Here at Ear Nuggets on this fine Tuesday morning, we’re very excited to present our first Ear Nuggets First Listen: “Treading Water” by New York singer-songwriter Mike Hubbard. We had a chance to speak with this talented PA born, NY based musician. Check out bits from the interview, and then make sure you check out his newest single right here!
We’ve had our eye on this young up-and-comer for some time now from his first album, recorded while a student at Berklee College of Music.
Hubbard has been in New York City for a few years now and has made a serious name for himself as a highly sought after headliner at venues like Mercury Lounge and Pianos. He draws a loyal following all over the city that can’t help but nearly drown him out at his catchy choruses. His humor and energy on stage keeps all audiences entranced and leaves everyone looking at their watches when he walks off stage wondering where the time went. In spite of his success, he decided to crowd source his latest album. It wasn’t an easy decision, and the choice weighed on him heavily, but in the end, it paid massive dividends.
“Making a record is very, very expensive. The vision that I had for the work required much more than I had in my own pocket, especially with New York City rent to pay. I [also] wanted my fans, friends, and family involved in the process. My first record was really a solo venture, an exploration of sorts, because I had never been in studio before for my own music. It was a very introspective, isolated, and private process. As an artist who now knows himself a lot better than that student a few years ago, this new record gave me the opportunity to get other people involved, thus raising the stakes but feeling more connected. I did not expect to raise nearly as much as I did. Right before I launched the Kickstarter campaign, I realized this was a huge reality check. “Are people going to donate? Am I chasing a rapidly dissipating fantasy? Do my followers actually support me or view me as a charity case? Is this worth putting myself out there?”
Well… it was worth it. Hubbard got a ton of support. So much that he was easily able to fund his second record, and was even able to enlist the help of Brooklyn engineer and producer, Jason Finkel, an established producer whose credits include Kanye West, Alicia Keys, Justin Timberlake and Yo-Yo Ma. Because music.
How’d Hubbard get hooked up with Finkel?
“Funny story,” says Hubbard, “Jason Finkel and I have had strangely parallel life paths. We both grew up in Berks County, PA, went to a small liberal arts college, felt unfulfilled and disillusioned there, transferred to Berklee after two years, then moved to New York City, all about ten years apart. A family friend who knew of him through a few degrees of separation told me to look him up as soon as I got off the bus from Boston. I didn’t expect him to respond to my email, but sure enough he got back to me pretty quickly, I assume because of the Berks County connection. We chatted over a beer at a place in Brooklyn, mostly reminiscing about our hometown and our own high school antics, barely mentioning music. After that, he gave me his card and I didn’t see him for over a year. When I got the recording bug, I gave him a call and the rest is history.”
The result? Dramatic, says Hubbard. His influence is all over the record.
“He’s been an incredible resource. This guy has listened to more records than anyone I have ever met, so he is a magician in studio, specifically with arranging. He’s totally changed my creative process for the better- I’m so much more conscious of small instrumental or vocal parts that color in the lines of a song now. No part is accidental or filler anymore.”
So what’s he going to do with all this support? He’s got plans.
“Tour, play a show I’ll remember for the rest of my life, record some more, graduate to a higher tier venue, and eat less ice cream.”
Hey, we all have goals, right?
Look out for a couple more show announcements at some familiar NYC venues for Hubbard and his band in the coming weeks along with the release of his latest album.
For now, enjoy the first single, “Treading Water” off his latest album.
Hubbard offered an explanation of the track:
“After I graduated college, I spent the summer on Cape Cod with a professional singing group. In a timeless vacation community like that, it’s so easy to happily put your life totally on hold and not notice how dangerous those doldrums can be. All of a sudden, the calendar pages seem to stop turning and it feels like the summer will never end, which at the time seems like a great thing in a hedonistic way. The song’s about a relationship that would pop up in a time and place like that, where specifics don’t really matter and you don’t have eyes on the future even though reality is looming on the horizon.”
By the way, get ready for this album. Hubbard offered us an advance copy and all I can tell you is “Treading Water,” great as it is, barely scratches the surface of this record. Don’t worry… we’ll keep you posted.