Words by Sean Moeller, Illustration by Johnnie Cluney, Sound engineering by Mike Gentry
There is a reverence in and of Christopher Paul Stelling that is immediately perceptible. It's striking and it's powerful. It's a draw. It's a magnetism that sucks you right into the landscape that he sees. You see, Stelling has these eyes and a way with his motions that let's you know that not a second goes by him without it plucking all of his strings, without it setting off the alarms in his ears, without it caressing him on the leg, rubbing up against his cheek, rummaging through his hair, whispering, kissing and holding him just a little bit, even if it's for the shortest time. He doesn't stare. No, it may feel like that at times, but it's more intense than a stare. It's an actual, compassionate engagement with whomever he's with, whenever and wherever they are at the time. It's a sensation that makes you feel as if you're submerged within his own private hot well, down in the sensational darkness where the eyes and mind can work overtime, where they can connect through unshared experiences and figments.
Stelling might be, most likely is a doubting gentleman -- a man who believes in the dead of nights and in the soul that they show, but he may also curse the dead of nights and be worrisome about the lack of soul that they and the people they encompass show. He might be wary to look at anything for too long or it just might distort upon itself. It's better to look hard and then look away or move on, create some distance, for it all could just get too overwhelming to take. From his songs - those of the crows and of the old men, those who have lived heavy lives and been hurt more than they've been loved, but loved so beautifully when they were - we hear a man who is never sleepy, but ever alive, ever present for he wants to be flawless in his consumption of the short amount of time that he's given. Stelling brings to mind a passage from the introduction that Black Francis wrote for a collection of interviews that Ray Bradbury gave to his biographer Sam Weller over the course of a decade. It sounds as if the same man might be getting referenced as Francis writes, "Those words in his books still caress with love. The words are not all happy, but they are all beamed out from a heart hopelessly in love. They can be dark yet they whisper sweet, sweet love. Ray Bradbury loves you. He loves the whole damn thing, from the most distant burning star to your silly haircut. It's a Jacques Tati love, a Yoko Ono love, an Alfred Hitchcock kind of love. It's not fiction. It's a human saying yes to life itself, yes, yes, yes. Ray Bradbury validates not only humanity, but every molecule in this exploding soup of a universe." Stelling is a lover, despite his dark dreams, despite the crooked people, the twisted up bodies that he enjoys writing about with sweeping, tornadic verve, despite the crocodiles that he's convinced are chasing him, despite it all. He might have a complicated relationship with his god as he sings, "The sky opened up like God for once had something to say," but that has only a fraction to do with how he gets around his beating heart, how he gets around his days. On "Lives of the Saints," he sings, "He sang, 'Oh, won't you let it all come down.'/He sang, 'Oh, won't you put me in the ground,'" and it's there where we stop for the reference is one he makes to himself. He's singing into a mirror, aching and heaving, wanting the avalanche of all human emotion to strike him like a gust, like a truck and only then will he rest, for there's nothing left. Just bury him. He's finished.
Christopher Paul Stelling Official Site