From High Flying Kicks to Smash Hits: Paul Napash’s Musical Journey
A childhood fan of martial arts, Paul Napash, professionally known as PaulStar, went from being bullied over high flying kicks to smash hits as a lifelong musician and producer. He’s from Chisasibi, Quebec and Napash started playing guitar when he was just nine years old and started learning how to play other instruments at ten. The rest is music history.
Watching musicians on tv inspired him to follow music as a career path, it looked like fun to him to perform live. Napash met many musicians growing up and came from a musical family. His father was a musician in a band in the 80s and Napash would hear him play instruments at home and on tour. His dad taught him to play guitar and he learned from videos he received from his grandfather.
A producer, engineer, the CEO of his own record label, Napash also had a rock band at the age of fifteen, playing talent shows, festivals and small concerts. He would rehearse at his uncle's place weekly and at his cousin's practice too. Ultimately, they would tour together in Northern Quebec, with Napash playing guitar and keyboard.
Outside of learning music from family and friends and being mentored by another guitarist, Napash also graduated from a three-semester l music industry arts program and later a business management and entrepreneurship program. He learned a lot, but he also struggled financially trying to survive in the city.
Napash would go to food banks and had friends who would buy him dinner to help him make it through on a tight budget. Depression was another barrier he faced in his journey to becoming a successful music professional. While things were challenging, he never stopped working, talking to people and moving around. He got out of his comfort zone and reached out to musicians and artists to collaborate.
That drive had amazing results. He produced and co-produced a number of hits, including CJAY GRiZ for Melody McArthur’s smash hit single “Unceded” which went to #1 on National Indigenous Music Countdown (IMC), Queen on her album “Kizmet”, and Violent Ground’s new single "Meant For More" featuring Melody McArthur.
Reflecting on his own financial struggles, his advice for youth considering leaving home for work or school is to save some money before leaving their community. To deal with the loneliness of not knowing anyone in the city, he suggests going to drop-ins at friendship centres and getting involved in those urban communities.
If he could give advice to his younger self it would be “don't let anyone or anything put you down, just focus on you and only worry about yourself, and keep doing what you're trying to do. You will get there, no matter what, whatever it takes.”
To balance his mental health during hard times, he goes out to have drinks with friends, but also stays home working on music and interacting with musicians online. He taught himself how to use live-streaming platforms and started up an online performance podcast.
When he was first streaming, Napash was nervous, unsure what to do, but he pushed himself to be in front of the camera consistently and to continually improve his streaming with new skills and techniques. He learned how to capture his sound more professionally while streaming. While artists sometimes need to reschedule, he keeps on keeping on.
He gets inspired to persevere by artist friends in the industry who are doing cool things in their careers, whether they are touring, playing big festivals or getting featured in media. Napash likes to emulate what they are doing but with his own spin to create something unique that lines up with his tastes and musical preferences.
What he ended up building was a record label called Meikin Records/PaulStar Entertainment which has tripled from its start with just 5 artists to now more than 15. He was able to work with InPath and N’we Jinan’s arts concentration program “Mikw Chyam” and he had the opportunity to teach music production at Ecole Wiinikuu School in his hometown of Waskaganish.
These days he’s been working with Miami-based R&B artist NwClr (formerly known as Smoove) and on his own album “Bring It All Together” He’s excited for the project, but he’s taking his time. “I don’t want to rush this project, quality over quantity,” says Napash.
All that hard work is being recognized. He’s been nominated for “Producer of the Year '' at The International Indigenous Hip Hop Awards Show (IIHAS 2021), and signed to Beatstars/ Sony ATV publishing administration deal. Performing weekly at open mic nights at the Lafayette and Live on Elgin, he’s sharing his music with the world.
With every song he puts out into the world, Paul Napash is making music history. Once a childhood fan of martial arts, he went from high flying kicks to putting out smash hits as a lifelong musician and producer. He picked up the guitar at just nine years old and the rest is music history.
Thanks to Alison Tedford Seaweed for authoring this article.
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