Folk singer Dana Hubbard on the journey from California busking to Amarillo living
By Chip Chandler — Digital Content Producer
Singer-songwriter Dana Hubbard never imagined he'd wind up in Amarillo, but he fell in love — with both a woman and the weather.
"I've got to tell you, it almost feels more like home than California ever did to me, and I cannot explain that feeling," said Hubbard, who'll perform at 7 p.m. Friday for the latest Yellow City Sounds Live concert at the Panhandle PBS studio, 2408 S. Jackson St.
Doors open at 6:30 p.m., and free tickets are available now at the FM90 studio, also located at 2408 S. Jackson St. (If you miss seeing the show in person, it'll stream live on KACV FM90, then will be used for an upcoming episode of our Live Here series.)
Shortly before moving here in 2013, Hubbard got snowed in during a massive storm.
"Being a California boy from the West Coast, that was really fun," said Hubbard, apparently not joking. "I love a bunch of stuff here, but one of the things I learned when I first started coming to Texas was the weather is so dramatic. I just love that."
Hubbard started traveling through Amarillo in the early 2000s on his way to the Kerrville Folk Festival down state.
"In 2011, I met someone here in Amarillo and now we're married," he said of wife Nancy Whisenand.
But before that, Hubbard was a California-born bluesman who initially made his living performing on the streets of San Francisco.
What did he learn most out there?
"How easy it is to be ignored," Hubbard said. "I was a pretty shy fellow, and I learned over the years that it's fine to be shy in private, but if you're going to make music for a living, you need to become an entertainer."
Within a few years, he was fronting a trio with rotating members that played throughout the San Francisco Bay area.
"Being from the West Coast and from San Francisco, and I'm going to brag here, I was playing with some of the top musicians out there," he said, citing members of Santana and Borger native Kenney Dale Johnson, who plays drums regularly for Chris Isaak.
"On a gig-by-gig basis, they were able to play with me," Hubbard said. "They are used to strong leaders and they really wanted me to lead, and that really pushed me hard.
"But eventually, I got tired of the clubs ... and trying to hold a band together," he said.
That's when he made the shift to performing solo as an acoustic singer-songwriter and hit the road.
"Lightnin's Cadillac," Dana Hubbard
"I practically lived on the road for probably two-thirds of the year and just in California for the bad-weather parts," he said. "I got to know the West like the back of my hand. ... That was a really fun feeling. I really enjoyed that period of my life from 2007 to 13 where I was on the road a lot."
These days, his performance schedule has lightened considerably.
"I do special shows like this one for Mike (Fuller, FM90's program director), and the following week, I'll have two shows in Dallas, but I'm no longer doing that touring grind," he said. "I'm as happy about that as I was about touring."
But he's still busy, working now on his fifth album.
"This is the first CD where I've said to myself there are no deadlines," he said. "I'm going to work on this CD until it's how I want it to be, within the context of Tom Petty's quote that you never finish a CD, you just abandon one."
And he's loving his time in Amarillo, where he met not only his wife but also members of the local music scene, like percussionist Chris Hodges, who'll perform with him Friday and who has, Hubbard noted, "a great sense of groove and feel."
"The other thing I love about Texas is the music scene, even here in Amarillo," Hubbard said. "I had no idea the depth of the music tradition from here."
He's still practicing the lessons he learned as a street performer, as well.
"When I transitioned into the acoustic singer-songwriter thing, you really have to talk to the audience. You really have to engage, which I never had to do in the clubs," Hubbard said. "I do a lot of house concerts, and you're not just a songwriter, you're not just a singer. You need to be a storyteller.
"It really kicked my butt when I went into that, and now that's why you're getting this rambling crazy person on the other end of the telephone," he said. "I've opeened up and learned to tell stories. ... Sometimes I get in trouble because I yack too much."