Daryl Hance is stepping out from the shadows and finding his place in the light. The guitarist and one of the founding members of Mofro is taking center stage as he tours the southeast with his trio in support of his most recent project, The Land of Trembling Earth.
The sophomore solo effort was released Aug. 5 and feted with a hometown celebration days earlier at the 1904 Music Hall. Since then, Hance has performed from Gainesville to Fort Myers. He resumes his tour September 26 with a date in Boca Raton. Hance returns to his roots September 27 with a show at the Dogstar Tavern in Fernandina Beach. “It never goes the way you expect it to, and this tour has been a little easier than I expected,” he says. “The reaction to the record has been great. I think this album is going to step things up.”
Hance will continue north with dates in Savannah, GA, Asheville and Wilmington, NC, and a pre-Halloween gig Oct. 30 in Ft. Lauderdale. He and his trio will ring in the New Year Dec. 31 with a show-stopping performance at the House of Blues in Lake Buena Vista, FL. “I’m looking forward to that. It should be fun, and I haven’t played there in a while,” Hance says. “The bigger the crowd, the easier it is.”
It’s been over three years since the release of his debut album, Hallowed Ground, which Hance says was reflective of that time in his life. And if that freshman release is a snapshot of where he came from, Hance says Land of Trembling Earth is an auditory portrait of where he is now. “With the first record, it was kind of a ‘let’s see what happens’ kind of thing. I was on the road a lot and in between dates, I’d go do a few shows with various lineups. That record is three guys playing in a room,” he says. “This one here is a lot more of a personal record. I’ve kind of figured out what I’m doing. Every record is a learning process, so I felt this one is a big step for me. I want to keep it as fun as possible, keep it grooving so people can still get down and what not. We’re going to do it like the old school guys used to do, just good bluesy rock ‘n roll. No shoegazing. Not that there’s anything wrong with that.”
Hance says his second solo effort is pushing him to feel more confident as an artist. He often reminds himself to pause and appreciate how far he’s come. “Personally, right now, I still feel hung up on the feeling that the grass is going to be greener over there,” he says. “You always have ideas that it could be better but I guess that depends on what your idea of better is.”
Hance reveals that he arrived at a crossroads while on a solo west coast tour in 2012. He was burned out after nearly a decade on the road with Mofro and decided it would be a good time to go home, get the yard in order, and recharge his creative battery. He reentered the water slowly, just playing a few local gigs here and there when the mood struck him. “I’m glad I was able to do it,” he says. “It was not overly comfortable, but I was very lucky to have the freedom to be able to do that.” When he set out to make Trembling Earth, Hance continued to write and record free of any pressures or constraints. He didn’t intend for the process to stretch from a couple months to a year and change, but it allowed him to embrace the solo project in a real way. “I recorded everything myself, engineered it, produced it, played all the instruments,” he says. “Not to show off–but it was easier to do it that way, since I did it over such a long period of time. I thought it would take just a couple of months but a year and a half later, I figured out that wasn’t happening.”
Land of Trembling Earth, with 11 original tracks and three instrumentals, was recorded just a couple miles down the road from his house at the home studio of his longtime friend and Mofro collaborator, JJ Grey. “I hope I don’t have to take that long recording by myself again,” Hance says. “It’s like digging a hole and the dirt keeps caving in.” Hance credits Grey with encouraging him to pursue songwriting. Moving out of the supporting role took a little more warming up to. Trembling Earth is a celebration of finding balance on shaky ground, evolving and busting out of your shell. “It’s like when you first get out on the road, you have no idea what it’s going to be like. You get out there, and it’s not like what you thought it would be. You just have to do it or decide it’s not for you. One or the other,” Hance says. “JJ always encouraged me to write songs. It wasn’t so much that I was reluctant. We just played together for so long that I didn’t know anything else. I always thought I’d just be the sidekick or guitar player in somewhat of a supporting role.”
As a kid, Hance says he originally wanted to be a drummer. His dad traded a shotgun for a drum set for his boy’s 11th birthday. Those dreams were short-lived when Hance came home from school one day to find the kit was gone and the shotgun was back on the shelf. In high school, he used a tax return check to buy his first guitar. That guitar led him to eventually team up with Grey, with whom he played he in a few early bands before forming Mofro and signing to Fog City Records.
Grey is especially proud of Hance and has nothing but kind words for his former band mate. “This record is unbelievable! As thick and real as it gets,” Grey posted on the Mofro bandpage. “Moving from beautiful laments to haunting bluesy rock bombs, grooving nastily while spitting and grinding away with the ferocity of a busted chainsaw.” The road to the Land of Trembling Earth was long with many twists and valleys along the way. Hance has stuck to the path, no matter how rough the journey, but he’s more than ready to carve out his own path, and he’s excited for his fans to come along. Hance promises to deliver a good time, and he sounds like he believes it.