Jack Studebaker Hardy is possibly one of the finest and most complete songwriters I’ve ever sat down with. He doesn’t appear to have any game plan. As far as I can tell he has never written a pop song, not intentionally anyway, and apart from his theatre collaborations, never written to order either. Over the 4 days that I’m at Kerrville I get to hear many Jack Hardy songs and he goes for about 3 days before he repeats one. I do my best to do the same but the fact is I’m just not as prolific as Jack. The other incredible thing is that no matter how many Corona Lights he puts away over the course of an evening, he never forgets a word – well maybe one. A few days later at a house concert in Wylie Texas that I went to with Jack, where he was booked in a ‘professional’ capacity he stayed off the drink completely until the end of his set. which he finished with his Kerrville “anthem”, Blue Marghueritas, (“everything’s bigger in Texas including this big hangover…”) at which point the host, Tom Noe, produced one for him and one for his guitarist Bruce Balmer.
Jack is a Studebaker as in Studebaker cars. He tells an interesting story about his ancestor who started the business and how he was caught up in the 1849 gold rush to california. Spotting a bit of a gap in the market old Studebaker began turning out wheelbarrows to carry the gold & slag down the mountain, he later turned this money into money for covered wagons which eventually led to cars.
Jack lives in New York where for 30 years he has run a songwriting workshop where people bring their new songs to be heard by the group, drink wine and eat food. As Jack describes it, you only play new songs or songs in progress then you stand back and watch them get ripped to pieces. This group has included over the years, Suzanne Vega – a close friend of Jack’s – Lucinda Williams, Steve Forbert and others, many of whom will quote Jack as a mentor or inspiration.
Jack was very inquisitive when anyone new came to the circle to play. If someone was good he would make a point of telling them so, if not so good he would generally keep it to himself, if anyone came over a bit precious or false I would generally hear about it later – he takes songwriting very seriously and is intolerant of anyone who appears to do it for the wrong reasons. Like all of us I suppose, but with Jack I felt inclined to listen to his opinions and his songs, and learn from someone who clearly knew the difference between a good one and hot air.
Obviously I can’t remember the titles of most of his songs, he’s made about 15 CD’s ranging from Celtic to Cowboy and everything inbetween. One which he sang at the campfire was entirely in Gaelic and very long. At the time I remember thinking this is a bit self-indulgent Jack, and yet the image of him singing that song and the power and passion he put into it’s delivery – although I haven’t the faintest idea what it was about – will stay with me for a long time. I would suggest you check out his website for more info www.jackhardy.com
|Currently listening :
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By Jack Hardy
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