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Stacking The Deck with Paige Howell
Tuesday, March 20, 2018

Stacking The Deck is a feature exclusive to Adam’s World where I bring packs of 1991 Pro Set Superstars MusiCards to artists, and we discuss who they find in each pack.

Rising pop artist Paige Howell has been lighting up the stage at some of the most prominent indie music venues in NYC, including recent shows at Rockwood Music Hall, and Mercury Lounge.

With a brand of pop that ranges from traditional songs about love, to aggressive songs about breakups, to heartfelt odes to family, Howell manages to not just dip her toe in every facet of the genre, she plants a foot firmly in each one, letting the world know that if she chooses she can go in just about any direction she wants in the pop world.


I caught up with Howell at the Think Coffee at the corner of Bleecker and Bowery to open up some packs of MusiCards, and the artists we found sparked conversations about raw artistic talent, seeing Prince in concert, and how the Pittsburgh Penguins helped her get over a breakup.



Pat Benatar

When I was in college I went to school for musical theater, and I hated it. I hated everything about it, but there wasn’t a school that you could go to and major in pop star. They have programs that are pop music, but not what I was looking for, so I just settled and went to Wagner in Staten Island for musical theater.

I was not about it. You have to bring in musical theater songs to sing, and I didn’t. I always brought in Pat Benatar songs.

Wow, so is she the reason you failed musical theater, or did you get an A?

I got an A. I sang “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” “Heartbreaker,” all of them. Then I saw her up at Bethel Woods, and someplace else … maybe Jones Beach.

What I love about her is how she aged instead of trying to be younger. She doesn’t read old, she evolves with her fan base, and she plays and sings and it’s still strong. I really admire the way she went instead of trying to … not to knock Madonna, but I feel like Madonna plays super young.

Yeah. I bet she still shops at Forever 21, and it’s like, you’re Forever Almost 60.

I also super admire what she does, too, but (Pat Benatar) was just a classier way, and she’s not fading out, she’s still relevant.

She tours with her husband.

Yeah, and he plays guitar, and she sings. I think it’s an incredible match up. I think that’s such an ultimate musical dream – she’s not irrelevant, people still want to go watch her, and maybe there’s not all the bells and whistles, but it’s genuine music, and that’s what I love so much about her. They’re power ballads, and up-tempos, and they pack a bunch, and there’s no bullshit, no nonsense.

So what you’re going to look for in life is a partner who can play guitar.

Eeeeh, maybe.



Tom Petty

Oh my God, what a heartbreak. I was actually supposed to go to see him on July 26th (of last year) for my birthday, and I couldn’t because I ended up working, and then he passed away right after.

I think he had one of the best Super Bowl halftime shows of all time. Again, there was no nonsense, no overproduction, it was just talent on stage.

He’s such a talented songwriter, and guitar player, and he does it all.

I mostly admire artists who are raw talents, they can just stand there, and use their instrument, and their voice, and they’ll pull you in. As opposed to a lot of stuff we have today with electronic dance music, it’s all dial tones and computers, this is such genuine, raw, music, and I think he’s a pioneer for so many guitarists, to this day.

I’ve never met a guitarist that doesn’t say he’s one of their influences.

I’ve never met a person, or a musician, that doesn’t like him.

Everyone has a Tom Petty tape, record, or CD, somewhere.

Yeah, and almost every song is one you recognize. (He has a) distinct voice, distinct lyric style, and he’s one of the artists you can listen to from song one to the last song on the record and not skip (any tracks).

I have to say, the video for “Don’t Come Around Here No More” blew my mind as a kid.

I love watching old music videos. I’m on a giant Elton John kick right now. (The videos are) so dated, but they’re just so amazing to watch.

I went to the Elton John Grammy tribute at the Theater at Madison Square Garden. Lady Gaga sang “Your Song.” I don’t know if I’ve ever seen anything better live in my life. The next day was a bunch of different artists that were at the Grammys. It was pretty incredible. He watched from the audience with Bernie Taupin.



KISS

Clearly you chose KISS because that is also your stage makeup, correct?

{laughs} Yes, always a star on my face.

No, I think KISS were revolutionary, they were groundbreaking, and I bet most of us wouldn’t be able to pick out what they look like without the makeup.

Other than Gene Simmons. Ace Frehley could walk in here and …

We’ll never know.

I think that’s such an amazing thing they did. They preserved their own lives by doing that, because they can walk down the street and have a normal life. There aren’t many artists that can do that. That’s like Hannah Montana before Hannah Montana.

And they have the KISS Army. Can you imagine a fan base like that?

They’re die hards.

It may not have been a KISS Army, but at the recent show of yours I attended you did have a section of people who knew the lyrics to at least one of your songs.

Those are my ride or die people. {laughs}

You need to get a name for them.

I’ll work on it. I’ll ask them what they want to be called.

I actually listen … I teach SoulCycle, and I play a lot of electronic music there because that’s what fits the class, but a lot of music is ruined for me because I associate it with working out. I love working out, but when I walk down the street it’s not what I want to listen to anymore. Not that I ever really did.

I write pop music, but I listen to rock music. I listen to rock, and folk, and things like that.

Do you think that informs your music?

Definitely, but when I actually produce art, and create, I am a pop artist, which is so weird because my influences are gonna always be more rock.

So when you were walking down the street to get here, what was in your headphones?

Butch Walker.

I listen to a lot of Butch Walker, Gavin DeGraw, I love Grace Potter. I think she’s so fantastic. I’ve never listened to a Grace Potter song I didn’t like. Same thing goes for Butch Walker. I can also tell when he produces something. There’s a little bit of grit in it, and I can tell that it’s a Butch song. That’s how I found him. I was listening to Sweeter by Gavin DeGraw and there were two songs that had a little bit of a rock edge to them. I was so in love with those two songs that I bought the album so I could have the liner notes. I saw Butch Walker’s name on these songs, and I immediately started listening to him.

I grew up listening to AC/DC, Prince, Michael Jackson. My mom was a really big Prince fan. I saw Prince four times.

Wow! When was the most recent time?

It was one of his last tours, and it was at Mohegan Sun in CT. He brought out Janelle Monae and Esperanza Spalding.

The Welcome 2 America Tour was where he had Misty Copeland open the show and it was spectacular. I grew up a ballerina.

So … ballerina, AC/DC, Prince?

Yeah, and actually how I stopped being a ballerina is my parents took me to see Gwen Stefani’s first solo tour. I never took ballet seriously again after that day. I left, and I was planning my world tour.

Gwen was always my first influence. I was 7 years old begging for braces and pink hair. My parents were like, you’re 7, you don’t need braces yet, and you’re not getting pink hair.

Since being out on your own, have you done the pink hair?

Yeah. I hated it. I can’t be anything but blonde.



Paula Abdul

I put Paula in here because she was a Laker Girl, and I know you have a incredibly strong love of a sports team.

I love a few. I have an order. I love watching hockey, so my number one is the Pittsburgh Penguins, number two is the Dallas Stars, and number three is the Rangers.

We’re sitting here in NYC and you just picked Pittsburgh and Dallas over the Rangers.

A friend of mine – now that a lot of SoulCycle riders know that I love watching hockey, if they have tickets they offer them to me if they can’t go, and it’s so kind and generous – sent me to a Rangers vs. Dallas game on a Monday night, and Dallas was so sharp on the ice.

I admire greatness. That means they worked hard.

Speaking of greatness … Sid the Kid, you might like him a little bit?

Oh I love him. I think he’s such a champion. I decided I was a Penguins fan before the repeat Stanley Cup. They hadn’t been in the Stanley Cup finals in a few years. I sat down (at a game), and I said to myself, if Sidney Crosby scores this OT goal then I’m a Penguins girl, and as soon as I said it out loud he threw the puck into the net and the game was over.

Was this a pro wrestling moment, like you had a Rangers shirt on and you ripped it off to reveal a Penguins shirt?

No, I was in a Rangers-heavy section of the Garden.

I tried to let it simmer. I have an obsessive personality, when I like something I LOVE it, so the Penguins obsession started. That year they went to the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Because of you.

Obviously. I was a good luck charm.

Then I went through a really terrible terrible breakup. It was very public. It was really messy, and it was all over social media.

Did it happen to inspire a recent song of yours?

Yes it did, and it also involved barstools, which is why it’s called “Pull Up a Barstool.”

Did you Keith Murray somebody? Did you pick up a chair hit him with it?

I wish.

Today is one year to the day, and how far I’ve come in a year … I realize now that I wanted things I didn’t know I wanted, because now I have better things in my life.

It’s hard to let doors close, it really is, but if you can lock them, and wait for another one to open, you’re better off.

At that time the Penguins were on their way to the Stanley Cup Finals, and I was like, I know that if they win the Stanley Cup I’m going to be OK. They won, and I was fine.


For more Paige Howell, follow her on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.


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