The Whole Story
Paul Jacob Evans
Middle of Nowhere
I grew up in rural Texas, think “King of the Hill”-style rural Texas. Where ‘howdy’ is the proper salutation and high school football still runs supreme. A small town 70 miles southwest of Fort Worth, the quaint and quiet: Stephenville, Texas. Yes, that same quaint and quiet little town famous for those UFO sightings a few years back. Or maybe you heard of “Moo-La”, the plastic cow statue erected outside of the courthouse, who advertises Erath county’s dairy sales for the month.
A Family Ranch
My parents couldn’t have been any happier, nor have been any more different. My father, Joe C Evans, was a southern Texas born and raised native. He was a calm and gentle traveling salesman who fancied himself a rancher on the weekends. Later in life, I learned he was even an ordained minister, which I didn’t know until after he passed away when I was 18. My mother, Katie R Rogalla, was a 60s hippie flower child from North Dakota. Adventurous and artistic with a Fargo accent. Painter, sculptor, and photographer. Plus the one responsible for my love of The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and Janis Joplin. I certainly took after my mother's side of the family. But back then, it was just the three of us, on a remote ranch half an hour outside of Stephenville. A ranch, a family, … and a lot of animals.
A Ray of Hope
Then high school ended, which it has the habit of doing. I ended up going to a college in the same town, Tarleton State University. Wanted to study just acting there, but they only offered a BFA in Theatre as a generalist. This was because there were only 16 of us students within the entire theatre department. But as small as the department was it became an amazing experience. Some history: Back in the 70s, a local Stephenville businessman who regularly flew to New York for Broadway shows gave the school a large donation to build a proper theater. And boy did they ever. Full grid lighting, Neotek tube sound boards, massive costume shop, and an incredible scenic design and build facility. All within a complex including a 900+ seat auditorium, a 300+ seat reverse thrust theatre, and even a 99-seat black box. For all of us students, it was a creative paradise.
I had a blast there. College wasn’t so much about the ‘college’ part, but it was about being in what we all treated as a professional theatre company. My years there? Performed on stage, fabricated props, worked on costumes, designed and built scenery. The latter I was surprised that I enjoyed. In my 2nd year, I was Assistant Foreman, 3rd year took over as Scene Shop Foreman. By the time I left college I was accumulating lead roles on stage, oversaw operation as company’s Technical Director, scenic designer for the main stage productions, and won numerous awards for performance and design, all with some of the most amazing people in my life. It was incredible, wouldn’t have changed a thing.
Keeping it Weird
Of course, college ends up being an impactful chapter in your life, a chapter many of us tend to avoid closing for some time. Some longer than others. My moment of closure happened at our local Dairy Queen. I was out of school for the summer and needed a quick job to sustain myself until the fall. I ran around on one of my job-hunt-runs and saw a help wanted sign over at the Dairy Queen. I hop in and talk to the employees there. Here’s what they tell me: They already hired the guy two weeks ago, just never got around to taking the sign down. It was then that I realized I wasn’t cut out for this small town living and opted to upgrade to a larger cultural center. That was on a Tuesday, by that Saturday I’m loading everything into a horse trailer to close the chapter on my small town life, and set sail to Texas’s own progressive island: Austin.
Austin was amazing. Accidentally fell into some work being a sous-chef at a Korean restaurant, where the head chef only spoke Korean - very fun story, it was a blast. And I started doing as much theatre as I could. I ended up at a very interesting place, The Vortex. Very odd place. Lots experimental shows, had a good time. Was at the Vortex for about a year when some of my friends were talking with me about local film opportunities. I was always searching for different ways to learn more and more about entertainment. My friends suggested that I get on austinactors.net and start emailing producers, I did. Two years later: I ended up accumulating around nearly 50 film roles. Life was good, and I was very happy. That’s when I walked into a club called Elysium, paid $10 cover to see some band called “Ghetto Princess”...
A Chance Encounter
She stood up there surrounded by 3 cardboard cutouts of members whom she just fired from the band, not 2 hours before. It was just her and an amazing drummer, Scott Sutton. From the first guitar power chord, the entire audience was spell-bound, and that’s not easy in Austin by any means. It ended: I say hi to them and take off. They would play another show: I would end up there have a good time and take off. Another show: I’m there. Another show: I’m waiting outside before the gate opens. Another show: I’m meeting them to pack up their gear first. Somehow I’ve become a roadie for my favorite band ever... by accident.
I ended up going on tour with them. It was the three of us in a small “special” school bus. When we got back the last few shows were played with a band-friend named Giant Squid. Someone talked with somebody and next thing I know the drummer from our band was going to keep going with Giant Squid. So my favorite band (who by this point has changed their name) was down to just 1 member and 1 roadie. Things are bleak. But she ends up holding auditions and finds another drummer. Life briefly goes back to normal, until a month later when that guy flips out on her.
She calls me that night and says we have to get all of her gear out of the rehearsal space immediately. She already found an alternate rehearsal spot. We get her gear setup… And I bring over some stuff I had in a storage unit: a DJ console, PA speakers, and an old drum set of mine. I stop her and say: “Hey look… I’ll set my crap up in the corner and cut the rent with ya, I’m not getting into any band or going to be bringing people by here… So no worries… I’ll stay out of your hair.” She looks at me, “YOU’RE A DRUMMER??!!!!!” We ended up jamming out for 6 hours that night. At 4 am we’re having a long discussion outside next to my truck. I made a decision. And within two weeks, I’m playing my first show ever, in my favorite band, to a packed crowd at Headhunters in Austin, TX. It was magical. So I became a musician… by accident.
The Band Era
The band was an incredible part of my life, and abound with adventure. We ended up doing 4 albums and toured the US 4-5 times. It really was an adventure from every corner: Played headlining shows during SxSW for crowds of thousands, countless warehouse shows all over the country, and more house parties than I could ever remember. We were drugged at a show once, to a police-involved incident where she beat up 3 skinheads that were heckling us. I even have a fan out there who tattooed my autograph. We tried to tour the UK, but were detained at Heathrow airport and put into jail for 18 hours (long story: Visas). Went to Mexico, I was almost kidnapped (long story: MS-13), and Canada... I ate ‘poutine’? (... well... not that long of a story). Couldn’t ask for a better time. But, as I would learn, the universe had other plans for me. She came out of the kitchen, this particular night, with a stern look on her face. She was talking with our producer in the other room, whom for years has wanted to replace me. This is her quote: “We’ve decided that you need to leave.” And that…. was…. ‘that’. They drove away to go to their next show and left me at the house to move out. I was crushed.
A Little Secret
I tried to find another band that I could really get my heart and soul into… but it just wasn’t quite lining up. Big Mike was talking with me, and he suggested maybe I should start singing and front a band. He gave me his friends info… That guy named “Guy”, a vocal coach. So I call up “Guy” and set an appointment. I enter his sanctuary, as was written on his front door, to enter his domain. I hear from a back room: “HELLO THERE…. IS THIS PJ?” “Uhhh… Yes sir.”, I reply. “PLEASE SIT, RELAX, ENJOY. TEA IS ON THE COUNTER”. “Uh. Ok. Thank you.” About 20 minutes pass as he finishes with another student. That student leaves and here enters this man wearing a momo, that guy named “Guy”. The feeling you get meeting him is like if someone dump-trucked a load of chakra on you: Intensely positive energy. We meet and start having weekly singing sessions.
As the weeks go on, it’s the same routine… I get there… Guy is working with this other student, we meet, talk universe, talk vocals, sing. Next week: Talk about my past, talk universe, sing. Following week: Dig into my past, talk universe…. did I sing this week? And we continue to sing less and less and talk more and more about the universe. He gives me a call one day: “PPPPPJJJJJJJ, HHHHHHIIIII. THIS WEDNESDAY, WOULD YOU PLEASE COME AN HOUR EARLY?” “Of course! No problem.” I show up and it’s Guy and his other student I’ve seen dozens of times. “HI PJ… I WANTED TO HAVE YOU TWO MEET. I FEEL YOU TWO SHOULD KNOW EACH OTHER.” “Sure, thanks Guy”, I say. “Hi, I’m PJ… Good to meet you.” The other student smiles, “Hi, I’m Dr. Joe Vitale.”
That Brief Road Trip
We all sit-down and talk for hours about the law of attraction, the universe, the secret… Everything. It comes suggested by a particular person there that I might benefit from a certain type of ancient ceremony (that usually takes place in Peru.). I get the information and talk with a few friends. One of them was also very interested in this, so a month later I and my friend Steve decide to make the trip to this particular ceremony. We’re a bit weary about what is going to happen that night.
It was intense. Like the most frighteningly terrifying and at the same time amazingly positive thing I’ve ever done. It’s like a hard reboot for your soul if that makes any sense. On the entire 25+ trip back home we’re both too stunned to even talk. Just listening to Dr. Joe Vitale’s Clearing Mind Meditation CD on repeat. We end up stopping at a gas station, Steve says he needs to take a walk and smoke a cigarette. I nod. As I’m gassing up the car I get a call from my friend Jacq. I texted her at a previous stop and told her what was going on, she’s very spiritual and loves stuff like this. She’s intrigued, but I interrupt with a question: “Jacq, what’s next? What’s after something like this?” She pauses, “Well… you’ve been to Burning Man right?” “No… No, I haven’t.”
A City in the Dust
Four months later, I’m packed into my car for this 10-day trip. Camping gear, food, supplies, and sitting in ingress traffic on this remote desert wasteland. There’s this fine powder dust everywhere. The wind is howling. On the playa surface, entrance road, the road to Black Rock City: Ticket check station. “TICKET PLEASE!!!!” She screams over the sound of the wind. I show her the ticket and she goes through my car to check for stowaway passengers. “ALRIGHT! HAVE A GOOD BURN! AND WELCOME HOME!!!!” And I drive into the vast city. I was camping with Jacq, her then boyfriend (they’re married now) and their whole crew from Los Angeles. Absolutely magical week. Absolutely life-changing: Burning Man 2011, and I've been going ever since. [WHY AM I A BURNER?]
As the week wore on, they found out more about my story. I told them I was looking to move to New York City, they balked at the idea. “Why not LA?”, they interrogated. I’ve been through Los Angeles on tour, but only North Hollywood, which I thought was all of Los Angeles, “Nah… It’s not for me.” I scold back. Jacq chimes in, “Wait... NoHo?!?!! Ahhhh no no. PJ…. You need to check out Silverlake, Echo Park, Eagle Rock, the east-side! Listen, come to LA for 1 week and stay with us, give us a shot.” That was September.
Four months later, my JetBlue flight is landing in Long Beach. I stayed with them for a week out in Venice and absolutely fell in love with the east side. 6 months later, on July 4th, 2012 at 4:30 am: I pull up in my Honda Element after a two-day road trip from Austin with one trailer of all my belongings. I find two parking spots outside of what would become my first Silverlake apartment, and slept in my car to wait for the landlord to come and give me keys later that morning.
And here we are now. Over these years I’ve really had a chance to explore what Los Angeles has to offer. Back into Film and TV, have played in numerous TV and film roles, shoot my own projects for fun, and work on whatever else my imagination dreams up. It’s seriously a creative paradise. I love it here and will be calling this magical city home for many years to come. Working as a professional actor and get to take on carpentry, welding, or other build projects for just sheer enjoyment. Even accidentally ended up with a project building with Legos. I guess I still get to be a Toys”R” Us kid. Life really is beautiful if you allow it to be. If it's one thing I've learned throughout my life, it's this: Wherever life takes you = go. Just do it. The rewards are truly worth it. Honest.
With love and gratitude,
Being Out of Place
In high school, I was that awkward artistic kid that sat in the back of the class. Much more prone to draw on my desk than listen to a lecture. As my interest in artistic imagery increased so did the scale of art. By the end of each semester, entire desks were getting covered, along with some rather large installations I hid into the school. The administration didn’t really know what to do with me, here you have this kid who puts a lot of effort into something that’s not schoolwork, what do we do? ... I guess we put him in art and drama classes. Well… actually, that was a pretty good idea.