Singer-songwriter Adam Hill is still making music against the odds

Adam Hill says he has a lot more songs written than he's been able to record: "I need to find homes for them. They're like a litter of puppies."

Adam Hill says he has a lot more songs written than he's been able to record: "I need to find homes for them. They're like a litter of puppies."

Adam Hill may have been about a decade before his time when he was in Knoxville. After Hill's tenure with the rock band the Satellite Pumps, he performed with a group called the Raggedettes, which, he says, would have fit in well with what he calls "the acoustic bluegrass beard music that the kids really like."

That isn't the sound of Hill's new album, "Banjo Moon," which is more rootsy rock 'n' roll, but it does have a likeable rawness about it.

"It's kind of intentional and kind of by necessity," says Hill, taking a break from his day job at book publisher Thomas Nelson in Nashville.

"I'm always writing new stuff, and going into a studio is not something I can financially do."

Over the past year, Hill has actually released three EPs through his page on www.adamhill.Bandcamp.com.

"We're making a bigger push on 'Banjo Moon' because it's newer stuff. 'Discount Moon' and 'Missing Pictures' are older songs. If I'd had my wits about me I could've probably made a record out of one of those in 1999 and the other in 2003."

He says he remembers Liz Phair and Guided By Voices changing the rules with do-it-yourself sounding albums.

"I'm not, per se, a low-fi fan, but if it works, it works. I've heard records where they had a billion dollar budget that sounded terrible. Sometimes your limitations can work for you."

Hill grew up in Kingston and became a regular fixture in the local music scene in the 1990s. He says seeing Dolly Parton and Johnny Paycheck in concert when he was young made deep impressions on him. He'd grown up listening to The Beatles and The Rolling Stones and then came the Georgia Satellite's hit "Keep Your Hands to Yourself," which gave fans of gut-bucket rock 'n' roll a ray of hope for goodtime music.

Hill's Satellite Pumps certainly took a cue from that style, and Bloodshot Records noticed.

"I had a deal with Bloodshot in, like 1996, and I messed that up," says Hill.

He says walking away from the Bloodshot deal was one of the bad mistakes he's made.

"I turned it down," says Hill. "I didn't do the smart thing. I didn't do any negotiation. I just freaked out ... I had no idea how the music industry works. Then I spent about 10 years making it worse. I thought all you had to do was act weird and drink beer and success would come."

Hill moved to New York and then to Nashville, all the while writing 20 to 30 songs per month.

"I think in my mid-30s I hit a wall and slowed down. I got more methodical about it. I try to sit down once or twice a week and just make myself write. I don't believe in the school that you always have to have inspiration. You have to work at it every day."

He may not produce as much, but he feels that what he does create is better.

"That seems counter-intuitive to what I thought as a kid," says Hill. "I thought you were a burning flame of intense stupidity and became successful. Then as you got older you lost your edge. I guess because I've never been successful I never lost my edge!"

While Hill gains the praise of critics and peers, making a name for himself remains a challenge — a challenge that's a little harder for a guy with family responsibilities than it is for a young, single artist. He says he and drummer Cobra Joe Curet (the two perform as a duo) mostly stick to the Nashville area. The lure of performing at songwriter nights isn't so great anymore.

"I'm 40 years old. I'm not going to drive three hours to play after some girl in a miniskirt who everybody loves because she's 22 and hot and then play my two songs and pay a $10 drink minimum. We'd just like to let people know we exist and play our songs."

Get Copyright Permissions © 2012, Knoxville News Sentinel Co.
Want to use this article? Click here for options!

© 2012 Knoxville.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Related Topics

Comments » 0

Be the first to post a comment!

Want to participate in the conversation? Become a subscriber today. Subscribers can read and comment on any story, anytime. Non-subscribers will only be able to view comments on select stories.

Already activated? Login