Dan Hubbard

by Dan Hubbard

Released 2016
Released 2016
Americana singer-songwriter from the Midwest influenced by Tom Petty, Wilco, Ryan Adams and Jason Isbell.
Bloomington, Illinois-based songwriter Dan Hubbard has been cultivating a Midwestern rock n’ roll sound for over a decade.

Until now.

Starting with his first album under the name The Hubbards in 2003, through to 2011’s The Love Show with his band, The Humadors, Hubbard never felt the urge to change things up, but when he did, he had to make some big choices.

“Everyone had their reasons for wanting to end the band, but changing my sound, which was something I never cared about before, was my reason,” Hubbard says. It was a precarious move for an artist who had already built a small, but devoted fan base.

The risk paid off.

Hubbard’s upcoming, naturally self-titled, solo album (out Feb. 5th) is all the proof that’s needed. Where the Humadors rocked, and rocked very well, Hubbard’s new songs, and his performance of them, sound less rave-up and more settled in – real, relatable, roots-driven music that sticks.

“This record came about because of two producers,” Hubbard explains. Working with outside help for the first time, Hubbard first established a long-distance correspondence with Ryan Ulyate, who has worked with Tom Petty for most of the last decade. “He suggested that I try telling more stories in my songs instead of always writing from my perspective,” Hubbard remembers. “So I did exactly that.”

Armed with a batch of some of the best songs he’d written in his life, Hubbard then headed to Nashville to work with producer Ken Coomer, a co-founder of Wilco and a three-time Grammy nominee.

“Ken played drums on Wilco’s Being There and Summerteeth albums – two of my favorite records of all time,” Hubbard exclaims of this dream-come-true scenario. Coomer brought in a who’s who of local talent to round out Hubbard’s studio band, including Dave Roe (long-time bassist with Johnny Cash), Adam Ollendorff (guitarist with Kacey Musgraves), and Tyson Rogers (pianist with Don Williams). Of course, Coomer himself joined in behind the drums.

“I just looked up to the sky and said ‘thank you’,” Hubbard says. “I was a little nervous about becoming a ‘solo artist’ – it was a little like starting over – but all of these great experiences helped me feel that I’d made the right decision.”

Hubbard left Nashville feeling that he’d given all he had to give.

“I know it’s the best thing I’ve done,” he says of the album. “So, I hope a lot of people enjoy it.”

There is certainly much to enjoy on Dan Hubbard. Ulyate’s suggestion that Hubbard adopt more of a storytelling style works throughout the album, involving the listener in the lives of the people that Hubbard sings about, people that are already a part of his world, that now become part of ours.

One featured example is “The Turning Point,” about a 22-year-old killed by a drunk driver in Hubbard’s hometown.

“I knew his family, and everyone loved him and talked about what a good kid he was,” Hubbard says. As it turns out, the tune hits even closer to home when Hubbard continues on to explain that the song was also inspired by memories of his older brother who was lost to brain cancer at the age of twelve. “So, the song is kind of about both of them,” he says.

Another is the album’s opener and first single “February” which ushers in the record with the ominous lines “Out here on my own, Swear I don’t know what I will do, If you don’t answer your phone, There’ll be blood before the night is through.”

“February is my least favorite month of the year,” Hubbard notes of the foreboding lyrics in what is otherwise a pretty catchy tune. “I wrote it when I was really struggling. My wife was pregnant with our third child, and I was thinking, ‘How the hell are we gonna do this?’“

“Straw Hat” is producer Coomer’s favorite track on the record.

“Ken had a vision for that song that was pretty different from anything I'd done,” Hubbard says. “He didn't want me to make the same old singer-songwriter record, and encouraged me to step outside of my comfort zone, particularly on ‘Straw Hat.’ I trusted him and it’s turned out to be one of my favorites as well.”