San Francisco singer/songwriter Bob Hillman is back with a new album after 10+ years away from the business.
I had a good run in the late 90s/early 00s, releasing three albums and touring the United States and Europe, including 80 some-odd dates as the opening act on Suzanne Vega’s Songs in Red and Gray tour. Along the way, I earned positive notices like this one from Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered:
“I’ve never heard of this Mr. Bob Hillman but that song about War and Peace is enough to make you want to pick up War and Peace and start reading it.”
In 2003, however, I made the decision to become “employable” by going to business school; I then spent ten years working as a marketer on brands like Formula 409, Glad, and QuickBooks and raising my two sons, who are now in elementary school.
A 2014 layoff opened up some time for writing and meditating on the possibilities, music-wise, and roughly coincided with Peter Case’s relocating from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Peter, a songwriter’s songwriter, had encouraged me since the mid-90s, when I sent my first batch of demos to an address on the back of his Torn Again album. We re-connected and, after a year and many, many cups of coffee, decided to work together.
Peter was a major impetus for the project – how could I resist the opportunity to work with one of the songwriters who inspired me to become a songwriter? – but the mainstreaming of crowdfunding didn’t hurt. My Kickstarter reached its initial, possibly-too-modest goal in two days and eventually generated almost $20,000. Crowdfunding can work for the financing part, but it’s also great for gauging interest among your friends/fans. I needed that vote of confidence!
The result is Lost Soul, produced by Peter Case with twelve new songs culled from the hundred or so new ones since 2005. The album was recorded by Sheldon Gomberg at The Carriage House in Silver Lake, CA with superb musicians including Joseph Arthur (loops, electric guitar), Danny McGough (keyboards), Jonny Flaugher (bass), Danny Frankel (drums), Cindy Wasserman (harmony), and my good friends Marky and Kipp Lennon (harmony). It was a privilege to spend a few days playing with these guys, and I don’t take it for granted.
I’m proud of this recording, which – thanks to Peter Case’s vision and Joseph Arthur’s loops, among many other things – relies on a less crafted, more visceral sound than the straightforward folk-rock in my catalog.
My ambitions are also different from the old days, when conquering the world still held some appeal: I just want a few more people to hear these songs. But, for me personally and perhaps for others, Lost Soul is about more than just the songs or the sound. As one fan put it in a recent email:
“You know, I think seeing you ‘back’ could be the most inspiring thing I’ve come across in years. After sleeping on it, I’m rethinking all the things I thought I’d never do again…”
“Hillman’s lyrics are the terrible things I think, but do not say.”
Country Fried Rock
“The audience was also thrilled with…opening act Bob Hillman, a performer 1/3 Bruce Springsteen, 1/3 Bob Dylan, and 1/3 Conan O’Brien.”
Isanti-Chisago County Star, Cambridge, MN
“I’ve never heard of this Mr. Bob Hillman but that song about War & Peace is enough to make you want to pick up War & Peace and start reading it.”
Susan Stamberg, All Things Considered
“Opening act Bob Hillman was a bit like a male Suzanne Vega with a wackier sense of humor, a less-tentative Elliott Smith or perhaps a folkie Tenacious D His set was good enough to suggest he may be one indie movie soundtrack away from bigger things.”
Wisconsin State Journal, Madison, WI
“No frills, no soft soap, no funny business – this is all meat-and-potatoes, straight from the gut and done with skill.”
“You can tell from the first note of the aptly names “I Think I’ve Taken Enough S*** From You This Year” that this isn’t going to be your normal folk-rock Bob Hillman record.”
“Lyrics don’t get much smarter and funnier than those in the songs by singer-songwriter…Bob Hillman.”
Capital Times, Madison, WI
I’ll Replace You With Machines // Lost Soul
I’ll Replace You With Machines // Lost Soul
Party Dress // Lost Soul
You Started Drinking Again // Lost Soul
War of Independence // Lost Soul
Big Sur // Lost Soul
Overnight Failure // Lost Soul
I Think I’ve Taken Enough Shit From You This Year // Lost Soul