Article by: Jamie McCormick | Photos courtesy of Young Hines | Posted: 05/01/2012
The room erupts into laughter as Young Hines, the Georgia-born, Nashville-adopted, folk-influenced indie-rocker, strolls into a Lightning 100 studio to record a session wearing a full suit and tie. One Mr. Brendan Benson--prankster and man of many talents (best known for his stint with The Raconteurs)--slaps his khaki short-clad knee gleefully at the expression on Hines' face, and the Lightning 100 crew--also in khaki shorts and polo--laugh right along. Hines, sipping on his favorite drink, (sweet tea), and making the best of the gag at his expense says, “I'm standing there in the suit, and I was like, 'Well, I could take the jacket off to notch it down, so I'm not blowing you guys out.'” But Benson had a better idea. Hines continues, “He took my sweet tea and put it in my hand, and he goes, 'There you go. That does it.'”
Such scenes of camaraderie prove to be common occurrences between Benson and Hines, who are currently on tour together promoting Benson's new label, Readymade Records. The story goes that, out of the blue, Benson first heard of Hines when a house painter friend of Hines' decided to listen to Hines' demos on the job, and a diamond in the rough was unearthed. Hines debunked a bit of the mystery, however, saying Benson reminded him that the two had hung out a couple of times before Benson actually heard Hines' music. Remembering that he liked Hines, Benson recorded a cover of Hines' song “Only in a Dream,” which was inspired and written while Hines was working at a hydroelectric plant. “I couldn't stand the thought of having a real job,” Hines explains. “But then as soon as I found out, I'm gonna be in the Reverb Chamber today, it was the greatest job on Earth. It's this huge, cavernous place,” he says. “The melody just swirled around the room.” Feeling that inspiration pulsating through the song, Benson sent Hines a copy of the cover, and enticed the rambling artist to join him on a new label.
What Benson doubtless heard in those rough demos was an attention to detail and a classic, timeless sound that Hines has been developing since he was quite young. It was in Griffin, Georgia where Hines says musicians focus on “the craft of songwriting and the attention to sounds” using classic gear and quality instruments, that his father gave Hines his first taste of the musician's life--a classical guitar and lessons. Hines says, “The note that came with the guitar was something like, 'With this, you'll never go hungry, you'll never be without friends.'” Hines took the guitar and never looked back.
Providing direction for the fledgling artist, Hines' older brother showed him the way to pen a prime tune. “He's the writer I aspire to be,” says Hines. Always a creative kid, Hines says his passions in school even ran toward the creative. “Okay students, we need you to do homework. Tuned out,” he explains, laughing. “We need you to learn this. Tuned out. We need you to make a video project at home and bring it in to show the class. I'm all over it.” So when he was old enough, Hines took the natural next step and began touring with his brother's bluegrass band. The thrill of performance had seeped into his bloodstream.
Moving to Chicago to make a go of the music thing, Hines ran hard into a wall of culture shock that sent him reeling and left him a bit unmoored. “Every road looked the same to me for the first year,” he says, continuing, “and I relied on a GPS. And I really hate relying on stuff like that--that makes you feel lost--but in a white-out blizzard [when] I'm already 30 minutes late, I need it.” But once Hines recovered his footing, the impact provided plenty of fodder for writing, giving him a musical GPS that helped him find his way. “So I remember June 1st, I got up, I went to my window and I opened the window, and there it was. It was snowing on the first day of June. So I turned around to the piano and, inside of about five minutes, I just wrote my current situation.
Hines has kept both that slice of life style of songwriting and his attention to honest, forceful sound, bringing them to bear on his new record with Readymade. “There's a lot of beauty in error,” Hines explains. “And there's a lot of beauty in perfection too. So it was walking that balance of things--not letting it get too slick, keeping some of the crust in there, keeping some of the ugly stuff.” The result is a beautifully wrought and honest record that does the small label proud. “If somebody's awesome and they're doing you a favor, you don't want to let them down, or you're a dick,” says Hines. “I don't want to be a dick. I want to do him right so that he wants to do this again for whoever else's band.”
And though signing to a small label provides many challenges, Hines explains that it can also be quite rewarding. “I feel like I'm a big part of it. I feel like I've been given a green light creatively.” He also appreciates the helping hand, when someone is there, at his back, reminding him to “dot his i's and cross his t's.” But the hard work is far from over. “The chore [of a small label] is that it's an all-or-nothing thing,” he asserts. “This isn't something that I'm going to be able to do in my spare time...What I think a small label needs is an artist that is 100% committed, willing to starve and go without food, [and who’s] not going to call and bother the heads of labels or be trying to get an extra penny out of them.” And just as long as he has enough pennies to buy a glass of Whit's sweet tea, Hines will continue to churn out great folk-rock with a huge, satisfied smile.
Young Hines - "Rainy Day"