One of singer/songwriter Dave Hardin's enduring qualities is patience. Even now, as his new CD, "Nine Years Alone," emits a growing buzz in the music biz, he's in no hurry for global conquest. He maintains his modest regimen of solo gigs in and around Clearwater, Florida, and seems content to let his touring sphere grow without the proverbial Big Push.
the same with Hardin's music. He doesn't hurry it, and listeners shouldn't
hurry through it. It's music to savor, probing stories of real life, fueled
by real emotion. He offers glimpses of everyday events that, through his
poetic examination, become profound.
"When you write about things in your life, they don't go away in a day," he says. "They stay around for awhile."
Hardin looks to be around music for a while. The 38-year-old waited until he turned 30 to start his music career. In the last decade, he has paid paramount attention to the work, the art, instead of the career, and although he may be getting out of the gate slower than most, patience has served him well.
But try as he might to take it slow, Hardin's development as a songwriter, singer and guitarist has moved rapidly. "Nine Years Alone" is the culmination thus far. Breaking from lone-man-with-a-guitar limitations, Hardin has delivered a disc that factors pop, rock n roll and dabs of country into his sound. With drummer Gary Ashton and multi-instrumentalist Patrick Bettison, they have crafted arrangements that complement the songs but never overwhelm them. Hardin's voice gets inside your bones. It's a tuneful rasp with a hint of twang, like John Prine with more air and less dirt. His live performances of the new CD's title track, an ode of regret and atonement to his young son, have been known to bring people in the crowd to tears.
When Hardin was two, his parents divorced. He and his brother, a year younger, moved in with his paternal grandparents in Warsaw, Kentucky, a small town about 50 miles down the Ohio River from Cincinnati. "A lot of people, when they refer to the way I write, say that I sound a lot older than I am," he says. "I do feel a bit older. It was the people I hung out with when I was a little kid."
Hardin hasn't seen his mother since he was two, and although his dad was around, "he was young, more like a brother than a father figure." When Dave was eight, his grandparents moved him to Portsmouth, Ohio in the Appalachian foothills, and life became even more rural. The brothers spent far more time camping and driving tractors than sitting in front of the TV. Hardin says the small-town environment of his early youth, and its relative Southernness, has deeply influenced his music.
By the time he reached his teens, Dave's dad had remarried. The sons moved in with their father, then living in the suburbs of Cincinnati. It was quite a culture shock for the Hardin brothers. Dave would kill time after school playing an old piano in the garage. He started writing songs virtually from the get-go. But because his favorite music was folk based stuff by Prine, Neil Young, Jackson Brown and James Taylor, the forbidden fruit was his father's guitar, which he wasn't supposed to touch. Ignoring the edict, he picked up the acoustic and carefully began following his muse.
After high school, Hardin joined the service and was stationed in Europe. During his furloughs, he'd travel around the continent with his guitar, playing in bus stations, in bars for free drinks. After mustering out at age 23, Hardin took on the work-a-day life, relegating his music to playing and writing around the house. He married and had a son. At 30, he got up the gumption to do some gigs, mostly at the Iron Horse folk showcase in Tarpon Springs, Florida.
"It was a
big step, man," Hardin says in a folksy drawl. "I knew that my stuff was
good enough, that I didn't have to be embarrassed, but I had to take that
leap of faith."
Always a man to enjoy his share of libation, performing in bars increased Hardin's intake and led to other drugs. Divorced, he had custody of his son and a renewed musical passion. He knew such a lifestyle could not continue, thus quit drugs and alcohol seven years ago.
These days, Dave Hardin is remarried and lives in Palm Harbor, Florida. He's pretty much a homebody, doesn't go out much except for gigs. And he still makes sure to get out in the woods at least once a week.
While he will not "grab for some ring," Hardin is seeing his career unfold nicely. Record labels are sniffing around in the wake of "Nine Years Alone."
The songs keep coming, songs that are both personal and universal. And Hardin's exploring the avenue of penning songs for other artists in Nashville, Branson and elsewhere. He sums it up thusly: "It's not so much a question of Do I wanna write music that people are gonna like, or write music that's comin' from me? I can do both. I try to combine them."
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