Ray Wylie Hubbard On Finding Success Beyond “Hobby Status” After a Series of Unique Day Jobs

April 7, 2015

Tell us about your tour vehicle.

got a chevy custom van with 4 captain chairs. bout 18 mpg on road..98,688 miles. travel with road manager/merch guy, drummer, lead guitarist (depending on his school schedule). took out the back seat so drums, amps, guitars, merch all fit..no breakdown stories as i change oil, rotate tires when i’m supposed to..

How do you eat cheaply and/or healthy while on tour?

we use gps to find whole foods or health food stores..hit h.e.b. when in texas.

How many strings do you break in a typical year? How much does it cost to replace them?

don’t break a lot of strings as i finger pick and use my nails..i got an endorsement deal with elixir strings so i get ’em free but would use them even if i had to buy them.

Where do you rehearse?

rehearsals are over rated..if i got a new song i will play it for kyle my drummer at sound check and he’s so good sometimes i throw new songs at him during the set..i have that much confidence in him cause he got the chops to pull it off.

What was the title and a sample lyric from the first song that you wrote?

was a song called ‘muddy boggy banjo man.’ chorus went ‘muddy boggy banjo man, lemme dance till my legs can’t stand across this here country that’s known as free.’ was a million seller as it was on the flip side of a 45rpm record called ‘junk food junkie’ by larry groce a long time ago.

Describe your first gig.

i was in a folk group as a junior in high school and played for an 8th grade spanish class at an el fenix restaurant. it was freezing cold in the banquet room where we performed and the banjo would not stay in tune and because of eating sherbet after the free meal we got, our voices cracked during the 1st song.. and the rule for the evening was every one had to speak spanish so we couldn’t use the snappy patter we had practiced to say between songs so after every song we could only say ‘gracias.’ it was quite embarrassing but we made 5 dollars apiece..

What was your last day job? What was your favorite day job?

my last day job was as a jeep driver in red river new mexico taking fishermen up to the mountain lakes or tourists to the old abandoned mines.. i flipped one so i decided not to do that any more..wait..i was also a gunfighter/outlaw at a western tourist trap who robbed the fake bank each day at 4 and got shot off a fake saloon at 4:15…i was 20 or 21 years old.

How has your music-related income changed over the past 5-10 years? What do you expect it to look like 5-10 years from now?

well my income is pretty good compared to years in the past as on my income tax form there have been years i have been ”just above hobby status.” i’ve always been a working musician playing clubs, festivals etc..income from songwriting has generally grown but i have never been a writer for a publishing company..10 years from now i hope to still be writing songs people wanna hear.

What one thing do you know now that you had wished you knew when you started your career in music?

don’t sign away the publishing..read and learn about mechanicals and all about the business part of songwriting.

When it comes to down ’n’ dirty roots ’n’ roll, nobody in the wide world of Americana music today does it better than Ray Wylie Hubbard. From his humble beginnings as an Oklahoma folkie in the ’60s to his wild ride through the ’70s progressive country movement, and onward through the honky-tonk fog of the ’80s to his sobriety-empowered comeback as a songwriter’s songwriter in the ’90s, Hubbard was already a bonafide legend by the time he really found his groove right at the turn of the century. Beginning with 2001’s aptly-titled Eternal and Lowdown through to his latest and greatest release, 2015’s The Ruffian’s Misfortune, he has spent well over a decade now chasing hellhounds through muddy waters and deep into the underbelly of the blues, with a Lightnin’ Hopkins gleam in his eyes and a Rolling Stones swagger in his step.

You can find Ray Wylie Hubbard online and on the road.