Paul Zollo

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Paul Zollo
Born Chicago, Illinois[1]
Occupation Author, Journalist, Musician, Photographer
Nationality American

Paul Steven Zollo (born August 9, 1958) is a singer, songwriter, author, journalist and photographer.


Paul Zollo is the author of eight books, including several on the craft of song-writing.

His book Songwriters On Songwriting (ISBN 0-306-81265-7) has been expanded three times and features in-depth interviews with many of the world's greatest songwriters, including Bob Dylan, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Laura Nyro, Pete Seeger, Leonard Cohen, Neil Young and Frank Zappa. It has been called "the ultimate book about songwriting" and "the songwriter's bible," and is used as a textbook in songwriting courses in many universities, including University of Southern California, UCLA, and the Berklee School of Music.

On October 18, 2016, the sequel to Songwriters On Songwriting was published, More Songwriters On Songwriting (ISBN 978-0-306-81799-1),featuring all new interviews with a vast range of legendary songwriters, including Leiber & Stoller, James Taylor, Loretta Lynn, Elvis Costello, Paul Simon, Randy Newman, Brian Wilson, Matisyahu, Patti Smith, Chrissie Hynde, Kris Kristofferson, John Prine and many more.

His first book, published in 1988, is The Beginning Songwriters Answer Book, published by Writer's Digest.

He wrote an oral and narrative history of Hollywood, Hollywood Remembered, featuring chapters on Jerry Maren, Jonathan Winters, Karl Malden and many others, published by Cooper Square Press, 1999.

With Tom Petty, he wrote Conversations with Tom Petty, published by Omnibus, in 2003.

He is the author of a rhyming dictionary, The Schirmer Complete Rhyming Dictionary, published in 2004 by Schirmer.

He contributed in 2015 to the memoir of songwriter-producer Dave Stewart on Sweet Dreams Are Made of This: A Life In Music, published by Penguin/Random House, 2016.

In 2016 he embarked on a new book project with Matisyahu, to write his memoirs, to be published by Da Capo Books.

His novel Sunset & Cahuenga remains unpublished.

Musical career[edit]

Zollo is an accomplished songwriter and singer. He was the leader of the Hollywood band The Ghosters, who were named "The Best Unsigned Band in Los Angeles" in 1993 by the Los Angeles Free Press The Ghosters released one self-titled album featuring Zollo's songs.

In 2000, he embarked on a solo career and released his first solo CD Orange Avenue, which features a duet with Art Garfunkel on the song "Being In This World".

In 2014 Zollo released his second solo album, "Universal Cure", produced by Zollo, on the Trough Records label. It features 13 original songs, including three co-written with Darryl Purpose, as well as a duet with Terre Roche. Musicians on the album include Billy Salisbury, Bob Malone. Earl Grey, Mike Baird, Lisa Johnson, Tomas Ulrich, John Molo and Edoardo Tancredi.

Zollo has also collaborated with many songwriters, including:

  • Dan Bern on the songs "Midnight In Nebraska" and "Chuck The Rest," from the album "Adderal Holiday" by Dan Bern, 2016.
  • Darryl Purpose, with whom he wrote the Chavez Ravine song "Crooked Line", the title song of one of Purpose's albums. They've also written many other songs together, such as "Baltimore", about the mysterious death of Edgar Allan Poe, "Koreatown", "The Ghost of Crazy Horse", "California", and "Rutherford Hayes In The Morning", "Dreams of Life", and "Orange Raincoat," which was also recorded by Piper-Grey. In 2016 Purpose is releasing a new solo album, Still The Birds, featuring 11 new songs co-written with Zollo, including "Prince of the Apple Towns", about Dylan Thomas, "Shiloh", about the Civil War, "The Nearness of You", about jazz legend Red Garland, "Baltimore", about the last days of Edgar Allan Poe, and a song about Buddha, "Buddha Smiled At The Elephant (With His Heart)".
  • Steve Allen on the songs "Blue Stars" and "Purlie's World."
  • Severin Browne on a song about L.A.'s beloved billboard queen, "Angelyne".
  • James Coberly Smith on a song about Muddy Waters and Bo Diddley called "Muddy and Bo".
  • pianist Bob Malone on "Flying Machine". Malone also cut Zollo's song "Halloween", which has been released as a special holiday record.
  • Scott Docherty on "Season of Grace", "Noelle" and "African Mask". Docherty also played keyboards with Paul in The Ghosters and The Zollo Group.
  • Jeff Gold, producer/songwriter-singer, on "Adonoi," a song about the Jewish immigrant experience in America. Its Hebrew title is used throughout the song as part of an ancient sacred Jewish prayer, uniting this story based on their shared heritage. 'Adonoi' means 'the Lord."


Zollo was the editor of SongTalk magazine for many years,[2] and went on to become Managing Editor of Performing Songwriter magazine.[3] He's also contributed to many magazines, including Variety, Billboard, Rolling Stone, Musician, Oxford Press, Playback, Gorgeous, Boulevard, Music Connection, Campus Circle and others.

In September 2004 Zollo was named Senior Editor of American Songwriter magazine headquartered in Nashville, though Zollo lives and works in Los Angeles.[4] He writes a column called Icons for every issue, in which he profiles legendary songwriters, as well as shares acquired wisdom about songwriting gained from his abundant interviews.

He is also the co-founder, editor and chief photographer for Bluerailroad, an online magazine of the arts. Bluerailroad features Zollo's interviews in their pure, unexpurgated form, as well as galleries of his photographs. It also features a poetry section edited by John Doe, short fiction by Robert Morgan Fisher, and shifting galleries of photography, poetry, essays on music and art, and much more.

He has worked on several documentaries, as researcher, writer & interviewer. Most recently he wrote and interviewed all the musical legends that make up the film, Legends of the Canyon, directed by Jon Brewer and narrated by legendary photographer Henry Diltz. A journey into the musical dreamland that was Laurel Canyon, and the music that emanated from there, with interviews Zollo conducted with Crosby, Stills & Nash, as well as Michelle Phillips, Van Dyke Parks, Danny Hutton, Lenny Waronker and many others.

He's also worked recently on documentaries yet to be finished, on John Prine, Jim Morrison,and Jimi Hendrix.

Starting in 1999, Zollo hosted a series of live interviews and performances for the Aspen Writer's Foundation at the Belly-Up Club, which was broadcast live on public radio. For this series, Zollo did nights with David Crosby, Aimee Mann, Michelle Shocked, Mose Allison and others.


Zollo is also a celebrated photographer – mostly known for his portraits – and has had his work displayed at galleries in Los Angeles, Costa Mesa and New York City, including Cannibal Flower, the Infusion Gallery, Soho Dream, Nocturne, Valjenna, Memphis Café and Joe's Diner. He has contributed frequent photo essays to Campus Circle magazine as well as portraits in American Songwriter. He has photographed many notable personalities, including Scarlett Johansson, Ringo Starr, Graham Nash, Brian Wilson, Leiber & Stoller, Al Pacino, Jon Bon Jovi, Randy Newman, Stephen Stills, Larry Flynt, Bruno Mars, David Crosby, Van Dyke Parks, Taylor Swift, Alice Cooper, Stephen Colbert, James Taylor, Billy Beck, Paris Hilton, Rickie Lee Jones, Michelle Phillips, Micky Dolenz, Amy O'Neill, Claudia Rose, Aimee Mann, Angels of Venice, John Doe, Christina Linhardt, Peter Case and others. He is at work on a book of portraits entitled Angeleno.

Personal life[edit]

His father Burt Zollo was also a writer, the author of three books (The Dollars & Sense of Public Relations, [McGraw Hill]; Prisoners, A Novel, [Chicago Academy Press] and State & Wacker, A Novel [iUniverse] and many essays and articles for magazines. A colleague of Hugh Hefner at Esquire magazine, he contributed to the first issues of Playboy under the pseudonym "Bob Norman," including the famous inaugural Marilyn Monroe issue.[5]

He lives in Hollywood with his wife Leslie and his son, Joshua Diller Zollo.


  • The Beginning Songwriter's Answer Book (1990)
  • Songwriters On Songwriting
  • Songwriters On Songwriting (Expanded Edition) (2003)
  • Hollywood Remembered (An Oral History of Its Golden Age) (2002)
  • Conversations with Tom Petty (2005)
  • Sunset and Cahuenga (A Novel)
  • The Schirmer's Complete Rhyming Dictionary. (2007)


  • The Ghosters (1992)
  • Orange Avenue (2000)
  • Universal Cure (2014)


External links[edit]