You know you’ve made it when you’ve got Elton John on the line, a recent scenario Paul Janeway is still trying to comprehend. Only six or so months after the LP release from Janeway’s band St. Paul & the Broken Bones took the world by storm, he got word that the pop-rock legend wanted to give him a ring. Janeway wasn’t falling for it, though. “I said, ‘Yeah! Sure, give him my number,'” he laughs. “But [my manager] called me the next day and said, ‘No, I’m serious. Elton John is gonna call you. Lo and behold, five minutes later he called me. And all I could say is, ‘Thank you, sir,’ and that was about it. I was just grinnin’. ”

After giving his best but admittedly terrible English accent, Birmingham, Ala.-born Janeway tells us that receiving praise that day from the rock ‘n’ roll icon is just one of the many bizarre moments he’s experienced this year. “It’s been pretty nuts. I’m not gonna lie,” he says. “I haven’t been able to step back and analyze it all because it’s been so crazy. And we just kind of keep going.”

The story of St. Paul & the Broken Bones alone is wild. It all started with two friends, bassist Jesse Phillips and Janeway, a vocalist who sounds like Otis Redding reincarnated. The two went into a Birmingham studio two years ago to record what Janeway says was meant to be their “last hurrah.” On the way to the studio, they picked up a drummer and assembled enough musicians —Browan Lollar (guitar), Andrew Lee (drums), Al Gamble (keys), Ben Griner (trombone), and Allen Branstetter (trumpet) — for the session through random connections. “Me and Jessie looked at each other when they walked in and said, ‘Uh oh, we’ve got a band,'” Janeway says.

The rest is history. The following February, the guys released the EP Greetings from St. Paul & the Broken Bones, which made heads turn — as did their live performances. With the command of a Southern gospel preacher, Janeway demands the attention of his audience, often falling to the ground and waving his hands in the air. Unsurprisingly, the church could have been a career path for Janeway.

“When I was about 10 years old, I started getting groomed to be a preacher,” the singer says. “We had a pastor come in, and he said he saw something special in me, and he had me speak on certain nights. I loved it, and that’s really where a lot of the stage presence comes from.”

Although, Janeway isn’t married to the church these days, he doesn’t make much of it. “To me, it’s kind of a clichéd story — that Southern guy comin’ from church singing, falls out of love with the church, and starts singing in a soul band,” he says.

That said, soul music has always been Janeway’s only vice. “I don’t drink or anything, so going to bars is not something I thoroughly enjoy,” he says. “And I don’t love church either, so if you don’t love church and you don’t really love bars, you ain’t got shit to do in Alabama.”

Other than singing, it wasn’t long ago that Janeway stayed busy pursuing another career. “I went back to school to a community college, and for some damn reason, I fell in love with accounting, of all things,” he says. “Then I went to University of Alabama in Birmingham and was in the middle of accounting school when I became a part-time bank teller. And then this showed up and ruined it all.”

In March, Janeway made the tough decision to quit his job and head to SXSW. He hasn’t looked back since. Soon after, the band recorded Half the City at Muscle Shoals’ legendary Fame Studios. No wonder the record is so special. “I mean that’s holy ground,” Janeway says. Fame Studios launched in the 1950s and was recently added to the Alabama Register of Landmarks and Heritage for the musical history that lies within its walls. Despite the studio’s middle-of-nowhere address, it drew greats like Joe Tex, Wilson Pickett, and Aretha Franklin. “I mean there ain’t much in Muscle Shoals,” Janeway says. “You gotta be goin’ there to get there. It ain’t on the way to anything.”

The studio proved its power when Half the City hit No. 62 on the Billboard 200 charts within a week of its release back in February. By May, the band was touring the U.K. and Europe. That alone was unbelievable for Janeway, but he truly was baffled when the band sold out 1,200-seat shows in London. “I mean, that’s unheard of,” he says. And then the band played to 10,000 fans at a festival outside Paris. “I don’t think you can get better than that.”

Oh, but it did. The guys were invited to perform for the well-known French music blog La Blogotheque, which highlights worthy new acts by filming their performances outside Parisian landmarks. When St. Paul & the Broken Bones turned up, they had no idea what they were in for. “You meet up with them, they put all these cords on you, and they just walk you to a spot. We showed up, and I didn’t know what the hell it was. I didn’t know it was the Louvre,” Janeway chuckles. “You gotta realize, May is the first time I have ever been out of the country. I mean, I had to get a passport. So it was all very surreal for me.”

For Janeway, the one experience that was truly the most bananas happened right here in the South. “The biggest thing for me is we got to play Bonnaroo this year. That was huge for me personally, because I had worked Bonnaroo as the security person. And I went as a patron, too,” he says. “It was the weirdest thing. I mean, I’d been to that same stage before to see acts play. I still get goose bumps and a little teary-eyed when I think about it because it was this really, really cool thing that I got to do, and it’s still really special to me.”