Jazz guitarist and guitar designer Les Paul had some advice for Wilton musician Rob Pulsifer when the two met some years back — don’t tell anyone about the day job.
“He says, ‘Do you play full time?’ And I said, ‘I wish I played full time; I said I have a day job.’ ‘What is it?’ I told him I was a lawyer,” Pulsifer said recently from his law offices in Wilton.
“He said, ‘Don’t tell people that.’ He says, ‘You’re a guitar player. People hate lawyers; they love guitar players.’ It makes perfect sense, doesn’t it?”
Pulsifer, 49, has juggled music and his law career for most of his adult life, from his days in law school in West Virginia, at the West Virginia University College of Law, to his rock band The E’town Express, which he has led for the past 13 years. On top of that, Pulsifer is also a councilman for the town of Wilton, and performs both solo and in a Caribbean-flavored duo, Beach Party Express, with E’town Express keyboard player Lyl Harper. His next performance is solo at Bailey’s Cafe on Friday night.
When: 9 p.m. Friday
Where: Bailey’s Cafe, 37 Phila St., Saratoga Springs
How Much: Free
More Info: 583-6060, www.baileyscafe.com
When Pulsifer was a law student, playing in a band didn’t raise too many eyebrows in the audience. As an attorney, the difference between his two professions can be a bit more jarring, but he enjoys leading this double life.
“Today I get a lot of that dichotomy going, where people who know me as an attorney come to the show and are blown away that I’m truly dressing and playing the part of a rock star,” he said.
“Whereas people who see me as the band and then maybe become clients of mine are amazed to see me in a suit and tie after witnessing me onstage. I actually enjoy the fact that I can go back and forth between those two personalities and those two lives.”
More often than not, the law career and music career complement each other. Pulsifer has run his law office since 1992, and has transferred his business acumen to The E’town Express and his other musical projects.
“I think, especially a lot of local musicians, or up-and-coming musicians, don’t embrace the business side of being a musician, and that’s sometimes why they don’t do as well,” he said.
“Well, I’m a businessman in my day job — I run a law office, I also have rental properties — and so that translates very well to being a musician. When the band or my solo or my duo show plays, I think of myself as a business person who sells entertainment services, and I think it sort of kept us on the right track for a long time.”
Pulsifer grew up in a blue-collar family, spending his formative years in a mobile home. He grew up surrounded by music — his father introduced him to ’50s and ’60s rock ’n’ roll, and he was soon hanging out at friends’ and cousins’ houses, playing their guitars. Eventually, he talked his aunt into buying one for him — a cheap acoustic from the Spiegel catalog — that he played obsessively for a year until it fell apart.
“It probably cost [my aunt] all of 25, 30 bucks, and I played it until it disintegrated,” Pulsifer said. “We weren’t wealthy people, and that was the only guitar I had. In fact, I never changed the strings — as the strings disintegrated and the windings came up, they would just rip my hands apart. But I would play it as often as I possibly could, almost around the clock.”
After college, Pulsifer moved back to the upstate area. From 1991 to 1999 he wasn’t in a band as he worked to get his law firm off the ground. During this time he would frequent the Wooden Nickel in Elizabethtown (where E’town Express plays an annual Halloween show dressed as his heroes, Kiss) with his friend Byron Peregrim, joining bands onstage whenever he could. In 1999, Pulsifer persuaded Peregrim to learn drums, and E’town Express was born.
Today the band features Harper, bassist Steve Barmash, drummer Rich Stigberg and Pulsifer’s son, Rob Pulsifer Jr., on rhythm guitar. Since 2008, Pulsifer has been the band’s lead singer as well as lead guitarist.
“At that point I did start getting serious, where I said, ‘You know what? At some point I would like to play as much music, if not more, than practicing law, and I’m going to be very serious about the business aspect of it,’ ” Pulsifer said. “So we incorporated the band and we started our own record label called Champlain Valley Records Incorporated.”
At that time, the band began focusing on more of Pulsifer’s original material, releasing a five-song EP in 2009 and a full-length, “Gimme My E’town Express,” in 2011. The band is currently working on a follow-up, “Scenes From the County Fair,” a loose concept album that Pulsifer hopes will help open doors to more county fair and festival gigs.
Mixture of music
For his solo gigs, Pulsifer combines E’town Express originals and both rock and blues covers. He plays both acoustic and electric guitars at these gigs, utilizing backing tracks on computer to fill out the sound.
“I like using the backing tracks and the acoustic tracks, because if you do one or the other it can get boring if I’m playing a three- or four-hour solo show,” he said. “So it’s a nice mix.”