By JAN WILLMS
When Paul Seeba was about 12 and living in Hibbing, he realized he wasn’t going to make the hockey team and chose to play guitar instead. Today, as a father, teacher and musician, he is glad he made that fateful decision.
He saved himself from some bumps and bruises, and he chose an interest that he will be able to pursue long after a hockey player hangs up his skates. Although he has played guitar all these years, it has just been in the past year that Seeba has reunited with his old band.
The group will perform May 17 for a fundraiser at Chelsea Heights Elementary, where Seeba’s daughter attends. Another daughter is a student at Murray Middle School.
“I’ve been playing guitar for over 30 years, but now that my kids are getting older it seemed like a perfect time to get back to the music,” Seeba explained. The Hibbing native, who has been a Como resident since 1999, describes his band as an acoustic-based, Americana-style group with an emphasis on lyrics and harmonies.
“I have known my bandmates forever,” Seeba said. His brother, Bob, plays bass. Rod Tahija, an old friend from Hibbing, plays guitar; Greg Tiburzi from Duluth plays drums, and he and Paul both are songwriters for the band, Mitchell Yards.
“We used to play together, and then the drummer moved away. He has recently moved back to Duluth, and so we got together again,” Seeba noted. They practice on week nights. “Through the magic of digital devices, we can rehearse with Greg, who is 150 miles away,” Seeba said. “It’s a good thing to do in the winter.”
The band will officially release a CD May 16, also titled “Mitchell Yards,” at a performance at Manitou Station. Seeba said people can check his website, www.paulseeba.com or get the new CD through CD Baby or on Spotify. “It’s amazing, all the different kinds of ways to get music these days,” he said.
Seeba, who teaches geography at North High School in White Bear Lake, and has previously taught history and economics, said he weaves history and geography into his songs at times. The band’s name is based on an old switching station located just outside of Hibbing. “It was on the verge of being razed,” Seeba said, “but cultural preservationists made a case for not tearing it down. I became fascinated, writing a song about it and getting a little bit involved in saving old buildings.” Seeba said his songs tend to gravitate toward the Arrowhead region.
His early years on the Iron Range provide him with a multitude of history to draw from. One song on the new CD is “Science Fair” and relates to the fact that years ago the Communist headquarters in the United States was located in the Hibbing area. “One of my teachers told me how as a younger man, he was stopped in the 1950s by an FBI agent and investigated. The FBI believed he was a member of the Communist Party,” Seeba recalled.
The Greyhound Bus Line, recently celebrating its 100th anniversary, had its start in Hibbing. The basis for another song. “I do a lot of my writing in the winter,” Seeba added, “especially with a winter as rough as this last one.” He finds it beneficial for his songwriting to live in a climate that offers four seasons, finding the different weather enables him to be more productive than living in a warm climate all year long. The bitter cold of winter, especially, seems to hone his writing skills.
Mitchell Yards performs at different locations, and Seeba performs solo at local gathering spots like Gingko’s and Coffee Grounds. The band is playing at the Stone Arch Festival in Minneapolis on June 15. “It’s a struggle and hard to juggle it all, but it’s exciting,” Seeba said.
His wife, Louise, is a member of the St. Paul School Board and also has a busy schedule. He considers himself fortunate to be able to take this time in his life to focus on his music. And he does not regret his decision at 12 to play the guitar rather than play hockey.