was incorporating his musicality into the piece’s production?

Vinnie Paolizzi: We were both so burned out and we were like “man, this is really this whole music industry”, blah, blah blah at every level. We have some friends that have had a lot a lot of success and it’s still hard at that level. I think our original tape of that song just playing guitar for however many minutes, but it was so fun to have him come sing on it. It’s a long story, but Ben and I came up in Nashville side by side and we shared an office together for a while and shared a lot of bands and he’s had a bunch of success last year. So, I’ve been really happy for him.

I really like how all of your collaborations through the album are like that. I think it really reinforces your idea of community. I’m not gonna lie, I absolutely loved “Johnny Was a Baptist.” I probably listened to it at least 20 times the first day I heard it. I think the writing on it is really cool in how you paint a biblical prophet in a modern light. Could you tell me about your thought process and the creative process behind it?

Vinnie Paolizzi: That’s what we were talking about earlier. Almost everyone seems to have it as one of their favorites, if not their favorite. It was interesting because I thought this was a goofy song. I wonder if people were gonna like it. My buddy Tyler Halverson, who also is blowing up right now in the Texas country scene… We were doing this thing where we would each bring a half a song to a writing session and try to finish both of them. Also, I’m not the biggest weed guy, but he is like the king, and this was a couple years ago.

By the end of the first song we wrote, I was lifted… and he’s also become more of a spiritual like religious guy. And I haven’t – I mean, what Jesus did is great, but I’m not reading the Bible every day. Something about Jesus came up and I was like, “What if we wrote a song about it?” About him just being a guy and carpenter that works on stuff. He just comes over and if you need some help, he fixes it. And he drives like a truck. He’s just a buddy.

Oh wow!

Vinnie Paolizzi: He looked at me like I was the most insane person of all time. I remember I screamed the song idea at him for half an hour, and he did not get it. Then we ended up finishing the first verse and chorus, and I came home and couldn’t stop thinking about it for that week. So I just wiggled at it and ended up looking at the song for this record – like no one else has written this idea.

There are certain songs that are great, but it’s a recycle of interest. And I was like, I bet nobody has written this song before. Mike loved it, and producing a song like this that was not straight up bluegrass, but in that direction, was really interesting.

I love that because it helps you shift gears into “Blame It on the Ivy,” which is a little bit more melancholic. Your final song “Ahead of Me” is an optimistic way to end the album. You start with the lines “I'm not done, at least not for good” and this perspective that your best days are ahead of you.

Vinnie Paolizzi: This one is almost a reminder to myself. I was with my friend Ben Danner, who is really good at writing a sad song and I forced him to write a happy song with me. I love old RnB and groovy music, so it felt so good to sing that line and everything else just fell into place. I think that optimism of thinking that your best days are just around the corner and you’re working towards something.

What we do in the music world in general is so fragile; you never know if you’re doing the right thing. You just have to do your best all the time, and that gets tiring. All these things are gonna happen, I’m gonna have bad days, but saying that the best ones are still around the corner just made us both feel good to sing. It’s like a farewell song, like your “thank you” on the way out for listening to the record.

Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan
Vinnie Paolizzi © Kurt Ozan

I’m gonna have bad days, but saying that the best ones are still around the corner just made us both feel good to sing.

I really like how you wrap it up with optimism that is realistic, yet intentional. It's so layered, and I can imagine a lot of people going through the same cycles in the industry, banking on how people are going to react to their music. If there is anything else you'd like to share about yourself the LP, tour, or upcoming live shows – feel free!

Vinnie Paolizzi: I think you pretty much covered everything! Thank you so much.

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:: stream/purchase The Vinnie Paolizzi LP here ::
:: connect with Vinnie Paolizzi here ::

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