Although he’s been writing songs for quite a while, Redwood City’s David Hobbes wasn’t sure he wanted to make an album.
“I’ve played music my whole life,” he said. “I’ve been in a number of music groups that were relatively short-lived, side endeavors to my day job. Over the years, I wrote songs, but I never took myself seriously as a songwriter. Or maybe, I never took songwriting seriously. Then I met Rachel Efron.
“I used to play music for my young son with our au pair,” Hobbes said. “She was a musician and told me about a songwriting group that was having its annual conference in San Francisco. I went and caught the last 15 minutes of the last session, which was being taught by Rachel. I was impressed and joined her Songwriting Salon. Over the next four years, I worked on songs with Rachel as part of that group, then one-on-one. At some point, I started to believe I was writing good songs.
“I began playing the material out at open mics,” Hobbes said. “At every one, at least one person would come up to me and ask, ‘Where can I find your music?’ It helped me think I wasn’t crazy to think the songs were good. That led to wanting them produced and out in the world.”
With Efron as his producer and co-writer, Hobbes put together the ten songs on his debut, Searching for a Home. “The title represents my feeling that I’m still searching for a place that feels like home. I’d almost given up on this album. I got lost in the ‘what’s the point’ of it. My 20s are well in the rearview mirror and it’s my first album. I hardly told anyone I was doing this and almost didn’t finish the record.
“At one point, I’d let things go. I hadn’t written anything for a while. I was driving through Idaho, literally looking for a home I might be able to afford. I found myself listening to Jeff Tweedy’s audiobook How to Write One Song. He was so sure that songs and songwriting are important, that it made me think twice. On that trip, I started writing the song, ‘Searching for a Home.’ I made it the album’s title track because it represents my putting aside doubts and saying, ‘I’m going to do this because it makes me feel alive and I think it could be really good.’”
Last August, when the songs were good to go, Hobbes and Efron recorded the basic tracks with guitarist James DePrato, drummer Jason Slota, keyboard player Max Cowan and Aaron Shaul on bass. Lead and backing vocals, a horn section and other afterthoughts were added over the next several months.
Hobbes, Efron and company cover a lot of musical and lyrical ground on the record. “Heat of the Moment” is a folk-like murder ballad, with a bit of R&B in Slota’s backbeat. Hobbes follows the path of an extramarital affair, from its inception to its unfortunate conclusion, in a calm tenor that heightens the song’s emotional impact. Cowan’s piano and DePrato’s bluesy guitar fills keep “When You Need a Hand” anchored to the earth. Hobbes sings of a trip around the sun on a spaceship, with a voice full of awe and wonder.
“Water Gone By” blends country, gospel and the blues, with Cowan’s organ and DePrato’s twang heavy lead lines complimenting Hobbes touching vocal, as he describes the sadness of looking back on a past relationship, remembering the good times with a combination of regret and resignation.
“I think a lot of my lyrics actually play against the music,” Hobbes said. “After I played an open mic at Freewheel Brewery, a young woman said what she really liked about my songs was that the music was fun and light, but the lyrics had a grit and darkness to them. I think I’m writing about universal themes that transcend state and national lines and, at this point, I have listeners in many different countries, via Spotify.
“I still have a way to go before feeling comfortable as a performer,” Hobbes said. “Releasing ‘Measure of Degree’ as a single a few months ago, is one of the scariest things I’ve ever done. You put your heart and soul into something, then it’s out in the world where its worth is just a matter of opinion. I hope people will find something that resonates with their own experiences in my songs. For me, those little moments of connection with people are incredibly satisfying. They’re the moments that make all of this worthwhile.”
Searching for a Home