Dillon Hodges on Rumspringa’s, Crowdsourcing and Kite Flying

Dillon Hodges
Dillon Hodges just released his debut full-length album, Rumspringa, but don’t let that fool you into thinking he’s the new kid on the block. A gifted guitar player, the singer/songwriter won 14 flat-picking competitions (some national) before he was old enough to vote. Hodges has a knack for story-telling as well, infusing raw energy and emotion into each song. His music’s made quite an impact thus far: Hodges has shared the stage with The Civil Wars and Paste just listed him as on of the Top 12 Bands from Alabama. 

Here Dillon Hodges discusses the story behind Rumspringa, his murder-ballad, “Bullet For A Broken Heart” and flying kites.

Sound Dessert: What inspired the album title, Rumspringa?
Dillon Hodges: For the Amish, Rumspringa is a period of time during adolescence where a youth can leave the community and experience the outside world. For me, when I made this record and left my home in Alabama to relocate to Nashville, marry my wife, and hit the road all around the same time, I felt like I was seeing the outside world for the first time.

SD: Was their a pivotal moment in your adolescence, a ‘rumspringa’ of sorts, where you chose music over another path? 
DH: The first time I stood on a stage, I knew there was nothing else for me. I was 11 years old and performed on a local access tv show held in a strip mall. I’d been taking guitar lessons for a month and only knew the 2 songs I played. After that, I locked myself in my room and started practicing 8 hours a day.

Credit: Wes Frazer Photography

Credit: Wes Frazer Photography

SD: How does it feel to be releasing your debut album, which was funded through a Kickstarter campaign? 
DH: Crowdsourcing was something I’d never heard of before. I realize now it’s one of the most powerful tools available to a young artist, not only because an artist can finally gain access to much needed capital to make bold career moves independently, but also because of the connection and investment the donors have to your project. Friends, family and fans all pitched in and are now all invested in the success of the record and my career.

SD: You recently moved to Nashville from Florence, Alabama. What do you like about the music scene/community in Nashville? Are there bars you enjoy for checking out the local talent?
DH: I love the Nashville food scene most of all! My favorite food joints are City House, Prince’s Hot Chicken and Burger Up. To see new talent, I go to “New Faces Night” at The Basement, which is held every Tuesday.

SD: Have you bumped into any notable locals around town? 
DH: Since living in Nashville, I most frequently run into Justin Townes Earle. He has no idea who I am, but my wife and I are huge fans. I have also crossed paths with Dan Auerbach, Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman and countless country stars.

SD: You just kicked off the Two Man Bill Tour with Adam Faucett in support of Rumspringa’s release. What three things can’t you live without on the road?
DH: Unfortunately, an inhaler. I literally couldn’t live without it. Also, I doubt I could ever find a venue without a GPS. Lastly, I bring a sleeping bag for seedy motels and sleeping on floors.

SD: The haunting single, “Bullet For A Broken Heart” gives me chills. What inspired the song? 

DH: I initially imagined the song to be a spiritual of sorts. The line “take me home” was stuck in my head for days with the melody of the song. It evolved into a story inspired by the outlaw songs of Haggard and Waylon. The song turned into a murder ballad about a man desperately trying to get to a river to escape capture, even though he “never knew how to swim.”

SD: Songs like “The Hills of East Tennessee” and the title track “Rumspringa” tell vivid stories. Are there musicians that had an influence on your writing style? Was music a big presence in your home growing up? 
DH: I always wrote stories as a child. They were deep, dark and of concern to those closest to me. I never combined my love for storytelling and my love for song until I was in high school, and I very seldom listened to music with words. My biggest influences were Tony Rice and Doc Watson. Before I picked up the guitar, music wasn’t a centerpiece in our home, but afterwards, my parents drove me all over the country every weekend to bluegrass guitar competitions.

SD: “The Garden and The Moth” is a duet with Amber Murray, how did that collaboration come to be? 
DH: Amber is one of my favorite people in the world. The first time I heard her voice it pulled me in and I haven’t turned away ever since. I knew I wanted to feature her on “The Garden and The Moth” from the time I wrote the song. Our collaboration has continued. I was featured on “Thinking of You” on her new record, The Bear, and we have begun writing songs together. She will also be making an appearance in my new music video for “The Proof”.

SD: Let’s talk your glasses. What style frames are your signature style? Do you have a go-to guy who hooks you up with new pairs? 
DH: I have grown to love “half-round” frames. I am currently wearing a brand called “Moscot” out of New York City. The shop I go to in Nashville is called Barton Perreira.

SD: What’s your favorite summer activity? 
DH: I have been on a kite-flying kick lately. On windy days, I go to centennial park by Vanderbilt University and fly kites for hours.

Rumspringa is streaming in full over at American Songwriter Magazine’s web site. Dillon Hodges is currently on the road for the Two Man Bill Tour with Adam Faucett. Check out the full schedule here.

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