Huckle is a natural child of the world. This Northern California-based singer-songwriter-guitarist is always ready to dig his itchy toes into fresh soil, hips swinging as he projects outwards into the world while simultaneously delving deep inside himself to trace the scars of an engaged life. One picks up on some of the blessed West Coast vibe of Jack Johnson and the oceanic oomph of John Butler in his readily appealing music, but there’s also a winning attack to his sound, a hunger felt in the gut of the listener. Huckle rocks in that beautiful wide-armed way the genre once did back in the day, embracing country, blues, folk and anything else he fancies, something evident throughout his organically flowing, lovingly charged debut album ‘Wooden Melodies’.
“It’s the most honest amalgamation of everything I’m drawn to in music that I’ve ever done,” says Huckle, a former member of country rockers Poor Man’s Whiskey, where this man of many monikers was known as ‘Eli Jebidiah’. “Huckle is a name that’s an open canvas where the music defines itself without any preconceptions going in. I have this eclectic array of experiences and skills , and I’m going to let them out without reservation now and see how they grow, develop, and land.”
Landing is something this former professional hang glider pilot knows a little something about. Prior to focusing on music, Huckle also spent time in the pool skating sub-culture, and has been a lifelong avid surfer, skier, and climber who put himself through college with a tennis scholarship.
“I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing now if I hadn’t done these other things before. They are some of the different tributaries that feed my creative well,” says Huckle, whose work reflects his passion for nature and his irrepressible readiness to leap wherever the muses prompt him. “The feeling of jumping off a mountain in a hang glider has a real specific sound to it, and I’ve figured out how to make that sound and put it into songs. There are all these different, intense, non-musical things you go through in life and they all seep into the music – sonically, lyrically, and emotively.”
Huckle’s studio debut is full of big ideas offered up in a homegrown manner, where contradictions and confusion are embraced on the path to enlightenment and connection, tough topics addressed head-on rather than skirted for comfort’s sake. In one breath, Huckle announces, “Ain’t got no quarrel with God/ Ain’t got no time to grow old,” and the next, “I’m as old as the stars/ I’m as young as the wind.” It’s a record that understands what it feels like to be stuck on a reef, but also that salt and coral roil in our blood and bones, turning a tough-minded but compassionate eye towards the Australian eugenics program in the early 20th century and soldiers going away to wars only politicians understand. It’s a song cycle that seeks true nourishment for body and soul, understanding that for all its power the all-mighty dollar can’t be eaten.
Despite the impression of ragin’ electricity in many spots, what one hears is an 10 string acoustic and a homemade Weissenborn lap steel guitar, along with banjo and other assorted instruments Huckle brings to bear alongside his rhythm team of bassist Murph (Izabella) and ALO drummer Dave Brogan. The album also features harmonies from Tim Bluhm (The Mother Hips) and guest turns from ALO’s Lebo and Zach Gill as well as harmonies from Nicki Bluhm on one cut. All tunes were tracked live as a trio on Jerry Garcia’s old A-80 Studor 2” tape machine.
“When I started playing guitar, I didn’t touch an acoustic for three years. I didn’t understand it, or why anyone would want to play one. It was Jimi Hendrix and nothing else,” says Huckle. “Coming back into this acoustic fold, I have a much better life perspective. I’ve been places, experienced many walks of life, and that’s extremely important from a songwriting perspective. For me, whether the song is about something I have experienced, or it’s draws on someone, there needs to be a part of it I can relate to from a personal level. If I can’t do that, I know I can’t tell that story in a believable way. Having focused on acoustic music so much in the last few years, I feel I have gained a deeper understanding of what I respond to in music. I love the feel of acoustic guitar. I like how it can be so intimate. When John Butler turned me onto splitting the pick-ups and routing it a different way to sound acoustic and electric at the same time, it was so liberating. I felt like I had the best of both worlds at my finger tips. He also introduced me to wearing acrylic nails, which was a revelation. They allowed me to connect some dots that I didn’t think was possible and I developed a technique where I hybridized multiple picking styles, tones and instruments into the sound that Huckle is today. With the palette of the lap steel, banjo, guitar, etc., I’ve never felt so limitless. I get up in the morning and can’t wipe the grin off my face. The horizon line extends into the universe right now.”
Community is central to Huckle’s philosophy, and not just working closely with the rich array of Bay Area talent he calls friends. He’s begun a Music For Food program, where people who bring two items of non-perishable food to a Huckle show and receive some free music. It’s an effort that strives to help raise much needed food and awareness about those less fortunate in every local community Huckle visits – a small act of kindness that incrementally moves things towards the positive. It’s a characteristically Huckle thing to do, where the hard realities of life on the ground wrestle with the good one can do if they only make an effort.
“I really believe in working towards common goals that connect and benefit people,” says Huckle. “That’s why I work with Music For Food and companies like Marmot. I see us all as ambassadors for good intentions, and the more we work together as a community the more effective we are at actualizing the change we want to see come about.”