Paul DeFiglia: “Be selective about what you work on”

Be selective about what you work on. If your heart is not in the music, it can really take a toll on the quality of your work. We all need to pay bills, but you will do your best work when you are genuinely excited about the results. As a part of our series about Nashville’s […]

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Be selective about what you work on. If your heart is not in the music, it can really take a toll on the quality of your work. We all need to pay bills, but you will do your best work when you are genuinely excited about the results.

As a part of our series about Nashville’s rising stars, I had the distinct pleasure of interviewing Paul DeFiglia

Paul grew up in Winston-Salem and Greensboro, North Carolina. He started playing music in his early teens, learning bass from his father. After studying bass at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts, he received a Bachelor of Music from New York University in 2005. He lived in NYC for many years working as a bassist and playing with a wide variety of groups and in many genres, most notably The Avett Brothers and Langhorne Slim. He currently lives in Nashville with his wife, where he founded his recording studio, Daylight, to focus on production and engineering while continuing to work as a bassist.

Thank you so much for joining us in this series! Our readers would love to get to know you a bit better. Can you tell us a bit of the ‘backstory’ of how you grew up?

I grew up with a great appreciation for the arts. My mother is an actor, singer, artist and designer. My dad is a musician. My grandmother was a big jazz lover and my aunt and uncle were huge arts supporters. I was taught early on the value of artistic endeavors.

Can you share a story with us about what brought you to this specific career path?

I changed schools a lot and in my early teens to live with my dad and step-mom. I had been playing trumpet in the previous middle school band, but I suddenly felt really self-conscious about my range and embouchure. I had always admired my dad’s beautifully carved, upright bass, and so I asked him to show me how to play. Pretty soon I was able to play along with records, and I really felt like I was in the band, playing along with the Beatles, Santana, Jethro Tull, the Red Hot Chili Peppers, Dead Kennedys.

Can you tell us the most interesting story that happened to you since you began your career?

I got to make a record with Rick Rubin and The Avett Brothers. It was impactful on my aspirations and process in producing my own records.

Can you share with us an interesting story about living in Nashville?

When I first moved here, I got a chance to meet Charlie McCoy. Charlie is a legendary session musician going back to the early sessions on Music Row. He was very kind and showed me how to read the Nashville Number system. Later I discovered he had been one of the first people to ever develop and implement it.

Can you share with us a few of the best parts of living in Nashville? We’d love to hear some specific examples or stories about that.

I love being in close proximity to first-class musicians, engineers, technicians, and recording studios. And I was able to build and start my own studio, Daylight. There have been times when I need to record a singer or guitar player in a pinch, and I can get someone great here in a flash. Other times, my tape machine will go down, and there is a tape tech living a couple blocks away from my studio. I also love the community and camaraderie here. There’s a feeling of togetherness in the industry, and I have rarely ever felt put-down by anyone.

Can you share a story about the funniest mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Early on, my friend Billy Bennett came over and pointed out that my playback speakers were plugged in wrong and out of phase. This was causing a huge drop in bass that I had been overcompensating for. I was really embarrassed by that, and ever since, I am obsessively checking for phase issues.

None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?

I have had a few engineering and producer mentors since living in Nashville, guys with a lot of knowledge and experience who are always more than generous to help me and teach me things. Georges Sulmers, Billy Bennett, Albert DiFiore, and Andrija Tokic have all been there for me.

What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?

I recorded my first solo album this summer, In Daylight, with notable contributions from amazing musicians including Scott & Seth Avett, Erin Rae, Mat Davidson (Twain), Adam McBride-Smith, and more. I took this time during the pandemic to reinterpret songs that I find musically interesting, while also refining my analog tape recording. The pre-order for the album on vinyl, plus digital download, is currently up on Bandcamp. I also recorded and co-produced the new Langhorne Slim album, Strawberry Mansion, at my studio, Daylight, and I’m currently working on a record with Erin Rae and Mat Davidson.

What are your “5 things I wish someone told me when I first started” and why. Please share a story or example for each.

If someone had told me, I wouldn’t have listened. I was a wild and arrogant kid when I started, and I had to get beaten up (literally) a bit in order to learn. I took for granted people around me and even the gift that it is to play music and carve out a living doing it. I tried to leave music for a moment but I couldn’t, and ever since then, I have not taken one moment for granted. Music and money are awkward cohabitators, but I wake up grateful each day now to do the thing I love most.

Which tips would you recommend to your colleagues in your industry to help them to thrive and not “burn out”?

Be selective about what you work on. If your heart is not in the music, it can really take a toll on the quality of your work. We all need to pay bills, but you will do your best work when you are genuinely excited about the results.

You are a person of enormous influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

I think our musical tastes and identities can often be very clique-y and narrow-minded. If more music was borrowed from a wider range of influences over time and cultures, it could bring people together more and demonstrate better what our commonalities as humans are.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I usually recoil from anything cliché, but I like Shakespeare’s “…to thine own self be true.” If I trust my gut and base my decision-making on hope, then I’ll continue to grow.

Is there a person in the world, or in the US whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch with, and why? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

Probably Stevie Wonder. He is in my opinion the greatest American singer, songwriter, and musician alive. His music has been a constant inspiration to me throughout my life. His influence on American music is indelible.

How can our readers follow you online?,, Instagram and Twitter: @pauldefiglia

This was very meaningful, thank you so much! We wish you continued success!

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