I first met Daryl Hance a dozen or so years ago when I was working on a Folio Weekly cover story on Mofro, the swampy funk band he co-founded with Maxville resident JJ Grey. I would say that Hance was the quiet one, but at that time, every member of Mofro was the quiet one. What was striking about Hance, though, was his ability to establish and hold a deep groove. That’s what Mofro does — groove — and Hance dug in.
Hance left Mofro in 2010 to go it alone, bringing with him the swampy roots of his former band while adding some serious country twang. On his 2011 Pine Tar Recordings release, Hallowed Ground, Hance offered a handful of grubby slow-burn blues-rockers reminiscent of Neil Young’s grittier tunes. While on the road promoting Hallowed Ground, Hance would often employ a trio, lending a spare but solid foundation for his deliberate soloing. He’s taking a different approach these days, performing solo on his current outing. His show on April 26 at Underbelly puts Hance’s old friend (and former Mofro drummer) Craig Barnette on the throne for a number of songs. But essentially, it’s Hance and his guitar on this tour.
Playing solo is a more open approach to performance, Hance says. It offers “the freedom to do whatever I feel at any time, like change arrangements, change songs around, stops, pauses, all sorts of cool things you can do. I guess, in short, it can be more spontaneous.”
That kind of spontaneity is happening in Hance’s songwriting as well. In prepping songs for his upcoming record, Hance experienced the song-writes-itself phenomenon, an approach many songwriters have laid claim to, but often have a hard time explaining. “At this point, songs just come to me with very little effort,” he says. “So it seems as though I just have to sit back and let it happen. Don’t really know if you’d call that an approach or not.”
Like his former songwriting partner JJ Grey, Hance has felt the influence of his home here in Northeast Florida. It’s obvious in the front-porch-foot-stomping style he’s continued to investigate as a solo artist in paying tribute to the natural and artistic ecosystems from which he was spawned. The area has been “extremely influential and, probably to the extent of it having an influence, way beyond my understanding at this point in my life,” says Hance. “I do know the ocean, swamps and other water-filled areas, and the forest and woodlands have a profound effect on the sonic landscape. It’s not as evident on Hallowed Ground, probably, but it’s very much reflected on the new album and newer songs and recordings and demos I’ve done.”
Hance has become a bit of a road warrior over the past decade, performing clubs and festivals with his trio and as a soloist. Traveling as much as Hance does has a way of infiltrating every aspect of his life. He answered the questions for this interview via email while on the road. When I asked what’s next for him, he took the question quite literally: “In the immediate, I’m fixing to go in the truck stop here in Spartanburg, S.C., to grab a shower, then get some gas and head to Athens. Gonna be shooting my first hi-action video in May for the first single from the new album, called ‘To Hell and Back.’ It’s real wacky. Later in May, I’ll be mixing the album … In between now and then, more shows. I start touring with a band in June. Craig Barnette on drums and Sean Tarleton on bass. They’ll be accentuating the one-man band situation. Kind of a mix between that and straight-up power trio and things in between. Oh, and lots and lots of driving!”