Paul Gellman is a singer/songwriter and multi-instrumentalist based on Gabriola Island, BC. He has written over 150 songs in an eclectic range of styles combining rock, pop, jazz, folk, blues, reggae, country, klezmer and more. He has performed solo and in bands for over 45 years, and brings a warm ambience to the stage.
Paul was a member of The Perth County Conspiracy in the ‘70s, touring and recording with the group, both in Canada and abroad. Later, he formed Island while living on Canada’s West Coast. This band performed original music for several more years, and was popular on the festival and community hall circuit in the west.
More recently, Paul’s activities have further broadened to include different musical forms, including Hebrew and Klezmer. These influences have added to his wide range of musical experience, helping to make his own compositions universal in their appeal.
Born in Toronto on June 15, 1953, Paul was immersed from the very beginning in a very musical environment. His older brother Steven was a child prodigy, and is a well-known Canadian composer and retired professor of music at the University of Ottawa. It was his early influence that inspired him to pursue musical studies. At six years old he studied violin and piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto. Paul also studied theory, ear training, and was a member of the Conservatory String Orchestra.
At 15, Paul was lured into more popular music, and he began exploring song writing and performing in rock bands. Paul left the University of Toronto after one year of formal studies to pursue a full time career in music. His informal education included touring with bar bands on the Ontario, and then the B.C. circuits. These included Medicine Wheel, Wild Blue Yonder and others. In 1973, he joined the now-legendary Canadian group The Perth County Conspiracy, and moved to Stratford, Ontario – the group’s home base. During this time the group performed regularly at the Black Swan Coffee House in Stratford, and he toured across Canada with the group.
Paul participated in several recordings, including their Break Out to Berlin album, recorded in what was then East Berlin in February 1975. The Perth County group was invited to Germany as part of the International Political Song Festival to represent Canada. There, they performed many times in various concert venues, most of which were taped for national television. As a result of their success and popularity at the Festival, they were invited to record an album there. One of Paul’s original songs, Breaking Down the Walls, is featured on that album, which enjoyed wide success in Germany as well as in Canada. He also participated in several other Perth County recording projects including Ten Lost Years and Then Some (Cedric Smith and Terry Jones), Black Creek (Bob Burchill), and others.
Paul left Perth County in 1975, moved back to B.C. and invited two other members of the group, David Woodhead and Jerome Jarvis to join him in B.C. where they formed a new band called Island in 1977. Most of the band’s music was written by Paul, and he was the lead singer, playing piano, guitar and fiddle. The band’s versatility and innovative instrumental improvisation kept them busy performing across B.C. and Alberta for the next few years. They also expanded and added other musicians as the occasion demanded. Their independent release Island Celebration was completed in 1978.
In the late 70’s, Paul met Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, the world-renowned “Singing Rabbi”, who inspired Paul to explore his Jewish roots and incorporate its spirit into his own music. He traveled with Shlomo and promoted and led bands performing in concert in Victoria, Vancouver, and other parts of B.C. Shlomo’s influence added to Paul’s wide mix of styles, including Hebrew, Yiddish and klezmer music, and also led to a rediscovery of the rich traditions of Judaism, from both a spiritual and cultural perspective.
Paul spent the next few years pursuing a solo career, performing in clubs and concerts in Ontario and B.C. Finally in 1985, he took a break from his musical pursuits and embarked on a new career in technology consulting, which became his main occupation for the next twenty-five years. At the same time, he continued to participate in several musical projects and bands, including Perth County Conspiracy reunions and revivals, Tom St. Louis’s Angels of Montenegro, and others. He also helped form a klezmer / Hebrew music ensemble known as The Nigunatics, and so widened his musical horizons with more exotic world music styles. Also during this time Paul continued to write and to explore different styles of musical communication. He learned more about jazz and incorporated many jazz standards and jazz flavoured originals into his repertoire.
In 2003, Paul decided to refocus more energy on his musical expression, and released a three song demo in June of 2004. This led to a renewed interest in forming a new band, recording a full CD of original material, and playing in front of an audience again.
Paul released his CD On This Island in June 2005. This recording features thirteen Gellman originals – some old, many more recent – covering a wide spectrum of musical styles that includes, rock, r&b, jazz, folk, blues, and even shades of klezmer. On This Island reunites Paul and many of his old musical pals, most notably co-producer and ex-Perth County Conspirator David Woodhead, as well as some of the finest musicians in Canada.
Since then, Paul has performed regularly solo and with his own band focusing on original music, both in Ontario and B.C. His performances are uplifting, inspiring and filled with soul! The songs are strong statements of hope, while acknowledging the reality of struggle in this world and its interconnected relationships. He has also worked as a sideman, musical director and music coach for many other ensembles.
Paul lives with his wife Amy on Gabriola Island, B.C., and together they share seven children and five grandchildren (so far!).