Attending a recent Right Away, Great Captain show at The Knitting Factory in Brooklyn proved to be more than a night of epic live performances from Andy Hull of Manchester Orchestra and Casey Crescenzo of The Dear Hunter. I had the rare pleasure of seeing the opening set of Harrison Hudson. Think 50′s soda shop rock ‘n roll infused with a modern Weezer-esque fuzz sound. As a music journalist there is nothing better than seeing an artist live that you’ve never heard before, who converts you within the span of their set to a dedicated fan purely through their stage presence and captivating sound. This was the case with Harrison Hudson.
Starting out in 2005, Hudson was playing with a backing band but eventually partnered with drummer Shaun Rawlings for a fuller sound on his latest release American Thunder. Raised on a big slice of Americana, Harrison Hudson relished the music he grew up on, alternating between the local oldies station and christian radio station. It’s easy to feel that sweet greaser throwback complete with Buddy Holly persona influence in American Thunder, his third full-length album, full of catchy choruses ruminating over a love once had but ultimately lost, a theme not only American but universally understood. I got to sit down with the southern gentleman himself, hailing all the way from Nashville, Tennessee and here’s what happened.
ES: What were some of your musical influences growing up that have shaped your sound today and your records including American Thunder?
HH: “Well, growing up in the South I was exposed to a lot of the oldies, namely Roy Orbison,The Beatles, Buddy Holly and greats like Sam Cooke and Ray Charles. In our household we were allowed to listen to either the oldies station or the Christian rock station at the time. I usually opted for the oldies station. Bluegrass was another influence too. I love “John the Revelator” by Son House, such a classic song. I would say more of the modern influences today are bands like Weezer, Jimmy Eat World, Ben Kweller, Pedro the Lion and Ryan Adams.”
ES: What was it like growing up in the South and what kind of mischief did you get into as a kid?
HH: “Since I grew up in the suburbs outside Atlanta there wasn’t a whole lot to do, so I’d find myself heading out to the woods behind our house with my black labrador and my buoy knife going on adventures but really just cutting up saplings and being a regular old kid. I was also really into reading Audobon books and learning about nature. Instead of being the kid who locked themselves in their bedroom playing video games, I would lock my bedroom door and sing and dance around my room in front of the mirror.”
ES: So safe to say you caught the musical bug at an early age?
HH: “Ha, yes. I started taking piano lessons as a kid and then moved on to guitar. I was even in a hardcore band in high school. There were sort of two rival bands in our high school. One for the cool kids and one for the nerdy kids. I’d actually love to start really playing piano again and learn some old time rags and classical stuff like Chopin’s Nocturnes.”
ES: As a song writer what kind of songs resonate with you the most not only as an artist, but as a person as well?
HH: “I really enjoy songs that speak of some kind of struggle. A lot of great art is about a struggle of some kind, whether it’s overcoming prejudice, heartbreak or a self realization or actualization. When I was 7, I remember hearing “Yesterday” by The Beatles and being able to connect to it emotionally, even at such a young age. Obviously, at that age I didn’t have the life experience referenced in the song but I was able to understand the emotion in the music and that got to me in a good way. When I make music, its not about becoming a huge star, it’s about creating something I can really be proud of. For me, song writing is about honesty.”
ES: You’re sort of a jack of all trades, not only a musician, also a photographer I hear.
HH: “Yes, I do photography and some graphic design. Photography is a side project that helps to pay the bills. I actually designed the cover art for American Thunder. I like designing show posters as well.”
ES: Talk a little bit about the process of making American Thunder.
HH: “Well, we started out with a ton of material written. I believe about 60 songs all together. We had to narrow it down from there, so we made up “yes”, “no” and “maybe” sheets for everyone to vote on the songs they thought should make the cut. Eventually, after a lot of debate, we got it down to 12 songs. The collaborative process itself was great, working with Kevin Dailey and Micah Tawlks. We were really able to hone our sound on this album as well. We had a great response to our Kickstarter campaign, raising almost $10,000 to help us fund the making of our album.”
ES: You’re on the Favorite Gentlemen label, which boasts a pretty amazing line up of artists including Manchester Orchestra, Bad Books, Kevin Devine, Junior Astronomers, All Get Out and O’ Brother just to name a few. What’s that been like for you?
HH: “It’s been great, a very supportive community of artists really, rather than a typical record label. To have people behind you who encourage your growth as an artist and musician and don’t try to censor you is amazing.
ES: You’ve known Andy Hull for some time and have toured with Manchester Orchestra and Right Away, Great Captain. Tell me about that.
HH: “I’ve known Andy since high school and we hung out together and played music together a lot over the years. I’ve toured with him on his RAGC tours and also travelled with Manchester Orchestra, lending a hand where I can. Touring is great. We goof around on each other and when you’re traveling together for such long periods of time you wind up arguing about stupid stuff but realizing it really quickly too. It’s pretty funny.”
ES: Tell us about the current Favorite Gentlemen tour you’re on now.
HH: “The current tour we’re on is a great line up with All Get Out, Death on Two Wheels and Junior Astronomers. We’re playing shows starting out in Nashville, Tennesse and ending back in Macon,Georgia with a few stops in between including Philadelphia and New York. We’re really excited.”
Check out the dates below for the Favorite Gentlemen tour and click here for tickets and more info.
8/22 – Brooklyn, NY – Knitting Factory
8/23 – Vienna, VA – Jammin Java
8/24 – Charlotte, NC – Tremont Music Hall: Casbah
8/25 – Columbia, SC – New Brookland Tavern
8/30 – Atlanta, GA – The Masquerade: Purgatory
8/31 – Macon, GA – The Cox Capitol Theatre