|Origin||Elgin, Illinois, U.S.|
|Associated acts||These United States|
Paleo, aka David Strackany, is an American singer of folk music who is notable for writing a song every day for 365 days using a "half-size children's guitar" while living out of his car and being essentially homeless. He plays acoustic guitar and sings and in 2005 began touring the United States. He has a recording arrangement with an indie music label named Partisan Records.
Strackany was born in 1981. He graduated from college but was dissatisfied with service-level jobs and so he decided to become a songwriter. He chose the moniker Paleo after seeing a paleontology exhibit of butterflies in Prague. He explained:
"(Paleo) is a Greek word that means old and is the opposite of "neo," which means new. It reminds me that what I'm doing is old ... People have been doing rain dances and beating on drums, humming, and singing lullabies to their children since mankind began." – Paleo, in an interview, 2010.
He exchanged his collection of music CDs for a tattoo. In a subsequent interview, he recalled that he thought he could "make a living making music" but wasn't sure how this would happen. He has had a variety of musical influences from pop culture but one in particular that stands out is the musical Jesus Christ Superstar which he describes as a guilty pleasure. He has a creative temperament, and in an interview, described himself as living "inwardly":
"It's all pretty crazy. I mean, a palm tree is pretty crazy. If you look at a palm tree, it looks like a match with green fire coming out of it, a long match that you light a fireplace with." – Paleo, 2010, in an interview.
He explained after a performance in Syracuse, New York on April 7, 2007, that his half-sized children's guitar was more efficient since it allowed him to play while driving; he named the guitar "Oh! Susanna" after the Stephen Foster song.
Strackany's initial approach was to record an album, then he learned to book his own performances:
|“||I then began the process of trying to figure out how to book shows and tour. I slowly pieced together some shows in 2005. I had some breaks where people gave me a chance, and that was nice. I've been sort of at it ever since. That's where I'm at right now, still making records and still making music. -- Paleo, in an interview ||”|
Strackany recorded his debut album Misery, Missouri in early October 2004. The record was largely folk in nature but with more elaborate arrangements and instrumentation, and was self-released. The entire session was executed with one microphone. 1000 copies were pressed independently and it is now out of print, with no published plans to re-release the work, according to a description on his website. He used simple chord progressions which were "uncomplicated sonically" but with lyrics akin to a 17th-century poet, according to one account. He found that his best lyrics often come up in everyday conversation but by putting what he finds in an "unfamiliar context", the words can become very significant. He wrote song, produced his music, booked shows, and traveled around the country while living out of his car. He performed, and continues to perform, extensively; according to one account, he has played about 150 shows per year since 2005.
Song a Day project
Strackany generated media attention by doing a year-long write-a-song-a-day project. He did this while touring the United States nationally and driving more than 50,000 miles from Easter Day on April 16, 2006 to April 15, 2007 and playing more than 200 concerts. Paleo's "The Song Diary" project was similar to a feat achieved by playwright Suzan-Lori Parks in 2003 and it was covered by news sources including USA Today, Entertainment Weekly, Magnet Magazine, Paste Magazine, the Chicago Sun Times, the New York Post, NPR Morning Edition, the Washington Post, the Boston Globe, in addition to regional and local papers. A National Public Radio music critic wrote:
|“||Every day for a year, he wrote, recorded and posted a song on his Web site. He hasn't been writing songs in his bedroom, either. During the last year, Paleo drove more than 50,000 miles and played more than 200 concerts. Along the way, he wrote the lyrics and played his guitar — in his van, backstage, whenever he could find a moment. Paleo calls his yearlong project a song diary, but if these songs are all autobiographical, then the year has taken a toll on his psyche. -- Deborah Amos in NPR, 2007||”|
Paleo made rules for himself:
- The Song Diary would end if he skipped even one day.
- Each song had to be recorded before sunrise.
- No songs could be re-recorded.
- 'Sunday Prayer' songs were new lyrics sung with the same melody every Sunday.
He refused to sleep "until he had completely documented a new song for that day regardless of the circumstances," according to his recollection. The result was an "enormous body of work" with an "outlook of unfettered optimism." It is downloadable in its entirety from his website. Paste Magazine described it as "a streetfight of freakish prolificacy." He received a letter of congratulations from American vice-president Dick Cheney who had heard about the project. Cheney wrote:
|“||Writing 365 songs in 365 days is a feat that took determination and dedication. -- Dick Cheney, 2007||”|
Strackany described the project as psychoanalytically transformative in a personal way:
|“||I feel like a completely different person than when I started out. It was grace, like I died and came back. My perspective on my relationship to love and to art and to my family has totally changed. You have to consider that I spent every second of every day of a whole year in a sort of constant state of catharsis, what seemed like never-ending auto-psychoanalysis. I walked into the Diary maybe a little desperate, certainly insecure, and I walked out on a cloud. -- Paleo, 2007||”|
Strackany sees a benefit to creativity in songwriting when there are limits attached. He emphasized that boundaries are a "great way to excite your creativity" and suggested, in an example, that cutting off two of the guitar's six strings could help a writer creatively. He noted that "too much freedom can be every bit the cage."
Strackany worked with songwriter Jesse Elliott on a Washington, D.C.-based music project entitled These United States. He helped Elliott develop the band's first album, and acted primarily as the band's producer as well as playing a majority of the instruments on the band's "psychotropic debut record." The band wrote "novelistic songs packed with dense narratives and loose, ragged-edged folk, rock and Americana". Strackany's contribution was as a multi-instrumentalist who offered "skillfully mixed, multi-instrumental support with a range in keys, drums, accordion, bass and vibraphone," according to NPR. The Village Voice described Strackany's arrangements as "psychedelic" and noted that instruments he played included the "vibes, glockenspiel, mandolin, and lots of off-kilter keyboards."
Elliott described Strackany as a songwriter who has "stared almost directly at the human soul."
In 2007, Strackany did soundtrack work on the feature film In Search of a Midnight Kiss. In 2009, he won a record deal with Brooklyn-based Partisan Records. He once described making music as a vice. He continues to tour extensively.
|“||You can get desensitized to the pace of touring after a while, things that other people might tune into. You may become oblivious to so much because it's happening so quickly. You almost have to shield yourself a little bit from it, otherwise it's exhausting to take it all in. -- Paleo, 2010, in an interview||”|
According to one account, Strackany repeated his song-a-day project in 2010. In 2011, he is no longer technically "homeless", but when he is not touring, he lives in Iowa City; a second source suggests he lives in Davenport, Iowa.
- NPR music critic Deborah Amos suggested that Paleo's year-long one-a-day songwriting project took a "toll on his psyche", shifting back and forth between hope and despair.
- Boise Weekly critic Elijah Jensen wrote that Strackany "explores interiors of the human mind, the dissolution of love, the value of success and does so poetically with such entrancing use of metaphor."
- Daytrotter’s Sean Moeller described him as a Poet Laureate in 2007.
- Misery, Missouri (2005)
- The Song Diary (2006–2007)
- Pedestrian Crossing (Recorded 2006 and released 2009)
- A New Day (2010 Cassette tape)
- A View Of The Sky, Partisan Records (2010)
- Fruit of the Spirit, 2011, Partisan Records
- "These United States: 'First Sight'". NPR Music. March 20, 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "... Jesse Elliott leads Washington D.C based band These United States' ... Fellow band mate David Strackany offers skillfully mixed, multi-instrumental support with a range in keys, drums, accordion, bass and vibraphone."
- Elijah Jensen (May 7, 2008). "Strange Days Indeed: David Strackany tracks 365 days, one song at a time". Boise Weekly. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- Heather Lovejoy (November 23, 2010). "Album Review: "A View of the Sky" by Paleo". The Florida Times-Union. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- Ken Bachor (March 7, 2010). "Paleo Interview: SXSW 2010". Spinner.com. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "Paleo ON TOUR". last.fm. 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- Brandon Kim (May 12, 2011). "Exclusive Track: Paleo "Holly Would"". IFC.com (Indie music). Retrieved 2011-06-09. "Download this barn stomping good time from Paleo, a songwriter so impressive he even received accolades from Dick Cheney."
- "Film At 11: Paleo". Magnet Magazine. April 25, 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "On June 21, Paleo is following up 2010′s A View Of The Sky with Fruit Of The Spirit (Partisan). ... But we’d expect nothing but quick work from Strackany, who in 2006 wrote a song a day for 365 days in a row...."
- Deborah Amos (April 19, 2007). "Recording a Song a Day, Every Day". NPR Music. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "Last Sunday, the singer-songwriter Paleo finished a marathon project. ..."
- Melissa Stanley (April 2007). "Paleo: talk about self-discipline". The Deli Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-09.
- "Paleo". Yerbird. 2011-06-09. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "Paleo, the musical vehicle of one David Strackany, opens the album with a cautionary hymn of excess. Paleo has even performed a monstrous song-a-day-for-a-year project, downloadable in its entirety at his website."
- "Exclusive Track: Paleo "Holly Would"". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). 12 May 2011. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "Vice President Dick Cheney ... wrote to Strackany congratulating him for this great accomplishment..."
- Margaret Reges, All Music Guide (2008). "These United States". Billboard Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "... These United States create a musical melting pot ... Born of a collaboration between Jesse Elliott and David Strackany (the man behind Paleo) ... ~ Margaret Reges, All Music Guide"
- Stephen M. Deusner (October 10, 2008). "These United States: A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden -- Crimes". Pitchfork. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "... The first, A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden, is a collaboration with David Strackany (aka Paleo) ..."
- Henry Freedland (September 26, 2008). "These United States: Crimes". Paste Magazine. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "debut-collaborator David Strackany)"
- "These United States: Pop's Particle Accelerator". NPR Music: All Things Considered. November 8, 2008. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "The Washington, D.C., band These United States ...He originally formed the group with David Strackany — a singer-songwriter who also records under the name Paleo — and they recorded the first album together. ..."
- Tony Sclafani (March 11, 2008). "Subject: David Strackany -- These United States' A Picture of the Three of Us at the Gate to the Garden of Eden". Village Voice. Retrieved 2011-06-09. "... These United States offer melodic and amusing ideas ... balanced by the psychedelic arrangements of producer David Strackany, who chimes in with vibes, glockenspiel, mandolin, and lots of off-kilter keyboards."