Sitting in the Alley Cat coffee shop, Maxwell Hughes pulls out his guitar and is instantly surrounded by a circle of admirers. The songs, from his recently debuted self-titled album, clearly energize and inspire listeners.
Hughes, a Fort Collins native, said he picked up a guitar six years ago out of sheer boredom.
“A lot of people assume that it all came naturally. That is so not the case,” Hughes said. “I had to work really hard at progressing musically. After a while though, I had a knack for it.”
Hughes performed in his high school’s Battle of the Bands, which he said led to his initial interest and exploration into music.
“It sounds lame, but I got started with a Battle of the Bands,” Hughes said. “I originally entered it as a joke, but ended up winning. Again, as lame as it sounds, that was actually one of the best-paid ‘gigs’ I’ve ever had because the door money was the award for first place. But it definitely peaked my interest in pursuing music.”
After Battle of the Bands, Hughes started practicing, developing his own style and becoming more adept at musical technique, he said.
His music is not placed in any particular genre, as Hughes said he relies on his personal preferences, not inspiration from other musicians.
“I am like every musician out there though; I don’t want to be in any sort of category,” Hughes said. “As a musician I try to differ from the regular, from the expected.”
Hughes said he strives to combine many musical aspects into a single song, using only his guitar and, on occasion, surrounding objects to draw out percussion, bass and lead.
His style generates a sound many listeners said they have never heard before.
Hughes said he doesn’t like to have the spotlight on him, whether the performance is formal or informal.
“I don’t necessarily strive well under admiration and I’m lost when people praise me,” Hughes said. “I don’t know how to react.”
Hughes said he’s trying to expand beyond current sounds and “avoid cheesy love songs, even though those are the easiest things to write.”
Jerry Palmer, a friend of Hughes, heard him play about five years ago and said he has
seen him progress in ability. After hearing him play recently and believing his talent should be heard, he offered Hughes his recording equipment.
“I offered him my equipment because he’s young and can’t really afford it. It’s a very expensive thing to do,” Palmer said. “Word has to get out and hopefully the CD will help generate more gigs regionally.”
His CD is purely acoustic, and does not have lyrics.
“I think it’s just luck. Artists draw inspiration from things, and I’m just waiting for that because I’m hoping my inspiration (for lyrics) will be really meaningful,” said Hughes. “For right now I’m just messing around.”
Because of his dedication to music, Hughes has not yet pursued a college degree.
He focused on his music during high school and upon graduation continued along those lines, he said.
“I have thought about going (to school) for music but I am already a musician, so it never fully made sense,” Hughes said. “Higher education is definitely important, but it’s something I can always go back to.”
Hughes said that recently he has been doing odd jobs, such as construction, trying to accumulate money and keep his musical dreams afloat.
He said he’s hoping his new CD will generate interest in his music as well as provide an opportunity to play more venues.
“It’s difficult to get into the larger places, you have to be more well known than a coffee shop player,” Hughes said.
His CD is available for sale at the Alley Cat, Starry Night, The Matter Book Store and on his Myspace page, www.myspace.com/maxwellhughes.
To hear Hughes live, check out Tour de Fat on Sept. 6 and Road 34 on Sept. 17. For future show dates visit his Myspace page.
Staff writer Kelly Bleck can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.