Interview With Darwin Hobbs
A Whooooolotta Sangin'!
With two solo projects on EMI Gospel on the shelves, it's been said by more than a few that Darwin Hobbs is Gospel’s Luther Vandross. True, his butter stylings and tonal colors on some songs bring that comparison to mind. But really, Hobbs offers so much more.
— interview by Stan North —
On the soundtrack for the HBO film Boycott, one of the first things to catch your attention is the riveting duet, “King”, by Hobbs and the renowned Karen Clark-Sheard.
“It was great to work with Karen. I found it amazing that a person with the level of giftedness that she has, walks in such humility. [For the duet], there was actually no specific method of preparation I did with regard to singing with her. It was more mental as it relates to the style of singing needed for the Boycott era. Karen and I both learned the song about five minutes before singing it, so everything was very impromptu.”
Hobbs also sings with Molly Johnson on the soundtrack, bringing home the “Blind Man” cut. Completely different from his song with Karen, and certainly far from Lutheresque, this one is at once bluesy, gritty and soaked in a wonderful sort of evocative murkiness. How does one switch from one style of singing to the another like that?
“It’s sort of a natural thing at this point. I think after working in the Nashville session scene for four years, I've become sensitive and pliable to almost any style of singing. I also do demos and spots for TV ads, which trains you in different styles, almost like
theatre and acting. Actually, I was extremely hoarse on the day we [laid down the vocals for] "Blind Man". I wanted to cancel the session, but the producers felt that the rasp in my voice on that particular day fit the vibe they were looking for!”
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Seeing as how Hobbs actually played a small in the HBO film itself, that versatility, or ‘acting’ that he speaks of certainly couldn’t do anything but help him in that task. His immersion into the important history that Boycott portrays created a significant and lasting impact on him.
“I’ve developed more passion surrounding this whole subject matter because of my involvement with the film. Before, I was sort of stoic about it all; I felt that most of the issues were past and gone. But not so. It’s very important that the dream of Dr. King doesn't die, and one of the most affective catalysts towards the continued life of that dream, is us remembering it. We can do that by simply showing love toward one another.”
“But concerning the actual experience of being on the set of the film? It was far more taxing than I ever expected. I spent 8 to 10 hours on the set for something like 30 seconds of on-camera time! You do the math!”
That’s not to deny that there isn’t preparation that needs to be done for singing either. Maybe just of a different sort, however!
“I should be much more anal about this type of stuff, but I'm not. However, when I'm scheduled to sing, I'm more disciplined about the following routine: warming up an hour before the performance, being quiet 20 minutes before and immediately following the performance, drinking room temperature beverages (typically water or juice), not consuming any dairy products on the day of the performance (they produce mucous that can collect on the vocal cords), and getting lots and lots of sleep. Especially when I'm experiencing hoarseness.”
“At this point, Boycott is one of the only collaborations I'm involved with. Since moving to Nashville four years ago, I've collaborated on more than 75 projects. Thats a WHOOOOOOOOOLOTTA SANGIN'!”
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