Bloomington's Dan Hubbard recently made the transition from fronting his band "The Humadors" to solo artist. He has also adopted a storytellers point-of-view to his songwriting, crediting Tom Petty producer Ryan Ulyate, who he got to know by phone.
"And when I was in L.A. doing a couple shows, he invited me to his house. He listened to my stuff, critiqued me, and said I needed to consider something Tom does, which is tell more stories instead of talking about my feelings and what I'm doing," said Hubbard.
It was an eye opening experience for Hubbard, and not just because Petty is one of his musical hero's.
"It makes songwriting so much more interesting and easier when you can just pick out a story or make up a story, instead of always having to generate your own feelings," said Hubbard.
Though difficult at first, Hubbard said the transition became liberating in that it freed him up to explore fresh ideas. Hubbard's most recent recording is nearly a year old now. It's a self-titled album that leads off with the song "February." He said the second month of the year IS his least favorite, but that theme also tied nicely into another one.
"I remember this moment being young and going through a terrible breakup," recalled Hubbard. "This girl didn't want anything to do with me, and I was trying to hold on to something, begging her 'please don't hang the phone up on me.' And she does. I realized it was the last time I was going to talk with her, and that I had completely lost my self respect. So that's where the first line in the song comes from, 'Out here on my own/If you don't answer your phone/There will be blood before the night is through.' It's not like I was going to hurt myself or kill myself, but it was a feeling of despair that I had completely lost it."
"The Turning Point" is another song on the album that delves into a difficult time for Hubbard. It starts as an angry missive toward the intoxicated driver of the car that killed an acquaintance of his, but evolves into memories from nearly three decades prior.
"I met Michael Collins when he was young," said Hubbard. "I was friends with his brother and his cousins, and he comes out to see my shows. So when I heard the news about Michael, I really thought about his brother Jimmy. It really struck me cause I lost my brother when I was nine years old. My brother was twelve. I felt for Jimmy, cause I know how that feels. And the song struck me right away, the melody, everything. It took me maybe a day, total, to finish the song."
Hubbard recorded his latest album at Cartoon Moon Studios, which is owned by former Wilco and Uncle Tupelo member Ken Coomer, who produced the album.
"Those are two of my favorite bands, so it was the coolest. To walk into the place and see gold records up from Wilco, it was like 'wow.' My whole career felt like it was leading up to that point where I'm hanging with the real pros. You've got to be good, you have to have chops and be open to their suggestions and be able to do what they want you to do. They're world-class musicians, and I held my own. I left there feeling like I don't even care what this album sounds like, or if it's any good. I just did it," said Hubbard.
Dan Hubbard performs at Duncan Manor in rural Towanda, Illinois January 7 as part of the Duncan Manor songwriters series. He returns to the Castle Theater in Bloomington in May. Click "Listen" below to hear the entire interview with Hubbard, including a sneak listen to a new song Hubbard said will likely be included on a new album he hopes to release in 2017.