By ROB DUGUAY Since we talked to him last summer, Cranston resident Jake Hunsinger has progressed a ton as a musician. He's been playing gigs all over Providence with his backing band, The Rock Bottom Band. He's also been playing solo in various
Since we talked to him last summer, Cranston resident Jake Hunsinger has progressed a ton as a musician.
He’s been playing gigs all over Providence with his backing band, The Rock Bottom Band. He’s also been playing solo in various establishments all over New England in solo fashion.
It’s not hard to see his artistic growth. His talent shines through in his twangy, soulful voice and stellar songwriting.
On Aug. 13 at Askew, located at 150 Chestnut St. in Providence, people will get to see Hunsinger’s talent in person when he and his band take the stage with Hawthorn and Beth Barron opening up the show.
We recently had a talk about adding new things to his songs, graduating college during the COVID-19 pandemic, playing a lot of shows, and goals he has for the rest of the year.
ROB DUGUAY: Last year you went from being a solo artist to starting The Rock Bottom Band. How much would you say you’ve grown as a musician and a songwriter since having a backing band?
JAKE HUNSINGER: Songwriting is still the same because even now, I only write the songs by myself. I think I show the band one out of 10 or 15 songs that I actually write just because that’s how many of them are good and have become fully formed ideas. It’s funny, when I’m writing the songs I don’t really think about what the rest of the band is doing until we all get together. Then I’m saying for them to do something like this or something like that and then they’ll add in something of their own creation. The band iteration kind of takes shape there and also we’ve been road tested because we’ve been playing pretty frequently so it’s kind of how those songs become those songs.
At the end of the day, it’s a Jake Hunsinger song that I can originally play by myself. The process for making the song hasn’t really changed, there’s just an added extra step after the song is done.
RD: You’ve mentioned how you’ve been playing a lot of gigs since live music returned earlier this summer and you’ve been doing both live shows and virtual shows. When it comes to doing both things, virtually or in front of a live audience, do you feel like you have to make certain adjustments between the two?
JH: I kind of go in with the same mentality of doing the same performance. My performance mindset is always about hitting certain marks, like, can I hear myself well? Am I singing this convincingly? Am I understanding my song so the people listening can too? It’s kind of the same all around because I go to the place, I set up the equipment and my bass player Jamie Doyle, who is just a really good friend, is a tech, so he really knows how to get recording equipment, cameras and certain things set up in a way that makes it visibly pleasing and it doesn’t sound bad. I kind of go into it feeling the same way, but there’s added steps that I don’t really have to worry about with Jamie taking over as the conductor.
RD: Do you still go to UMass Dartmouth?
JH: No, I graduated in 2020.
RD: What was it like for you graduating in the spring last year with the pandemic making everything virtual when it hit in March?
JH: They actually put off our in-person commencement until June of this year and I had a show that night which I wasn’t going to cancel. Lately I’ve been feeling like I got robbed of the last few months of something really, really special. I felt like I was ending college on a high note, I felt like I had good classes, I was making good friends and things were becoming nice there and then it all got ripped up. It was a little uncomfortable and when we started learning more about the virus, I expanded my circle a tad. I didn’t see my girlfriend for about a month and a half and when I got to finally see people again it made me feel a little more normal.
With the online classes it was very hard to actually pay attention. I couldn’t get into the discussions and I wasn’t really shaving or taking care of myself at the time, so I just looked like an animal on camera. It was a very frustrating time, I’m surprised I still remember as much as I do from that time because I really wasn’t paying attention. It wasn’t all bad, though, I got to relax and I felt safe while having time to do other things like work on my songwriting and I also started working out again. Overall, it was a pretty frustrating couple of months doing that last semester online.
RD: I can totally imagine you feeling that way, especially with it being your senior year. It’s supposed to be a joyous occasion during the time the spring comes around. Then you have this roadblock of COVID-19 and everything gets switched around. Via your Facebook page, you claim to have an affinity for hats. What’s your favorite kind of hat? A fedora? A cowboy hat? A scally cap?
JH: My favorite one is from Australia, it’s not a Stetson and I think it’s called an outback. It’s shaped like a Stetson, it has a crown with feathers in it and it has a red, white and blue presidential pin. That’s currently my favorite hat. I think you’re looking at my Facebook page more than I am. I make country western adjacent music so the cowboy hat fits with the whole thing that I do.
RD: We’re entering the final third of 2021, and we’re already in August. What would you say is one main thing you’d like to accomplish with your music before the year ends?
JH: I got my vaccine in March through the job that I took during the pandemic, which is an AmeriCorps reading and writing specialist in Central Falls. I started that job online and I did the rest of it in person with a mask on while being sanitized and all that. That was a very fun experience but simultaneously we tried working on a full album with George Dussault at Galilee Productions in Cumberland, who we did the first EP with. It was kind of rough for us because we hadn’t practiced in so long because we were all wicked busy with our day jobs and it kind of messed up our first attempts at recording. We’re probably going to try to go back in the fall and finish two songs that were mostly there, that’s one thing we’re hoping to do. Another thing is that before COVID-19 stalled everything, I had 40 shows booked during 2020 and now for this year I’ve been able to book 75 shows.
I’m trying to break 100 before the year’s over. I’ve been playing from Maine all the way down to Connecticut. My goal would be to be able to play New York City because I play three to four nights a week. Once in a while I’ll have one of the guys in the band play with me for a gig but most of them are solo shows. I would like to reach 100 shows and play New York City by the time 2021 ends.
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