Nolan Hubbard boldly emerges as vocalist, guitarist and composer of evocative acoustic-pop masterpieces with the forthcoming release of his debut album and his moving and memorable lead-off single Today.
The album was recorded in Nashville alongside top session players, and was produced by Canadian industry veteran Douglas Romanow. The time spent in Music City USA proved to be edifying and encouraging for Hubbard, as he felt both in awe of the surroundings but also emboldened by the experience – awed by the significance of being one of the mecca’s of the music business, but also emboldened because he came to realize that he had what it took as a songwriter and player to hang with some of the world’s best.
“It was a culture shock for sure, but I learned so much from watching the way these guys worked in the studio. I also had a chance to write alongside some writers down there and they really treated me as an equal and we wrote some amazing material, some of which made it onto the album,” Hubbard said.
Born and raised in the small eastern Ontario community of Gananoque, just east of Kingston, Hubbard grew up in a home immersed in music, particularly what might be called the modern Great Canadian Songbook.
“There was always music around the house, especially bands like Blue Rodeo, Great Big Sea and The Tragically Hip. And my dad was a real hard rock and classic rock guy, and I really followed in those footsteps,” he said.
“The common thing between all the music I loved as a kid was great playing, great lyrics and creative melodies. Those are what I try to bring to my own songs; and honesty too. It’s important that music be catchy and relatable because that’s what good songs are, I believe. Those are the songs that stand the test of time. I do my best to write songs that I think anyone can grab onto, but at the end of the day they’re just a reflection of my own experiences and feelings.”
Hubbard got his first guitar at age 11, taking to the instrument with a dedication and obvious ability and quickly becoming a self-taught prodigy. By 17, his tastes had begun to change as he became more artistically confident and adventurous, expanding his repertoire into a more acoustic style. At the same time, he started to experiment with singing along to his playing, revealing a voice that was surprisingly soulful, impactful and one that made people listen intently. He knew immediately he wanted to be able to move people with just a guitar, his voice and his songs.
And that most assuredly happens when listens to the single, Today.
“The first line “Today I’m gunna change the world, even its not too much, a little’s enough for me” came to me one day so I ran home and ended up writing the rest of the song around it in about an hour. It’s about going out and saying the things you wished to say and giving the people the unique message that only you have. Everybody has a voice, but sometimes people feel that they are not being heard. It was something that I was really feeling at the time so I think that’s why the song basically wrote itself. It’s a song of hope that encourages people to say what they feel and not be afraid to be themselves,” Hubbard said, representing his willingness to put his ideas and emotions on the line by releasing a song and an album that is so authentically representative of him as an artist and a person.
The song Sandbanks is an affectionate ode to a popular beach area in Prince Edward County in Ontario, but Hubbard said it could apply to any place that evokes warm, wonderful affectionate memories.
“I think it’s the most honest, and in some ways the simplest song on the album because it’s just a story about a day on the beach. It’s my favourite because every time I play it, it takes me back there. But I also hope that it brings that same feeling to anybody whether they have been to Sandbanks or not. It could be a beach in California or anyplace – it’s a summer song that I hope makes people smile,” he said.
The Other Side is demonstrative of Hubbard’s real depth and maturity as a songwriter for his ability to set a scene and tell a story that is, as he’s said, relatable.
“It’s about a young couple in love, struggling to make it in a hard world, but getting by because they care and support one another – and understand what is really important in life. It’s about being thankful for what we do have. We may not have the finer things in life and some hardships, but there’s always another side to life. I think if you take a second and can remove yourself from the immediate situation, you can see there’s always hope.”
A regular on the southern Ontario club scene, Hubbard has played many of the top clubs in Toronto, and has already journeyed across the country on a self-booked, self-promoted tour that saw him play for audiences from Thunder Bay, through Winnipeg, Regina and Vancouver.
This album is a game changer for Hubbard, as he’s stepped out with a confident and strong debut – a collection of songs that are accessible, compelling and which wind their way into people’s souls. It’s a record that will undoubtedly make music lovers, cultural tastemakers and the music industry feel good about the future of popular music in Canada.