When Jordan Hull performs it's with the voice of an old soul. His influences are classic and sometimes obscure to modern ears — Mississippi John Hurt, Bob Dylan, Blind Willie McTell, Tim Hardin, Buddy Holly. ... His songs are solid. They're old-fashioned in their craftsmanship, but still sound like they belong in the 21st century.
"All these influences got blended together and you get this musical milkshake," says Hull in a call from his Nashville home.
It's a mixture that more listeners will be able to sample soon. Hull is on the eve of releasing his first nationally distributed album, "Who's Gonna Teach You How To Live," on Ropeadope Records.
A native of Dayton, Ohio, Hull picked up on older music early.
"As a kid I was really obsessed with Elvis," he says. "I did Elvis impersonations. When I went to flea markets I'd get Elvis trading cards. Every old picture of me is a little guy with a guitar. I think most of my life has been a struggle to stay what I've always been."
He didn't actually learn how to play guitar until a little later, though.
"When I was a kid in middle school I played the trombone," says Hull. "I realized pretty quick that playing the trombone was social suicide and also when I practiced trombone people would leave the room. So I taught myself how to play guitar."
Hull, though, was undergoing some emotional changes.
"I was a good student, followed the rules. Then I got depressed. Then I got rebellious. Then I got grounded a lot and I spent hours alone playing the guitar."
He also learned how to play harmonica and banjo, and began writing songs that sounded far older than his years. He recorded them in his bedroom and began posting them on MySpace.
"Coming from Dayton, you've got Guided By Voices and this real do-it-yourself mentality," says Hull.
Through the Internet, he began getting his music out around the country. And, locally, he was getting gigs and winning contests. The shows were the typical array of good and bad, but Hull's worst-gig experience is a stand-out.
"It was at Miami University in Oxford, Ohio," says Hull. "I got paid $200 to play for the swim team while they did their warm-ups."
Hull had to set up on the middle tier of the diving board tower.
"It was slightly frightening just with the PA over the water and then the acoustics in the pool were terrible. Nobody could hear me and I played for two hours."
The reaction was, appropriately, confusion.
"And I thought they were gonna have me play the National Anthem so I worked out a really good version on guitar, but I was on the middle stand and there was a chick on the tower above me playing violin and they had her do it!"
In 2009, he moved to Nashville to attend Belmont University. He dropped out, but kept ties there. Through that connection he was able to record "Who's Gonna Teach You How to Live" with student engineers in classic studios owned by Belmont.
Hull's new album is set for release in early June, but he's already got a new batch of songs and hopes to begin recording again later this summer.
"All these songs I wrote years ago about girls I've already forgotten about!" says Hull.
© 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
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