You might recognize the lead singer of Doris, Paul Adelstein, from shows like Private Practice or Prisonbreak. But if you haven’t seen him perform live with his band, you don’t know the extent of his talent.
Paul has always been both a singer and an actor. His on screen career took off first with TV roles on shows including Hack, Scrubs, and Prisonbreak and films like Intolerable Cruelty, Be Cool, and Memoirs of a Geisha. He currently plays Dr. Cooper Freedman on the hit ABC show Private Practice.
Press Pass LA went to check out Paul’s band Doris at their recent performance at M Bar in Hollywood and quickly realized that Paul is as much a musician as he is an actor. The band includes members Zak Schaffer (bass), Scott Seiver (drums), Joe Kennedy (keyboards/guitar), and Tim Young (guitar). They were performing tracks off their second album All the Details.
The venue has an old Hollywood vibe. When you walk in amongst the chandeliers and plush red decor and drapery, you can’t help but feel you’ve been invited to some private cabaret in the 1920’s. The venue serves food and cocktails (both delicious!) and is lined with large booths and intimate tables making it the perfect place for a date or a night out with friends. The stage is comfortably set with a grand piano, keyboard, drums, and guitar stations for Doris.Tracks like “Rub Some Dirt On It” and “The Sing Along” quickly draw the audience into the music which is part jazz, rock, country, and comedy in one.
Quirky lines like “The Lord is going haywire and he brought us here to say, you can beat this fucker if you kick it where it lays” from Campfire Song surely stand out and put a smile on the audience’s faces. “I can’t hear you; I don’t care to. You’re like static, you’re like noise/ But you keep talking and I keep smiling as I look towards the door,” from Turning Blue bring an honesty to the band that makes you instantly feel like these are your old friends.
More sentimental lyrics like “I think I saw you fly away when I finally let you go. But the sun was in my eys and you were moving kind of slow. I’ve had my share of luck today, tomorrow no one knows” from their single Ladybug Luck bring out the more sentimental and melodic side of the band. As does Paul’s closing lyrics, “I hope you had a good time tonight and that I was your good time”.
After the show, we sat down with Paul to talk about what inspired this music and what his plans are with Doris.
Q & A with Paul Adelstein of Doris
PPLA: How long has Doris been playing together?
PAUL: In this configuration, we have been playing together about two years. Adam MacDougall from The Black Crowes was new joining us tonight and Tim Young, the guitarist, is the newest member of the band. The bassist, the drummer, and I have been about together about two years and play on the record.
PPLA: How did your band members first meet?
PAUL: I know Davey Holmes, who is a writer that works on Shameless and came up and played piano tonight, through his wife Sonya Walger. I know Sonya through Kate Walsh (Private Practice) who I have known since I was twenty or so. Sonya and Kate are good friends; they worked on The Mind of the Married Man together. I became really good friend with Davey who was also the keyboardist in The Mighty Mighty Bosstones. He grew up in Boston with Zach, our bass player. I was bitching about how all my musician friends were in Chicago and Davey told me that I needed to meet Zach. He said, ‘he’ll love your music’. So we met and Zach put a band together for me which has had some changes in personnel over the years but is Doris. Davey was the lynch pin on that.
PPLA: How did you come up with the bands’ name?
PAUL: It’s my mom’s name. It wasn’t my idea. It was the idea of one of the guys in the band from Chicago when we first started it. I was kind of against it but they pushed me because they thought it was hilarious. So we went with it, and it just stuck.
PPLA: In your music, you can hear jazz, blues, country, rock…so how do you describe your sound?
PAUL: I describe it as I’m obsessed with song writing, so any kind of song with good lyrics. I am kind of obsessed with the three-minute pop song, whatever the genre is. The people that I listen to write and are influenced by all different types of styles. So I am influenced by anything from Leonard Cohen to Squeeze to Bob Dylan to The Beatles to Bright Eyes…I love all that stuff. I don’t discriminate. If a song comes out a particular style, I know these guys (his band) can play anything!
PPLA: What inspires your songs? For example, on stage, you mentioned that one of your songs was about someone in the audience.
PAUL: That was total bullshit, by the way! That was something that somebody told me to say once to make it interesting! (laughs) There are three people here that I’ve known since I was a little kid so they probably all thought, ‘this is definitely about me’. What usually happens is that I will find a chorus or a melody that I like that has some nonsense lyrics to it, or there are lyrics that I like and I build the song around that. I might think, “Oh, this is weird! I wonder what the story around this lyric is’ and then I start putting it together. Some of it’s personal, some of it’s totally made up. You use whatever makes the best song.
PPLA: Your lyrics are a bit offbeat; they have a lot of comedy in them. Do you think that is your personality coming through?
PAUL: I think so. I think that it’s a fun way to write. I try to write really melodic and pretty songs and sometimes I get embarrassed to lean into that with all the emotion that it inspires in me. So to cut into that sentiment with a bit of humor seems like a good way to go… and it’s also just what comes out.
PPLA: Most people know you as an actor. Did you always consider yourself a musician as well or want to perform musically?
PAUL: I always did both. I joined a theater company and I joined a band in the same summer when I was twenty. So I really feel they have developed at the same time, although I have obviously spent a lot more time acting professionally than I have playing music professionally. But I’ve never stopped playing music. I spend probably more time playing music than I do acting on an hour to hour basis. I have always done both and one of the nice things about being in Los Angeles and having a steady job is that you get to meet these amazing musicians that are around who love to just play.
PPLA: Does the exposure help from one career to the other?
PAUL: Yes, it’s huge.
PPLA: What do you see coming up for the band next? Perhaps a third album or touring?
PAUL: There are a bunch of new songs that we are thinking about recording later in the year but we are trying to get to Chicago, New York, and maybe drive up the coast and do a tour in San Francisco before we go back to work in July (on set). We’d like to do some one-off shows on the weekends if we can too. We are into it, so it’s really fun.
PPLA: And what is coming up for your character on Private Practice when you return in July?
PAUL: The crazy thing about Private Practice is that even the actors have no idea. Even script to script, we have no idea what will happen next.
PPLA: Your character has taken on a much bigger role this season with the story line of his marriage and son. How did you feel about those choices for your character?
PAUL: I thought they were going to take us (his character’s onscreen relationship with Dr. Charlotte King, played by KaDee Strickland) in a different direction so that was a complete curveball to me and a really welcome one. I think it was an interesting idea for my character and the writing was very good. The real wild card there is that when you work with child actors you hope they are nice and good, because a lot of them aren’t pleasant kids and aren’t good actors. But Griffin Gluck was just one of us (the cast) immediately. He loves acting and he loved being around us. He made it really easy and fun and A. J. Langer too, who played his mom. She’s here at the show tonight. It’s a pretty close knit family in Shondaland.
The audience also included Shondaland (shows produced by Shonda Rhimes) actors Brian Benben (Dr. Sheldon Wallace, Private Practice), Amanda Foreman (patient Katie Kent, Private Practice) and Katie Lowes (Quinn Perkins on Scandal).
PPLA: How do you find the balance between acting and music?
PAUL: I just do. I don’t know how to describe it. I’ve always done both and I like that when I get frustrated with one thing and get all bottled up, that I am able to go and do something else. It’s been really nice for me that if I have a bad day at work, I can come home and write or play music and if I have a bad day with music, I get to go to work the next day and act. They just kind of work together for me. It took a long time. Everyone was always telling me, ‘you have to choose…you can’t do both. It’s never going to happen if you do both’. I just couldn’t do it (choose).
PPLA: Do you think any of the Doris music will be featured on Private Practice or any of your other acting projects? Would you like to see this happen?
PAUL: I don’t know. That might be a little too close for comfort! (laughs) There are some appropriate songs. Maybe on one of my other shows at some point but on Private Practice, it might freak me out. It might make my brain explode! I don’t know if I could handle it!
PPLA: Where are you playing next?
PAUL: We have two shows left here at M Bar (Wednesday May 30th and Thursday June 7th ). Then we are supposed to play at The Coterie, a lounge at the Renaissance Hotel. I hope we have a show in Chicago in June and on Martha’s Vineyard in August. Then off to New York before we go back to work.
PPLA: Most of your fans know you as an actor. What do you want them to know about your band and your music?
PAUL: If they want to hear sad songs with a snappy beat, they should pick up the record. We have it in vinyl too! You can also buy it on our website or on iTunes.
PPLA: I’d tell them how well you play so many instruments!
PAUL: I play piano and guitar. I play drums too but only in an annoying way. No one would actually want to hear me play them!
PPLA: Where do you see yourself in a few years, perhaps after Private Practice? Touring with the band, another series, more film?
PAUL: Sure! All of it. It’s one of the great and frustrating things about what I do. Somebody once told me we are like ‘carnie folk’ and we go where the tents are going. I don’t know, who knows. Take it where it goes. There is no master plan but it has been a nice few years having a consistent acting job so that’s been great.
PPLA: Last question…do you have any favorite songs that you love playing or new songs you are nervous to perform? And what’s with that bubble machine?
PAUL: Favorites, no! The song that is just me, the piano, and guitar…where I said it was about someone in the audience, that one is new. About two weeks old, but it is already people’s favorite. We thought it would be fun to have bubbles. We kept trying to get the bubble machine going but it just wouldn’t work!
For more info on the band or to buy the album, please visit Doris.