Musical alumnus: Pivoting to a new career was worth the wait

Paul Jensen ’85 had a successful career in public relations, but when he left his job at a big agency four years ago, he was longing to get back to something he loved and missed: his music.

Today, Jensen spends half his workdays running his independent PR consultancy, PJPR, and the other half dedicated to songwriting, recording and performing. He released his first solo album, “Journey Back Home,” in February 2024.

“During COVID I reflected on what I really cared about, and it was more music, more independence and more happiness in my life,” said Jensen, who lives in Westchester County. “When I started working for myself, my songwriting mojo suddenly came back. Before long I was working on recording a solo album.”

Using professional musicians and a producer, he’s upped his game since he minted his first original album with his band, Urban Coyotes, in 2017. He’s busy recording his next album and has released a short EP, “From the Attic,” of songs he wrote in his 20s shortly after leaving Cornell. 

“The themes on that EP are breakups, career, long-distance relationships,” he said. “The kinds of things you’re struggling with in your 20s.”

Whether his songs are autobiographical or stories about others, they address universal themes such as love, family, life and death, climate change, race relations and mental health.

“I keep a journal of ideas, themes and riffs on my phone,” he said. “Music and catchy melodies come quickly for me; I spend most of my time crafting and re-crafting lyrics and working on what I want to say. I love the storytelling aspect of songwriting.”

He’s working with a “song plugger” in Nashville, who has been sharing his music with established artists and music supervisors for them to buy and record or use in a movie or TV show. “It’s nice to be the client for a change. His job is to get the right song to the right person at the right time,” Jensen said. “My goal is to have more people hear and enjoy my music. The feedback so far has been really great.”

Jensen regularly performs his own music and other tunes at various locations around New York and Westchester, sometimes solo acoustic and sometimes with a band. “At this stage of the game, I’m not thinking I’m going to be a major artist, of course – it’s all about the love of performing and creating music that people connect with,” he said. At a sold-out show this spring, “I looked out and wanted to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe how much fun we were all having. It was one of the greatest nights ever.”

group of people standing on a street corner
Provided Jensen, third from right, was a member of the a capella group Cayuga's Waiters during his time at Cornell.

As a Cornell student, Jensen was a member of the Cayuga’s Waiters a capella group. He completed an independent major in the College of Arts & Sciences focused on economics and psychology — what might be called behavioral economics today. After graduation, he moved to New York City to try the music business for a while, but found he needed a more stable position and began writing, eventually securing a public relations role that led to a long and successful career at Weber Shandwick.

Jensen says pivoting from a high-powered corporate career to one that gives him time for his love of music was one he made after much deliberation.

“I took a long time to leave and figure out what I wanted to do next,” he said. “I got a coach, who said ‘When you talk about your music, you light up. Maybe that’s it.’ “

Four years later, it seems to be working. He feels like he’s where he was meant to be. “I’m part of the songwriting community and doing what I love.”

 “It’s been a long road home.” 

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person sitting with guitar
Provided Paul Jensen