Nashville-based singer-songwriter Young Hines, who will be performing in the Tri-State Area with Brendan Benson, sings, whispers, spits and screams the tunes from his debut album, Give Me My Change, in a style best described as Lennon-esque. His speaking voice, however, is low, polite and Southern, which is reminiscent of Elvis’. During a recent phone interview, Young and I talked about touring, music, primal screams and much, much more. Hines will be opening for Benson on the singer’s tour through May and beyond and it’s a show that you do not want to miss.
Is your show on May 5, which is going to be at the Bowery Ballroom, going to be your first in New York City?
I’ve played The Living Room, some spots around there through the years. Never the Bowery Ballroom, though. Very excited about that.
Is it true that you were discovered when a crew of painters were painting Brendan Benson’s house and he heard one of your tunes on their sound system?
Here’s how it went down. I was driving across the Verrazano Bridge in 2003, and it was the first time I ever heard Brendan Benson’s CD, and the last song, “Jet Lag,” really caught my attention. It sounded lo-fi, like it was recorded at home. It knocked me out, and I became a big fan of his.
Seven years later, some friends of mine happened to be painting Brendan’s house and they were playing one of the songs I’d demoed called “Only In A Dream,” which I’d recorded in Chicago. Brendan heard it, grabbed it, and soon I got an email from him saying that he’d covered it himself, hoped I didn’t mind, and he asked me to contact him. I ended up going to Nashville and writing a song with him. We hit it off, like old friends. On the heels of that, I made this record with him in Nashville.
I went with about 60 songs and he chose 13 for the record. It’s a pretty wild ride. The coolest thing is I am a fan of the guy who runs my record label. His recording techniques are right on for my music. I was recording just like anyone else, and one day, there it was.
How do you scream like that without blowing out your voice?
I’ve been making loud noises since I was a kid. I’m the youngest of seven children—I had brothers in the military and they would come home and put me through basic training and make me scream. The voice is a very powerful thing. Mine isn’t very fragile. I work my voice harder screaming than on singing. I don’t know if there’s any religious thing in screaming, but there’s something spiritual in it. I scream almost every day.
I thought the lyric, “Gimme my fuckin’ change,” might be a problem for airplay when I heard it. What was your motivation for using the expletive?
It’s one of the phrases I’ve heard my whole life. I went to school in South Georgia, and when you’re playing basketball, when someone makes a shot and says, “Gimme my change,” meaning give the ball back and you don’t do it, you get beat up. This is all elementary school stuff. It’s always been in my head. But the thing about writing all of these songs is I thought no one would ever hear them—they were all written prior to meeting Brendan Benson. If I was going to write another record, would I put expletives on it? Probably not. This was natural, it was honest, and it’s a very personal song. These are kind of very “in the mirror” songs.
I saw the video of you opening for the Raconteurs and you’ve got this hat over your eyes, and I noticed that you have your hat over your eyes in most of your photos. Is that because you’re shy or is it a deliberate image thing?
I’ve always disliked hats my whole life but I was strolling along one day and I just found one, and now there’s something about the lid I like. When you’re backstage at a show like that and Jack White’s walking around with all these people, you can kind of go into your own little world with a hat. I close my eyes too when I sing, and that can freak people out as well.
You’re not David Lee Roth and you’re not trying to be. You just seem to put your guts out there. That being said, who are your biggest influences?
Billie Holiday, The Beatles, Roy Orbison, Nirvana, and in more contemporary stuff, I like—wait, he’s dead, let me pick someone that’s alive—there’s a guy in New York called Josh Rouse, I really like his stuff. I’ve been hung up on Fog, this song called “Check Fraud” on Spotify, listening to it a lot. I really like it.
What does your family think of your occupation? Do they support it?
They’re very supportive. They’re happy that I’m not on drugs or dead. They haven’t been too worried about me. I’ve never been in a situation where I’m writing songs and out of a job; I’ll do what I have to do. They don’t know the difference between this and 10 years ago when I opened for Little Richard in a cover band.
You’ve played in a few very successful Beatle cover bands and now you’re doing your own stuff. I talked to Marshall Crenshaw a few years ago and he’s the only guy I know that made it out of a Beatle band, Beatlemania, and into his own thing.
Honestly, years ago, when I was doing the Beatles cover bands, I used Marshall as a watermark, though I’ve never met him. I just thought, “Oh, there’s a guy in a Beatle band who made it out.” I was worried if I played in a Beatle band, I’d never be able to write songs. But bullshit—Marshall Crenshaw, dude! Play what you want and write what you want—there’s no peer pressure in music. So, yeah, I don’t know where Marshall is these days, and that’s really sharp of you to point that out. I gotta meet Marshall. You’ve put me on a mission.
Do you have a three-month plan? A six-month plan?
I think we’re on a long-term outlook. There’s a plan in place for a year. For me personally, I’m looking long-term. My record company, Readymade, they’re working on a business model.
Do you pay your musicians on your own or do you get an advance or anything?
I’ll just ride in [Benson’s] van—I’ll crash in hotels they’ve paid for. After July, I’ll start coming to New York and hitting small spots, we’ll see. Brendan’s only touring through July and we’ll figure out the rest of the tour after that. Mostly everyone’s working on spec and when I get paid, they get paid. Everyone that’s on board, they believe in this. We’ll push it for a year and hopefully make a second record.
What advice do you have to give to new songwriters?
If you have something you want to do, and there’s nothing else that you want to do, you gotta figure out some way to make it happen. Write down three things on a piece of paper that’ll get you closer to what you want to do. Say your goal is to take out the trash. Well, first you’ll need a trash bag, then you need some trash in it. You make your goal and you chip away. I made my first record at home and it was more about quality than quantity. I also wasn’t in a rush. I used to think I had to get my music out there in a big hurry or it wouldn’t happen. As soon as I stopped rushing and writing songs that pertained to my life 100 percent, it started coming together. Playing in a Beatles band in Chicago and freezing my ass off could be miserable sometimes, so I would write crazy stuff.
You get your material and then you say, “Well, is someone gonna produce this?” You gotta have goals, man. If I don’t have my eye on the target, then I’ll just end up anywhere. Anywhere for me would mean Beatles tribute bands. If you’re not doing what is your heart’s desire, it’ll get old.
Also, don’t stay holed up in your room and stay in your own head. If I hadn’t made friends in Nashville, none of this would have happened. You can’t have enough friends. Get rid of the word “networking” and just make friends who are into the same things you’re into. Don’t make friends to gain success. Everybody wants to hang out with people who are doing something with their life.
Young Hines will be performing with Brendan Benson at World Cafe Live in Philly on May 3 and at the Bowery Ballroom on May 5. His debut album, Give Me My Change, is available now. For more information, check out younghines.com.