The Midcoast has always enjoyed a vibrant music scene, one that’s brighter during the summer months, and those familiar with the scene know the familiar faces in the crowd and on stage. One of those recognizable faces is Paul Mellyn, a New England Bluegrass Hall of Famer and home restoration specialist who has been playing here since the 2000s.
Mellyn’s accomplishments as a musician, aside from the countless friends he’s made, include an induction into the Rhode Island Bluegrass Alliance Hall of Fame in 2023 with The Neon Valley Boys, writing a song for the band Northern Lights called “My Only One” that charted at No. 4 in the bluegrass Billboard Hot 100 in 1991, and helping produce and play on more than a dozen albums.
While Mellyn has been a part of many bands and projects, he said he’s always sought the magic-like connection that comes from making music with friends.
“That’s why you do it, right?” Mellyn said. “The feeling of connecting with friends and playing is like no other.”
Mellyn’s start in music was something he came by naturally. For as long as he can remember, he knew playing an instrument and singing in front of an audience was something he wanted to do.
“I remember looking at musicians doing their thing, rock stars, and I thought ‘I want to do that,’” Mellyn said.
Mellyn started playing music when he was “pretty young,” beginning on brass instruments like the trumpet and trombone.
However, a fateful sports injury derailed his brass aspirations.
“I broke my tooth playing street hockey and it kind of ruined my ability to play,” Mellyn said.
According to Mellyn, this was around the time he went to a bluegrass festival down in Virginia, where he felt his love for the genre took shape.
“I was hooked,” Mellyn said. “I loved the sound.”
Soon he was playing the mandolin, and it wasn’t long after that he found the guitar.
“Guitar just started to appeal to me more, the voice of it,” Mellyn said.
When Mellyn was around 13, he wrote one of his first of many songs about being kind, titled “Man Beneath Your Feet”.
“It was about not looking down on others, being nice to poor people,” Mellyn said.
Another song of Mellyn’s called “Guns of November” that he wrote for the band Northern Lights was based off of a true story about a hunting accident that killed his niece in Appleton.
“I didn’t come right and say it in the song,” Mellyn said. “But that’s what the feeling of the song was, that something had happened.”
Mellyn grew up in Chepachet, R.I. and moved to Providence, R.I. around high school, where he lived for the next 30 years.
His family moved to Alna just after he graduated high school in 1978, but he stayed in Providence for the local music scene.
Mellyn played all over New England in the ‘80s and ‘90s with bands like The Neon Valley Boys, Kid El Deen, and many more, but it was in the early 2000s that he came to Maine year-round.
“I love Maine, it’s such a destination, and your audiences vary greatly around the state, but around here it’s a mixture of fans and people you know,” Mellyn said.
Outside of music, Mellyn has been working on restoring houses as a subcontractor since he was in high school, and said that’s a process he’s loved.
“For some people, they worked in the service industry to get by while they were working on music,” Mellyn said. “Restoration was it for me.”
One of Mellyn’s favorite projects was working down in New London, Conn. restoring the teak decks on the Coast Guard Barque Eagle, a 295-foot, square-rigged vessel used to train cadets known as “America’s Tall Ship.”
“That was a really cool project,” Mellyn said.
Other more local projects included houses in Edgecomb and Bremen built by architects who were disciples of Frank Lloyd Wright, a famous American architect.
“The locations are beautiful,” Mellyn said. “The buildings are very angular; it looks like wings, made of a lot of glass and stone, they’re beautiful.”
In 2010, Mellyn had a nerve surgery in his right arm from all the overhead work he’s done during his restoration projects that momentarily affected his ability to play.
Mellyn’s permanent residence is in Boothbay, but during the summer months he stays in Damariscotta with a friend of his, Kelly Steppe, and enjoys being with her dog, Otto.
Mellyn says he stays there to be closer to the action and the venues he regularly plays at, such as Muscongus Bay Lobster and Schooner Landing Restaurant and Marina.
Mellyn does solo work as a musician and with locally known band The Scotty River Trio, composed of Steve Jones, Scott Elliot, and himself.
Mellyn, during his long career in music, said that the process of looking for band mates, which he’s done a lot of in his life, hasn’t changed all that much; he looks for the simpatico qualities.
“You look for magic moments together,” Mellyn said. “That’s why you play.”
When Mellyn isn’t restoring homes or taking the stage around the Midcoast, he’s riding his bike around town. Mellyn is also a self-proclaimed tomato and basil growing “guru.”
“I enjoy growing veggies,” Mellyn said. “It brings be joy.”
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