Paper Blues’ musical journey: Young band still growing

TUPELO – The GumTree Festival has seen the guys in Paper Blues go from boys to men.

Mitch Presley, Justin Hughes and Ryan Culp started playing music together in the Tupelo High School band Structure, which performed at the GumTree Festival on the youth stage in years past. Now, the three have a band of their own, called Paper Blues, and the trio is playing the main stage at the festival on Sunday. In the band’s short life, the guys have made a name for themselves.

“We’ve played the Elvis Presley Festival, the Don’t Be Cruel Barbecue Duel, Verona Heritage Festival, the Amory Railroad Festival, the Neshoba County Fair,” Culp, the band’s bassist, said.

Some may know the band as Pay Per Blues. As audiences in the area started to know the group better, the band name morphed into Paper Blues.

“People have a lot of trouble saying three words,” Culp said, laughing.

Paper Blues’ sounds like a jam band playing the blues.

“Really, we’re a jam band, but we add a lot of sounds to that,” Presley said.

The guys’ influences range from jam bands like Phish to bluesy rock bands like Led Zeppelin, as well as hill country blues artists like Junior Kimbrough.

“We can definitely stretch a song 10 minutes or more,” Presley said. “But some songs, the melodies are more repetitive, so they’re three and a half minutes and they’re out.”

Paper Blues is taking its time creating a debut record, but it is mostly complete.

“We don’t want to put out something we won’t want to listen to in 20 years,” Culp said. “We don’t want to rush to get it done.”

It’ll be one more chapter in the growing story of Paper Blues.

Culp, 20, is a student at Mississippi State University, while Hughes and Presley, both 18, are about to graduate from Tupelo High School. They’ll join Culp in Starkville this fall, where they expect to be able to play more shows and continue rocking out.

“I would say next year will be really big for us, with us all being in college together,” Hughes said.

• Check it out

What: 42nd annual GumTree Festival

When: GumBall is 7 p.m. Friday, and the festival opens at 9 a.m. Saturday and 10:30 a.m. Sunday

Where: Downtown Tupelo

Cost: Free to attend festival; GumBall is $25.

Info:, (662) 844-2787

• Music line-up:


11 a.m. – Singer/songwriter’s contest winners’ performance and awards

12:30 p.m. – The Pyles

2:15 p.m. – The Kernel

4 p.m. – The Pollies


1:15 p.m. – McArthur Trio

3 p.m. – Paper Blues

Youth stage:


10 a.m. – Lee County Library presentation

10:30 a.m. – Splash

11:30 a.m. – Tupelo Ballet & Guests

Noon: Tupelo Twirlers

1:30 p.m. – Judy Ready Dance Studio

4:30 p.m. – Partlow Drummers


2 p.m. – Tupelo Ballet

4 p.m. – Awards presentation

Some entertainment is still being determined.

Sheena Barnett/NEMS Daily Journal

Click video to hear audio