Paul Stylianou performing with The Stompers. / SUR

Determined to jump off the blues band wagon

Paul Stylianou has spent his entire life playing harmonica and his determination to succeed is beginning to bear fruit

TONY BRYANT

Paul Stylianou, one of the Costa's most charismatic musicians, has spent more than 20 years working in the local music scene, and his hard work and unfaltering determination is finally beginning to bear fruit.

Frontman of the renowned Blues Stompers Jump Review, Paul and his band are getting ready for the launch of their first CD of original material, and the official video, which is being filmed in Mijas later this month. They are also preparing for a series of live performances in Spain, the UK, Norway and Holland.

The straight-talking harmonica player and singer of British/Cypriot nationality, took time out from a busy schedule to talk about his journey on the road to success.

Born in London in 1974, Paul grew up around Deptford and New Cross. His early musical awakening came from his uncle, a punk rocker called Smiler.

"There has always been an element of music in my family. My uncle was a renowned punk rocker. I used to visit his flat and spend hours listening to his massive record collection. I got hooked on a cassette by Sonny Boy Williamson I, and this is when I first became interested in the harmonica," Paul explains to SUR in English.

Uncle John bought Paul, who at the time was seven, his first harmonica and, although he began to play by ear, he did not take the instrument very seriously at the time.

At the age of 15, he began "sneaking" into pubs in London to attend open-mic nights, and it soon dawned on him that this was what he wanted to do.

"Obviously, I was not in the same league of professionalism as the other musicians. I was underage at that time, and going into the pubs and playing - or making a noise - was when I first began to take it seriously, but it was not the main thing at the time," he declares.

Back then he was "just a punky kid", who was also an avid skateboarder and took part in competitions around the UK, as well as in France and Germany.

Paul went to his father's native Cyprus in 1993, a period when he began jamming with musicians from a nearby military base.

He returned to London in 1998, and, after a few years, decided to take some time out. He first headed to Paris, but following a spur-of-the-moment decision, he decided to book a flight to Spain.

Paul arrived in Malaga in 2002 and headed to Fuengirola, a name that was familiar to him. He began hanging out in British pubs and was eventually offered bar work in the London Pub. It was here that he started to meet other expat musicians and this opened the door to the local music scene.

"The music scene in Fuengirola is excellent and it just gets bigger and bigger. The amount of talent is phenomenal. I spent the first few years playing covers in local bands, but this was not what I wanted to do. It would be a few years before I came into contact with the serious blues players on the coast, and I soon began to make a name as a competent harmonica player," he says.

In 2016, Paul formed The Blues Stompers and the band began to establish themselves as a serious blues band with a difference, both on the coast, and also on the European blues circuit.

It was at this time that Paul realised he had "just one shot at this" and suggested including the band's own compositions into the repertoire.

"The first two years with The Stompers was getting people used to our kind of music, because we are completely different to what everyone else is doing. It's not about the songs, it's about how you interpret them," he explains.

Paul's determination to succeed was bolstered when the band caught the attention of Cambayá Records (Antequera), who are producing the new CD. The record company was overwhelmed by the band's originality, something that has been Paul's main objective, as he did not want to be part of the "X Factor syndrome".

"It's about taking time. If you do it right the first time, it saves a lot of hassle in the long run.

"We are all from different backgrounds, but we all have the same attitudes with regards to our music, which has been so important over the years. Our popularity is not something that happened overnight," he concludes.