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Let it rain traditional country with Hoyt Hughes (Includes interview)

Cowboy came out on September 9, via Cowboy Records, and was produced by award-winning producer Kevin Savigar, who has previously worked with the likes of Rod Stewart, Jo Dee Messina, Bob Dylan and John Mellencamp.

The record highlights Hughes’ traditionalist country leanings and, as well as the 10 songs written or co-written by the Floridian — who now splits his time between Nashville and Los Angeles — notable tunesmiths such as Bob DiPiero, Troy Jones and Natalie Hemby were also on hand to help out.

How are you? What have you been doing recently?

Do you really want to know how I am?! Well, right now, I’m on cloud nine. My debut album is currently getting attention in the press and industry, and folks are saying good things, so I’m really stoked.

How did I get here? Been learning electric guitar (was mainly an acoustic player) Why? My new guitar consultant, Frank Darabont loaned me his brand new Gretsch 6120 Vintage Select Edition ’55 Chet Atkins guitar because he’s — get this — a fan of my music!

My first time on a California stage was closing the Habitat for Humanity fundraiser with an anthem song, “Raise the Roof,” off my first album. This has all been so unreal — the things movies are made of. A few months ago I was working at a power plant in Florida! Every day I’m blown away…

Please tell me a bit about the single “Let It Rain” and its accompanying video. Where was the video filmed?

There’s so much story to tell about the song; what an amazing history it has now. That was my first original song that I had started performing live on stage about two years ago. People in the audience always loved it, which is great because it was sandwiched in between covers and my other recordings people had already heard.

Kevin Savigar loved the song and the concept for the music video, which included horses and a love story, and decided to arrange the music tracks from a very cinematic point of view. Once the vocals were recorded, they sent me back to Florida, called me a couple of weeks later and said: “Get back out here, we’re going to start recording your first album and film the music video at the same time.”

I was working at the power plant and had to make the decision to quit and dedicate the time to the album recording and writing new original songs. They wanted mostly new original songs, which was really inspiring to me. No one had pushed for my original music before.

So that’s what I did; gave up all my seniority at the plant – with the support of my fellow workers and supervisors there — and came out to L.A. and filmed the music video on and around the premises of the Los Angeles Equestrian Centre in the Burbank Rancho area. It triggered such a monumental life-altering time for me, that that song will always have a special place in my heart.

The song is a return to that traditional country sound. Do you think there’s a bit of a traditional country revival going on at the moment?

Yes, I agree the song is a return to traditional country, but with that great movie soundtrack western sound that Savigar wrapped around it. We call it “Western Country.” Country music does seem to be evolving back into a traditional sound, but it also seems to be opening up to different twists and turns in its themes and sounds, as far as mixing rock, blues and the open-minded approach to an artist’s real organic creative senses.

I’ve been reading quite a few articles lately with artists mentioning they are, or will be, bringing country back to country. I’m right in the middle — or at least at the forefront — of this emerging curve with country music. I’m really happy and proud to be somewhat unique in the way this whole album sounds. Some of it is the songwriting, but a lot of the unusual sound has to be credited to Kevin Savigar.

Please tell about Cowboy. What themes do you address in the songs, which other tracks might you release as singles?

I’d like to release all the tracks as singles. Love every song almost equally for all different reasons. Once I got back to L.A., the floodgates opened and 10 years’ worth of unwritten songs just started pouring out of me! Production Partners by then had created a new music division/indie record label for my music, Cowboy Records, and made my image their logo!

Since they and Savigar weren’t totally sure in the beginning stages of recording the album that I would write a bunch of album-worthy songs, they had already found some really cool music and writers that perfectly matched my groove. So we ended up with 16 songs on the album.

There’s my original stuff, with themes about love, loneliness, appreciation, disconnects, happiness, patriotism and just plain havin’ a good time — not to mention sex and drinking! But all the songs on this album, whether I wrote them or not, have a very deep meaning to me, PPI/Cowboy Records and Kevin Savigar.

What do you like to write about in general?

I will write about anything and everything if it moves me. I’ve been co-writing with my brother, Travis (most people call him Randall) since I was very young. I could easily say that Travis’ awesome songwriting skills probably guided my songwriting style more than anyone.

One of the two songs we co-wrote on this album is a really patriotic song called “Red White Blue” that came from both of us feeling like the world’s gone crazy and we need to keep America strong. We need to do all we can to support our troops. We have family members that served in the armed forces and Travis is a retired police officer.

We were talking about that one day and just started writing about our country. I thought we were gonna write about small town America and it just grew into love of our country by the time we finished. The other song we co-wrote for this album is called “Of Me and You,” a very simple song about being lost and alone.

What do you like about country music? What do you make of the current Nashville scene?

I love country music! I love all kinds of music when you really feel the emotion in the song. Specifically with country music, you have an extra range for storytelling and emotion that sometimes can reach more people with the connection to their own lives – the themes often are relatable to everyone.

The thing about Nashville is it holds the key to some of the best music of our time. There’s such a reverence for their songwriters, which is fair because the very best songwriters are there.

We worked with all Nashville musicians recording on the album, so it IS authentic Nashville music. Nashville, I think, is re-embracing the whole idea that it’s not Country Music City, it’s Music City. Any great music can be formed there because a lot of the best our country has to offer musically does generate from there.

What are your plans for the rest of 2016 and beyond? What ambitions do you hope to achieve?

My plan for the rest of 2016 is to keep getting the album out there and start really performing the songs in as many places as I can. I am just excited now to see how the album is received as it gets into more hands. I’m also working every day on newer songs for the next album and gearing up to film more music videos for more of the Cowboy album songs.

I’m looking forward to some quality family and friend time back home and celebrate each day as a gift. My ambition now is to change people through my music, whether they are happy or hurting. If my music can offer an escape or comfort, or bring a smile, even just for a few minutes, well that is truly a gift.

For more information on Hoyt Hughes, visit his official website.

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