Paul Doffing: I do not tour by bicycle to make an example of myself

Paul Doffing: I do not tour by bicycle to make an example of myself
Photo by Kevin C. Walker

Making his own way in music, Paul Doffing writes and moves at his own pace -- and that pace is set by his bicycle. In the summer of 2012, Paul toured the country by biking to gigs and came back a changed man. Set to release his latest album, Doffing shares his music stories from the road and his struggles and triumphs in being an independent musician. The self-titled album has Paul revisiting his past, but with the wide-eyed belief of hope and change in the future.

Before his album-release show at the Aster Cafe, Doffing spoke with Gimme Noise about his move to Ames, Iowa, and his reasons for touring the way he does, including how he tries to make the world a better place.

See also: How Paul Doffing toured his music around the U.S. -- on his bike

Gimme Noise: Since we last spoke, you have moved to Ames, Iowa. What is the music scene like there?

Paul Doffing: The music scene in Ames is really wonderful. I didn't necessarily expect it before I moved here, but it is immediately evident when you are here. There are some great venues and the scene is very open and welcoming. I'm loving it!

Gimme Noise: How did touring go with the three-piece you were planning?
Paul Doffing:

That project is still in its early stages. We are three busy people and we have been collaborating online, but our priorities have been on other things. My big priority has been my new self-titled album.

Gimme Noise: In doing your part for making the world "greener," how do you feel people accept your principles on this subject? 
Paul Doffing:

If I was going to write a book, it would be mainly about my answer to this question. I'll do my best to be brief.  I do not tour by bicycle to make an example of myself. I tour by bicycle because I get around on my bicycle every day. I bike because it is much more sustainable than driving a car, it's cheap, and I find it really enjoyable.

Making an effort toward a more sustainable way of life has been a universally resonant concept with the people I have met and performed for. People realize that many common practices are not sustainable and want to know how to change. I find that most people I talk to realize, at least partially, that our situation is quite dire if things do not change.

Our system currently has no substitute for fossil fuels, and fossil fuel resources are rapidly depleting. The logical conclusion is that following this course will lead to the starvation of millions of people. Importantly, this line of reasoning doesn't even involve global climate change, which will almost certainly increase the severity of the crisis.

Gimme Noise: What do you say to people who say that's it's futile -- that "You're only one person. What difference can that make?"

Paul Doffing: What difference does one person make? A movement is made up of people. I am one person participating in the life of the whole world. When we see that our present course is unsustainable and decide to change our own lives, we change the whole world.

 Gimme Noise: How were things after your last tour? Was it difficult to decompress after such an intense period?

Paul Doffing: Sitting still after cycling for so long proved a bit psychologically challenging. I felt very trapped by the walls of my apartment and confused by the idea of going to the same places every day. Within a few weeks I settled down. These days I am doing more yoga and running, even a few races here and there, and getting stoked to be on the next tour.

Gimme Noise: Tell me about the new album. Are any of these songs written directly about your time on the road?
Paul Doffing:

The majority of the songs on the album were written in anticipation of, during, or as a result of the experience of the Freedom From Fuel Tour.  "Rollin' in My Bones" and "How Does It Feel?" were written as I embarked on tour after releasing my first album,

Blossom Is You

. On that tour I decided to tour the US by bicycle.  "When Home Is a Long Way Off" was only half of a song before the bike tour. I knew the feeling of losing something I loved -- of being far from home, of being alone. Upon embarking I thought that I would feel even more alone out in the middle of nowhere on a bicycle. That didn't turn out to be the case, and in fact I felt more at home than ever. I definitely did not feel alone, and if anything I felt more in touch with the life of others and of the world itself. I learned the second half of the song on the road.  "Take Me in Again" has a lot to do with the vulnerability of being an independent musician. It is about trying despite all odds, spending everything to create what you love, and hoping that someone will take you in if you have no place to go. It has a lot of imagery from the bike tour: not knowing if you'll be able to make it, shadows growing shorter as the day passes, resting when it becomes to hard to go on, the redemption of a loving companion.

Gimme Noise: Did you write while you were on the road? Or were they stored until you had time to relax?
Paul Doffing:

"Road to Nowhere Blues" was written as I rode along and was recorded during a newspaper interview in Billings, Montana. I recorded countless demos on my iPhone as I went along, which were the groundwork for the new album. When I got back I was able to get in the studio and lay them down properly.

Gimme Noise: Do you have any favorite tracks?
Paul Doffing:

The whole album is very honest, and in being so, close to my heart. I love performing "Never Meant to Hurt You" and "Rollin' in My Bones." "When Home Is a Long Way Off," "Take Me in Again," and "Rabid Wolf" still give me chills if I listen back to the recordings.

Paul Doffing: I do not tour by bicycle to make an example of myself
Photo by Jen Tillman

Gimme Noise: How have you been preparing for this upcoming regional tour?

Paul Doffing:

Bicycling everywhere, as usual. Running regularly and doing a few 5-10k races to keep myself engaged with it. Strength yoga twice a week. I also incorporate yoga into my running workouts whenever possible. Oh, and performing the songs.

Gimme Noise: How will you be getting up to Minneapolis for your album release show?
Paul Doffing:

On my bicycle. I'll be biking about 900 miles total from Ames to dates in Minneapolis, Rochester, Iowa City, and Rock Island, Illinois. 

Gimme Noise: Will you be doing an acoustic set for the album release?
Paul Doffing:

Yes. My six-string carbon fiber guitar will be with me, and I might be able to get a 12-string to the show as well.

Paul Doffing will release his self-titled album at the Aster Cafe on Monday, October 21, with Shenandoah Davis and Anthonie Tonnon.
AA, $10, 6:30 p.m.

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