Bloomington singer-songwriter Dan Hubbard was so pleased with his 2016 self-titled album, he decided to put music aside. He even enrolled in seminary school.
That lasted one semester. Music will do that.
Hubbard unveils his new album "Attention" at the Castle Theatre in Bloomington Saturday night. He told GLT's Jon Norton he was done recording. Unless something important needed to be said.
“And not to be self-righteous, but just something that relates to people and their problems, because we’re all struggling,” said Hubbard about the powerful emotions that brought him back to recording.
“I felt if I could make something that could help people in some way or relate to them and their problems, that’s worth it,” said Hubbard, who could have named the album “Problems,” as many songs allude to or directly address suicide, partner abuse, and the death of a sibling, among other difficult subjects. There are joyful moments, but overall the soft-spoken Hubbard addresses these topics head-on, including “Poison Words,” which directs his frustration at churches that single out the already disenfranchised.
Now that I found something
That I can believe
You go and tell me
It’s not for me
- From “Poison Words”
“Its (the church’s) treatment and attitude toward people in the LGBTQ community,” said Hubbard about the song. “It boils down to … I’m a Christian, and I’m not going to be shy about that. But there are obviously things I struggle with. As a Christian, I’m broken, and clearly the Christian church as a whole is broken. I just wish it wasn’t so exclusive sometimes, and a little more loving.”
Hubbard directs his ire at himself on “Important Man,” where he recalls social media and web habits following the release of his self-titled album three years prior.
“I’ve got some young kids, and I felt I was neglecting them and my wife just staring at my phone all the time, seeing how my social media is doing and how many people were buying the album," said Hubbard. “I realized it at one point … and felt like an idiot for the way I had been acting.”
Always creepin’ on my phone
I can’t imagine why we drifted apart
Gonna throw it out the window
Can’t believe I let it go this far
- From “Important Man”
“There is something about giving other humans attention and we’re so caught up on our phones,” said Hubbard, wondering aloud at the realization he could be mistaken for a grumpy old man yelling at clouds.
“That’s part of the reason the album is called ‘Attention,'" he continued. "All my kids want is for me to look at them. That’s all they want … being able to look your son or daughter in the eye is so powerful."
Musically, “Attention” has a soulful vibe compared to the comfortable folk-rock fans have come to expect from Hubbard since his 2007 release “Life is Sweet.” Horns and background singers punctuate key parts of many songs.
“That has a lot to do with our bass player Stephen Tassio,” said Hubbard. “His musical interests lean toward the soulful side; for example he loves Stevie Wonder. I’ve always wanted to put horns on an album, so a guy named Reginald Chapman arranged these horns and played on them. Man he did a great job, I couldn’t be happier with this.”
Personal regret fuels the rockin’ “Something Left to Prove.” Hubbard connected his short stint as an Illinois State University basketball “walk-on” to his life as a musician. Making the hometown team was quite an accomplishment for the former U-High star, who wasn’t offered an Division 1 scholarship out of high school.
Maybe it’s the fire
Maybe a desire
Been so long
Baby I need something
To walk among the living
Not ready to be history
- From “Something Left to Prove”
Hubbard gave up his spot on the team after just a few weeks of practice. The regret hangs nearly two decades later. He remembers talking with then Coach Tom Richardson, who told Hubbard he would eventually rue the decision.
“And he was dead-on,” said Hubbard. “I’ve told people before, ‘I was just poor in spirit,’ I didn’t know who I was and didn’t have the will to do it. I wasn’t strong enough mentally and physically, so I just gave up.”
That experience informs his current occupation.
“I feel like I’m at that point in my career where I could get to the next level, whatever that means. But I won’t know if I give it up. I’ll never know what kind of basketball player I could have been, and I don’t want those regrets with my music career,” said Hubbard.
“Attention” ends with “80,” an imaginary conversation with an 80-year-old man he drove past one day.
“I was thinking, if I could just pick his brain,” said Hubbard before pausing. “And he could tell me what’s important.”
Blink and you’ll see
Yesterday I was you
Tomorrow you’ll be me
- “From “80” by Dan Hubbard
“But at the same time I feel like I know at this point what’s important, and I can see myself where he is right now. God willing I get to live that long ... it’s going to be here like that,” said Hubbard, snapping his fingers for effect while realizing eight years have “flown by” since his first child was born.
“Because it’s coming so quick, what are you going to do? What is important in life? How are you going to live your life? Important questions to ask,” remarked Hubbard.
Because I don’t want you to go
- From “80” by Dan Hubbard
Dan Hubbard will have your "Attention" at the Castle Theatre Saturday night. Laura Joy will open the show.
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