At Home with Ellis Paul:
Folk singer Ellis Paul and his girlfriend, Sharon Teeler, are making beautiful music together—and art, and books, and even furniture.
Their mutual love of the arts, and of each other, oozes out of every nook and cranny in the jam-packed three-room home Paul has rented for five years and where she has lived since August.
In the living room, a huge reproduction of a 1930s poster they painted together hangs above the couch and appears to watch over the first instrument Paul played as a child, a trumpet. On an adjacent wall, three of five guitars he keeps at home (along with two banjos and an accordion) tempt visitors to play, which they’re welcome to do.
Above the door, a photo of Paul singing the national anthem at Fenway Park rests beside the first item Teeler brought to the home, a Balinese angel that is “supposed to bring love and protection,” she says.
On display in the hallway are several picture frames Teeler made, as well as gifts from Paul’s fans. Among them are a fully stocked, guitar-shaped wine rack, a Ouija board made by a fan, and two Beatles records. (“If you mention something about any item fans are connected to, they send you stuff,” he says.)
In the bedroom, surrounded by family photos and several of the singer’s 11 Boston Music Awards, sits a nightstand the couple created together using a wood-burning tool and acrylic paints. The word “dreams” is emblazoned on top.
Despite the countless bits of artwork and knickknacks in the home, the ambience is peaceful, loosely following Feng Shui design.
"I don't have a black belt in it, just a functional knowledge," says Paul, revealing the humor that comes across in his songs and performances. He describes the home's decor as "neo-clutter."
"The idea is to be as comfortable as possible, make it not feel like a hotel room, and be reminded of things we love," he says. "I travel all the time. I perform at 150 dates a year, so I'm gone about 200 days. I couldn't have a home before. It's too much upkeep. Now with Sharon in my life, we're going to be looking for a house."
About their relationship, he discloses: "We think there's something great happening."
The "something great" carries over professionally. Not only did the two of them co-write one of his new songs, "Rattle My Cage," but Teeler is "informing a few" of the new songs on his next CD. "Some are based on little life details I got from her," he says.
She is helping him edit a book of his lyrics, poems, and journal entries from the road. "I bounce everything off of her," he says.
Originally from Presque Island, Maine, Paul, 36, graduated from Boston College and began his music career when a knee injury sidelined him from running track one semester. He casually took up guitar. Well known in the folk circuit for more than a decade, he recently reached commercial notoriety when two of his songs were selected for the popular movies "Me, Myself, and Irene" and "Shallow Hal." His newest CD on Rounder Records is titled "Sweet Mistakes."
Teeler, 31, originally from Virginia, teaches film, speech, writing, anthropology, and English literature at the Benjamin Franklin Institute of Technology of Boston while on leave from a doctoral program at the University of Virginia. She holds a bachelor's degree in cultural anthropology and a master's degree in environmental anthropology, has studied theater in New York, and has taken courses in photography, creative writing, and Japanese. She taught English in Japan for one year.
"Sharon lives a very broad life and so do I, so it's nice we have a lot of overlapping interests," Paul says. He's even introducing Teeler to his stargazing hobby.
"I'm memorizing the constellations now, so we're kind of doing that together," he says. "There are little treasures, surprises you look at in the sky all the time and don't realize what's there." He sounds as though he is weaving one of the many tales he is known for during performances.