Paul Adelstein Interview: 'Private Practice' Star Makes Time for Doris
Los Angeles band Doris will release their new full-length album titled All the Details on February 21, 2012. Doris is the musical outlet of singer, songwriter and actor Paul Adelstein (vocals and piano). All the Details crosses musical boundaries from a Wurlitzer-infused pop jingle to acoustic guitar-laced rock passages with sweeping vocal harmonies. The piano-driven album features ten tracks of anthemic Randy Newman-esque and Harry Nilsson-styled compositions.
As a songwriter and composer, Adelstein has created original music for New Crime Productions, the Defiant Theatre and Live Bait Theatre. He scored and wrote original songs for the HBO short film Mullitt, which appeared at the Sundance film Festival.
“I like being able to switch gears and totally forget about acting and come home to play my guitar. When I’m locked up on a song or just annoyed with myself and my playing, I love to be able to go and act. It’s a real blessing to be able to clear your head that way. Yes, the days are full, but in the best way. I can’t imagine two other things I’d rather be doing.”
The talented artist currently stars in the ABC television series Private Practice, a spinoff of Grey’s Anatomy, as series regular Cooper Freedman. The actor has also appeared in numerous television shows including ER, Law & Order: SVU, Without a Trace, Las Vegas, Medium, Scrubs, and Prison Break (Paul Kellerman). Film roles have included Intolerable Cruelty, Memoirs of a Geisha, Be Cool, Collateral and Bedazzled.
Adelstein is married to actress Liza Weil who played Paris Geller on Gilmore Girls. They had their first child in April 2010, a girl named Josephine Elizabeth Weil-Adelstein.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Paul, give me some history on your band Doris.
Paul Adelstein: I lived in Chicago most of my life, and I started a band with some friends from high school when I was 20. It then turned into two different bands and one of them was Doris. In Doris, I was the songwriter and singer.
We put out a record, and then I had to move to Vancouver for work and went back down to LA. A couple of the guys came out to do some recording with me. So, it’s me writing the songs and singing. It has become a variety of different people playing with me, but some of those original guys from Chicago still play with me also.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Why the name Doris?
Paul Adelstein: Well, it’s my mother’s name. It wasn’t my idea (laughs). It was a bit of a dare. We were batting around band names amongst ourselves, and somebody came up with that. We all had a good laugh and then it kind of grew on us. It was like, “Was I daring enough to do it and endure such merciless fun?” But, we did it. I like it. It’s good enough.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have a certain theme in mind when you wrote the ten songs for the album All the Details?
Paul Adelstein: I didn’t specifically, but I’m constantly writing songs. I met some guys out here that I really wanted to record with in a hurry, so I sat down with the songs I had and tried to make a cohesive album. While I didn’t write them to relate to one another, I found certain themes amongst them I thought worked well together which is kind of reflective in the title (All the Details) and in the title song. There’s a lot of stuff about achievement, success, pressure for success, and also about a bill of goods that gets sold to people.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Comparisons have been made between you and Randy Newman, but I hear some Elvis Costello also.
Paul Adelstein: Definitely.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I don’t know if anyone has said that before to you.
Paul Adelstein: They used to say it quite a bit. I’ve been able to take that out a little bit, but I used to joke that Elvis Costello taught me how to sing. The first things I could sing were those songs, and it really did teach me how to be able to use my voice.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): So, Elvis Costello is one of your influences?
Paul Adelstein: Huge influence. Always was and continues to be.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Who did you listen to as a teenager?
Paul Adelstein: Everything from Costello and Squeeze and Billy Bragg to Michael Jackson and Prince. Those were my favorites. I have an older brother and sister, so they were coming home from college with the Smiths, the Smithereens, and REM.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I hear pop, folk, and the blues on the album. How would you describe your music?
Paul Adelstein: I would say its eclectic, but I would also say that they get different kinds of treatment sometimes. They get a whiskey soaked kind of late night barfly treatment even though if I sat down and played it on an acoustic guitar, it would sound like a jangly pop song.
Describing it is so hard, isn’t it? What’s that famous quote … talking about music is like dancing about architecture. There are a couple of folk songs, piano rock, straight up ballads, and satire story songs. When I say that to people, it sounds like it’s an album that’s all over the place. When I listen to it, I don’t think it is all over the place. Somebody once told me that my music sounds like Paul Simon and Randy Newman got drunk together and …
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Got married (laughs).
Paul Adelstein: Yeah, right (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There is some Irish folk influence in “Campfire Song.”
Paul Adelstein: Yeah. I’ve listened to a lot of that kind of music. Once I started playing it for the guys I was recording with, it really had a place on the record.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was “Turning Blue” recorded live at a club?
Paul Adelstein: No. We kind of added that stuff (laughs). That’s what happens when you edit stuff at home, and you think you’re clever late at night throwing stuff on there. You know, it’s a story about sitting in a restaurant bar with someone.
It’s like a true story and I wanted to give it a sense of other people being around. It also gave us a little bit of a laugh to have those kinds of sound effects. I love records that have that stuff.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It actually sounded like my husband making music on his Mac with GarageBand or something.
Paul Adelstein: Exactly. It was Logic and recorded stuff I had, yeah (laughs).
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you ever hear melodies in your head?
Paul Adelstein: Sometimes I hear a melody in my head. More often than not, I will come up with some lyrics and then sit down with a guitar or piano and try to see if there is a melody that talks to me. On the other side of it, sometimes I’ll just have a chord progression that I really like and a tune, and I’ll have to come up with lyrics to match it.
What normally happens is I have a piece of a song (lyrics and music), and I then build the song out from there. I’ll say, “Well, this is a good chorus. I need a verse.” Or vice versa. I try to make something cohesive out of it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Did you have piano training when you were younger?
Paul Adelstein: I took piano lessons when I was a kid. I couldn’t ever really read music. I was just terrible at it, so I would just pluck through and then play what I’d learned by ear. But, I was never really a very good piano student unfortunately.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your days must be completely full with acting and songwriting.
Paul Adelstein: I started a band and joined a theatre company in the same year when I was 20, and since then I’ve been doing both constantly with some exceptions along the way. But, they really complement each other in my life.
I like being able to switch gears and totally forget about acting and come home to play my guitar. When I’m locked up on a song or just annoyed with myself and my playing, I love to be able to go and act. It’s a real blessing to be able to clear your head that way. Yes, the days are full, but in the best way. I can’t imagine two other things I’d rather be doing.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your first film break was appearing in The Grifters with John Cusack.
Paul Adelstein: I was in a theatre company in Chicago that John had started and four of us from the company kind of auditioned together. I came out to California to shoot and that was a real trip. I was 20, and it pretty much blew my mind!
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I’ll bet it did! I’m a huge fan of Private Practice.
Paul Adelstein: Oh good, that’s nice.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You’ll be directing your second episode.
Paul Adelstein: I just finished it last week.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): How do the other cast members respond to you as the “boss” when you direct?
Paul Adelstein: Yeah (laughs). Well, you know, I guess we’re all the bosses really. We’ve been doing it long enough that the ship is moving along the right way and not crashing into rocks (laughs). We have an amazing crew and an amazing group of actors, so it’s very collaborative.
When one of us is directing or one of the producers becomes a director, it feels like just the family on set, and it actually goes quite smoothly. It’s challenging to do both, but it’s pretty thrilling, too. You get to see all the nuts and bolts of making a TV show and get to make a million little decisions a day that add up to the whole. I really enjoy it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will that episode air in March?
Paul Adelstein: I think it’s on next week unless they preempt us. It is a really emotional episode. There is no real guest cast that we haven’t seen before except for one person. There are no outside medical stories or anything like we usually have, so it was a little bit of a changeup in that regard. A lot of big things happen to the main doctors. It’s definitely a tearjerker, but there are some light moments in it, too. It’ll be fun.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Cooper Freedman, because of his work, has always been great with kids. Now, all of a sudden, he is faced with parental responsibilities. How has that character evolved?
Paul Adelstein: There have been a couple of great things that they’ve written where Cooper knows exactly the right thing to do. He’s a pediatrician, obviously, and as you said, he’s really good with kids. But, when it comes to doing it with his own child, he’s just completely at a loss.
From the pediatricians I talked to (when we started the show), it’s absolutely true. You just completely lose almost all your medical training and your objectivity when you’re dealing with your own children. That’s been really fun to play. It’s also quite a changeup for Cooper and Charlotte. She was really ambiguous about having children, and here she is with a nine year old whom Cooper loves, but it definitely causes some tension at home.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): It would be interesting if Charlotte became pregnant. That would open up yet another can of worms.
Paul Adelstein: Yes. I wonder how Mason would feel about that.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): There may be some jealousies. We’re seeing a maternal side of Charlotte that no one knew was there.
Paul Adelstein: Definitely no one, especially Cooper.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Cooper and Charlotte have always been known for their steamy sex.
Paul Adelstein: Yes.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): That seems to have been put on hold since the arrival of Mason.
Paul Adelstein: There is actually some talk in some of these episodes where they quip to each other like, “What happened to our sex life?” But, just because you don’t see it on screen doesn’t mean … they’re certainly not in a sexless marriage by any stretch. But, I think that once they brought a kid into it, it has definitely changed what they want to show.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Had you worked with Benjamin Bratt before he joined the show in Season 4?
Paul Adelstein: No. I had never even met him.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Was he a good fit immediately or did it take some time for him to gel with the cast?
Paul Adelstein: Immediately, like he’d always been there. He is of a like mind with all of us, and it’s a pretty tight knit group. But, he’s just a great addition. He’s super talented, a very nice guy, really smart and funny.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Can you give us the scoop on upcoming episodes of Private Practice?
Paul Adelstein: A lot of stuff goes down. We’re taking a little break. When Scandal comes on, we go to Tuesdays. After Episode 18, we go off the air for a few weeks. It almost feels like a season ender type of cliffhanger. There’s going to be a lot of stuff building up in the next few weeks that kind of boils over in Episodes 17 and 18.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): I know you can’t talk about anything specific.
Paul Adelstein: Shonda would literally come to my house and beat me up.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): She probably would (laughs).
Paul Adelstein: Yeah, she would.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Your wife, Liza Weil, guest starred on a Private Practice episode last year. Is it difficult working that closely with a family member?
Paul Adelstein: I didn’t have any scenes with her. I wish I had. But, she’s a big fan of the show, so it was fun for her. I think it made her a little nervous going to my workplace, but she knew everybody from different social events, so it worked out well.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Liza will be appearing in the new Shonda Rhimes series Scandal.
Paul Adelstein: I believe she has done all seven of them. It comes on soon, and I can’t wait to see it.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): You and your wife have a daughter not quite two years old. What has been the hardest part about being a parent?
Paul Adelstein: My daughter was born right after Season 3. Literally the night of the wrap party, my wife went into labor. That was great timing because I had three months off. It was hard to go back to work. Directing was hard because there were three or four days in a row where I would get up before my daughter would get up, and then come home and she’d be asleep.
That was a hard adjustment because one of the nice things about acting is that you don’t have a regular schedule. There are times when you get lucky and you are around a lot. That has been really fun for us. But, they grow up so fast. You miss a couple of days, and you feel like you missed a year.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Do you and Liza have to make time to spend together?
Paul Adelstein: Yeah we do. We do a date night. But, staying at home is usually a date night, too. We both love the same TV shows and love to watch movies together. It’s just fun being home these days.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Will you be touring soon with the band?
Paul Adelstein: Hopefully in the spring. The show goes down early April, and we’re trying to set something up for late April or early May, just to go out and do some cities.
Melissa Parker (Smashing Interviews Magazine): Paul, continued success with the music and Private Practice.
Paul Adelstein: Thanks. It was really nice talking to you.
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