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The Beat ‘n’ Track with Jordan Hull

Jordan Hull has the sound of a musician years older than he is, and he has a taste in music to match. From early blues legends like Son House and Blind Willie McTell to the more modern legend that is Bob Dylan, Hull doesn’t mess around with musical influences. He’s just back from a short spring tour and looking to release a solo album this summer. When he’s not playing, he’s painting, and lately that’s been a lot of monkeys.

How did you get started in music?

I was a rebellious young teenager so I got grounded a lot. I had to spend a lot of time in my room by myself, so I played music and made recordings on a four-track. That was right when MySpace was taking off, so I would put my recordings on MySpace. I started getting positive feedback from people all over. I did the high school band thing. I never had to have a job in high school, I just played in restaurants, so I’ve been doing this for years. I guess it started from rebelliousness. Rock ‘n’ roll, you know.

What did you listen to growing up?

When I was in middle school I was obsessed with Led Zeppelin and that got me into starting to dig backwards. I got into the blues. I listened to Blind Willie McTell, Son House, Skip James, Robert Johnson—all those early guys. Then I got into guys like Lead Belly and Mississippi John Hurt, and that gets more into folk music. Right at that time, “No Direction Home” came out, [directed] by Martin Scorsese, and I became obsessed with Bob Dylan, folk music and Woody Guthrie. I listened to that for years. As I got older and angrier, I got into John Lennon’s solo stuff and the Velvet Underground—pre-punk stuff. T. Rex was a big influence on me and early rockabilly, too. I’ve mixed all that together.

So, you’ve got an album or two in the works, right?

Yeah, there’s a lot in the works. There’s this great band from Philadelphia called Toy Soldiers, and we’ve been swapping shows for years and we tour together all the time. We did a little mini tour together through Ohio. We played my hometown, Lexington, parts of Kentucky. When we passed through Nashville, we took some time off to record. We have this spilt EP that we’re going to release, and it’s going to be called Mid Week Mountain Getaway, which there’s a story behind. I was sleeping on the lead singer’s couch for a while in Philly, hanging out there, bumming around, and we went up to the mountains. We just jammed and played all these songs, did some recordings. It’s half of that and half of what we did in Nashville. That’s six songs. I’m very excited about that. I have 15 more on a solo album coming out, hopefully by the middle of this summer. I’ve convinced the Toy Soldiers to move down here, so hopefully I’ll be playing more with them.

Tell me more about your solo album.

It’s a collection of 30-plus songs that I’m going to have to split into two albums. The first installment will come out this summer. I’m still playing with the title, but basically it’s from ages 19 to 21 and that period of life, leaving the nest and growing up and teaching yourself how to live. The working title is “Who’s Going to Teach You How to Live, Who’s Going to Leech You, Who’s Going to Give.” It’ll be 15 songs everywhere from surf rock to rootsy/folky stuff to country/singer songwriter-y stuff. It’s everywhere; it’s all over the place. I’m all over the place.

Of all those songs, is there one that sticks out to you?

Some of them I enjoy more than others. What do they say, “Songs are like babies.” Of course you enjoy some kids more than others, that’s just honest. There’s a song I like a lot called “Bitterness Wins.” That’s a good one. “Red Lights of Love,” that’s a good one, too.

Tell me about “Bitterness Wins.”

The whole album—well, the first half—is about this relationship I was in. It’s what the title says, just being really pissed off and that feeling winning over love.

In conjunction with guitar, you also play harmonica. You were talking about how you found Dylan, is there a link there?

I’d be lying if I said I’d figured that out on my own. That’s totally Bob Dylan. It stems from when I was 15 and wanting to be Bobby. That’s the only reason I do that. Woody Guthrie, too. I want to follow in that tradition. I also play a lot of banjo and I’m really serious about that too, just as much as guitar and harmonica.

On your website you’ve got a gallery of journal doodles, so you draw?

Yeah, I was actually painting just before I got over here. If I did music all the time I’d go crazy. I have to be making stuff all the time. I do a lot of traveling, I do a lot of couch surfing, and I play a lot of shows that way, and I like to keep little road journals and write everything down. I’ve been doing it since the sixth grade, so I’ve got my whole life documented. I’m obsessed with documenting everything; I have this horrible fear of death, so art is a way to live beyond yourself.

Can I ask what you’re painting?

I like to do a lot of stuff from the subconscious. It’s just random stuff from my head. I just kind of space out and all of a sudden I snap back and there’s a piece of art in front of me. I’ve been painting a lot of monkeys lately; I don’t know why. It’ll make sense to me in a few years. Usually you paint a picture, write a song or draw something and it makes no sense to you at the moment, but then after a couple years you have this “aha” moment and you’re like, “Oh, now I get it.”

What was the last album you bought?

Well, Record Store Day just happened. I went to the Jerry Lee Lewis show. It was so good, so I pre-ordered my Jerry Lee Lewis album. I think that’s the last thing I bought, but I also bought Bob Dylan, [who] just released some recordings of when he was younger. Rockabilly and folk music.

What’s next for you?

I’m going to finish these records. Then I’m going to take a little break from recording to play a bunch of shows and build some buzz around those recordings. I want to take a stab in production, so I’m working with some of the artists on the scene and I want to start producing some stuff. I’m working with a songwriter named Leah Korbin; I’m going to produce her record. Then I’m going to finish the second one, and the Toy Soldiers are going to move down here and we’re just going to play shows until the end of time and nothing will go wrong, which is not true, but we’ll survive.

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