Dan Hubbard: It's hard writing rock songs with a baby in the house

Dan Hubbard: It's hard writing rock songs with a baby in the house
Photo by Karen Bridges

Dan Hubbard, like many other artists, grabs a handful of influences from the past, yet shapes it into something of his own. His newest album Livin' In the Heartland compiles narratives that add up his up life -- at least up to this point.

Set to play the Dead Letter Records 11-Year Anniversary Showcase at Cause on Saturday, the singer spoke with Gimme Noise about what kind of artist he wants to be classified as and his transition into doing a solo acoustic album.

Gimme Noise: Your music has a lot of country music qualities to it. Do you want to be classified as country? If not, what would you call yourself?

Dan Hubbard: I've always called my music rock 'n' roll, although this album is very acoustic and definitely has a little more country influence than past albums. My music has always been difficult to classify because I have so many influences. When I tell people I'm a musician and they ask, "What type of music do you play?" I'll say, "rock 'n' roll," and they'll look at me with a confused look. So I'll say, "My biggest influence is Tom Petty," and they'll say, "Oh, I love Tom Petty!" and get all excited. It's pretty comical. I don't care what I'm classified as -- just a good songwriter, hopefully.

Gimme Noise: You've kept it pretty DIY up until now by self-releasing your albums. Why go with a label this time? What are the benefits of having a label behind you?

Dan Hubbard: I guess it was just time to take the next step. Dead Letter Records isn't the kind of label that's going to take your songs for life or try to take control over your art. I got the feeling when I spoke to Jeremy [Harvey] that he was truly just a music fan who wants to help artists out in a tough business. I felt like I was talking to friend and knew that I could trust him. It's just nice to have someone in your corner who has been through it a time or two. It's a great partnership, and I feel like we're going to do some good things together.

Gimme Noise: Why did you decide to strip it down for Livin' in the Heartland?

Dan Hubbard: A couple reasons for stripping it down: One is that I grew up on acoustic music, and it spoke to me before rock 'n' roll really did. With Simon and Garfunkel, Neil Young's more acoustic albums, and even in some rock records, I always loved the occasional stripped-down tune that just seemed more personal and heartfelt. I wanted to do an entire album of those kinds of songs.

Another reason is just this period in my life. I wrote the album when my first son was born a couple years ago. It's hard to write rock songs when you've got a baby in the house. I would have to just tickle my guitar strings at night to make sure I didn't wake anybody. It actually helped me develop my finger picking. I've become a much better guitar player. The album is about being a family man versus a touring musician, so the album reflects my feelings about being home. It's my refuge, where I find peace and balance.

Gimme Noise: Did you approach writing differently for this album? Was the intention to make it acoustic in the beginning? 

Dan Hubbard: When I wrote the album a couple years ago I was losing my bass player of almost ten years and didn't know if the band was going to last. I did think it was a good time to make an acoustic album. It's weird timing now that I'm releasing it and the band is stronger than ever, but I have a lot of fans who have been wanting a more acoustic album. So I guess a lot of it was circumstance, but I think I also wanted to do something much different from the last three records and get back to basics a little bit. I simplified everything, even the chords. 

These are pretty straight-forward tunes, but they're are solid.  If the songs are good then it will work. I focused on the songs.

Gimme Noise: Any standout tracks on the album?

Dan Hubbard: "Maybe Someday," "I'm Your Man," and the last track "It's Always Somethin'." They're just songs that I think everyone can relate to -- particularly "Maybe Someday."  I think most people have the desire to do something great with their lives and be noticed. It creates feelings of jealousy and envy when we see other people making it, and it seems like we never will. I think it's important in those times to focus on things that actually matter like family and friends.

Gimme Noise: You have some tracks titled "Zoe" and "Ben." Who are Zoe and Ben?

Dan Hubbard: Zoe is my 9 year old daughter, and Ben is my two year old son. Again, I wanted the album to be a glimpse into my home life.

Gimme Noise: What was the goal behind this album?

Dan Hubbard: I'm proud of the life I built in the Midwest. I released my first record almost exactly ten years ago, and this album is kind of my shout out to my family and the people here who have supported me through the good, bad, and ugly. They've believed in me and helped me grow into the artist I am today.

If I follow my heart and gut and put everything I have into making a record, then I know people will get something out of it -- which is always the ultimate goal for me. I know it sounds cheesy, but it's the truth. I hope that it touches or inspires someone.

Gimme Noise: How did you come to choosing Cause to have your CD release show, and what can we expect to see at the show?

Dan Hubbard: Well I'm pretty new to the Minneapolis music scene, so I left it up to Dead Letter Records to decide the venue. I'll be touring with my band "The Humadors," but we'll be stripping our sound down to fit the album.

Dan Hubbard will release Livin' in the Heartland at Cause for the Dead Letter Records 11 Year Anniversary Showcase featuring the Cavalier Crooks, Robert Deeble, Party House, Mike Midwestern, and Walter White on Saturday, October 5, 2013.
21+, $5, 8 pm

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