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Artist to Watch: Paul Nipper, an Alabama Native Capturing the Spirit of Texas Music

Valerie Fremin

Paul Nipper is as blue collar country as they come. An Alabama native who eventually made his way to Austin, Nipper wears his everyman appeal on his sleeve. He’s adapted the rugged, realistic heart of Texas music and is ready to take it to the masses.

On new album Kamikaze Heart, Nipper excels at being genuine and approachable. “Hopefully this will be the one to take us to the next level,” he tells Wide Open Country.

Nipper’s music career came about as naturally as anything. As an employee with a moving company in Alabama, Nipper found himself wanting more out of life. When a friend introduced him to Texas music, he knew he had to get closer to it. The sound felt opposite of everything he heard on the radio, and it drew him in.

So he made the move to Austin, Texas on Valentine’s Day in 2011. Then, a chance encounter with Doug Moreland gave Nipper the push he needed.

“I was running around with this woman in Austin and she told me to meet her at the VFW,” Nipper says. “At the end of Manchaca Road in Austin, there’s this big sign pointing to the VFW. But Doug Moreland’s house is also right there. And I thought the sign was pointing to his house, so I walked right in. It turns out I stumbled upon his Tuesday Night Songwriter’s Circle.”

That happy accident helped inspire Nipper to grow his craft and participate in songwriting exercises. Soon, music completely consumed his free time, and eventually even more than his work time.

Some of Kamikaze Heart actually features some of the early writing days from Doug Moreland. “First Waltz and Fiddler’s Lament were some of the first songs I wrote,” Nipper says. But others he finished for the album, and the rest came all in-between.

Besides songwriting exercises, Nipper cut his teeth on some of Austin’s iconic dive bars. His first show came at Hole In The Wall, followed by spots like Shiner’s Saloon, Sam’s Town Point and Stardust. He started by usually playing 70% covers for honky tonkers while building his sound and stage presence.

Eventually Nipper met Mike Harmeier of Texas’ Mike And The Moonpies at Doug Moreland’s. After an acoustic show at Saxon Pub, Nipper asked Mike what it would take to get him to produce his newest record. Harmeier jumped at the opportunity.

The resulting album is a spirited portrait of Texas’ hardworking and often under appreciated scene. Nipper captures vibes from several famous Texans, from Waylon Jennings (“A Lady,” “Flyin’ High”) to Asleep At The Wheel (“Out Of Sight”) and even a little Robert Earl Keen (“They Don’t Smoke In The Bars”).

Sounds Like: Waylon Jennings, Ray Benson and Billy Joe Shaver hanging out in Texas’ seedy, unbridled honky tonk scene.

Required Listening: “Asphalt And Heartaches,” a rollicking and rambunctious song we exclusively premiered last week.

Check out Kamikaze Heart when it drops on May 19.

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Artist to Watch: Paul Nipper, an Alabama Native Capturing the Spirit of Texas Music