2017-07-01 / Features

paw paw's medicine cabinet

By Kristina Wright

“Paw Paw keeps everything in the cabinet. You can find anything in there.”

Hailing from Mobile,

Ala., Paw Paw’s Medicine

Cabinet is a collection of several musical elements you find all over the world blended smoothly into one unique and beautiful entity. Band members are independent enough to have their own sound in a room full of earworms, so I knew it was time to investigate this ensemble of creative beings.

I had a chance to sit down and chat with the band at The Pensacola Fish House on June 10. The members are Mike Jernigan on guitar and vocals, Gabriel Willis on bass and vocals, Ethan Snedigar on percussion, Jeremy Ault on guitar and Jacob Hall on the keys.

How did you decide on the band name?

Mike: “We don’t even know. One day, we woke up and that name was scratched into the paint on the wall of the jam room. It was mystical, and we just went with it.”

Ethan: “One thing that we like about the name is, it was really catchy. It was a bit of an oddball name for a band, but that’s one of the reasons we went with it.”

Gabriel: “The meaning that sort of evolved over time is, we do a lot of different stuff in our songs. We have stuff that is a little more R&B related, rock and roll, stuff that’s a little funky, really slow, soft, sort of Americana type stuff. Paw Paw keeps everything in the cabinet. You can find anything in there.”

Ethan: “The EP we came out with was titled “Cures All Ailments.”

Gabriel: “One of the names we almost went with was Aunt Fancy. It was on a short list. I was reading a book and I found out -- I’m going to sound dumb if I’m wrong -- it was Andrew Jackson’s nickname for either James Madison or James Monroe, because he was kind of foppish, very British.”

How did you all get into music? What was your initial inspiration, and what steps did you take to get where you are today?

Jeremy: “I grew up in a musical family. There was a lot of gospel, country and bluegrass. We always had jam sessions at my grandpa’s house. We’d all just sit around, drink coffee, eat pound cake and make the rounds. I think everybody in my family played.”

Mike: “My dad always wrote songs growing up, then my stepdad moved in with us when I was 12. He played lead guitar in a band and he brought all his records. Me and Jeremy learned to play guitar and went to high school together. Speaking of my stepdad, we stole one of his tapes, “Live at the El Macambo,” Stevie Ray Vaughn and wore that thing out.”

Jeremy: “I used to work at KFC at the time, so at midnight I’d get off work and I’d bring home leftover mashed potatoes, gravy and biscuits. We’d sit there and trade licks back and forth over 12 bar blues.”

Mike: “That’s when I started to gain weight. To this day, I blame Jeremy for my guitar skills and my weight problem.”

Gabriel: “My dad and my brother were both songwriters and singers, so I grew up watching them. My brother’s a good bit older than I am, so I watched them and it just caught on and I fell into it. I started playing guitar when I was 9, bass when I was 11 and singing since I could talk.”

Ethan: “I got into music because my older brother was a big ’80s hair metal kind of guy. My room was right next to his, and he really loved to jam out to Poison, Motley Crue, and I just got excited about music through him. I just took it further than he did. He played the drums, and, of course, I wanted to be like my older brother.”

Jacob: “My dad’s played all my life. Since I could remember, I’ve been able to find a drum set, a piano or a guitar to bang on. I probably went to my first bar when I was 4, holding a guitar upside down playing. I’ve always been around music, and I can’t remember not playing.”

What would you list as your attributes as a band?

Gabriel: “Great guitar work. Between Jeremy and Mike, these two are phenomenal guitar players in their own right. They’ve been working together since they were kids, so they have really distinct styles that mesh well together. We have strong harmonies through most of our material, great rhythm, and Jacob fills in the gaps with the keys. There’s not a lot we don’t have, that we can’t do.”

Mike: “Ethan keeps it together behind the set. He’s the best drummer I’ve played with around here. I think the reason we are good at that stuff is because we work on it, we rehearse every week, we try our best all the time to continuously get better. We’re hard on ourselves. We’re always trying to find ways to improve musically and in the business of being a band here. We’re hard workers.”

Ethan: “There’s a really good chemistry in this band. It just worked from day one. Even though we were all from different places musically; we were all going in the same direction, and that was apparent from the first time we played.”

You can catch Paw Paw’s Medicine Cabinet on tour in several locations, including The Brickyard in Mobile on July 29, The Shed BBQ and Blues Joint in Ocean Springs, Miss., on Oct. 14, “Rock the Falls Music Fest” in Chipley, Fla., on Oct. 21 and The Frog Pond at Blue Moon Farm, Silverhill, Ala., on Oct. 22.

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