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Bob Hillman a good run in the late 90s/early 00s, releasing three albums and touring the United States and Europe, including 80 some-odd dates as the opening act on Suzanne Vega’s Songs in Red and Gray tour. Along the way, he earned positive notices like this one from Susan Stamberg on All Things Considered:
“I’ve never heard of this Mr. Bob Hillman but that song about War and Peace is enough to make you want to pick up War and Peace and start reading it.”
In 2003, however, Bob made the decision to become “employable” by going to business school; he then spent ten years working as a marketer on brands like Formula 409, Glad, and QuickBooks and raising two sons, who are now in elementary school.
A 2014 layoff – which opened up some time for writing and meditating on the possibilities, music-wise – roughly coincided with Peter Case’s relocating from Los Angeles to San Francisco. Peter, a songwriter’s songwriter, had encouraged Bob since the mid-90s, when a batch of early demos reached an address on the back of Peter’s Torn Again album. They re-connected and, eventually, decided to work together.
Peter was a major impetus for the project – who can resist the opportunity to work with one of the songwriters who inspired you to become a songwriter? – but the mainstreaming of crowdfunding didn’t hurt. Bob’s Kickstarter reached its initial goal in two days and eventually generated almost $20,000. Crowdfunding can work for the financing part, but it’s also great for gauging interest among your friends/fans. In other words, a vote of confidence.
The result is Lost Soul, produced by Peter Case with twelve new songs culled from the hundred or so new ones since 2005. The album was recorded by Sheldon Gomberg at The Carriage House in Silver Lake, CA with superb musicians including Joseph Arthur (loops, electric guitar), Danny McGough (keyboards), Jonny Flaugher (bass), Danny Frankel (drums), Cindy Wasserman (harmony), and my good friends Marky and Kipp Lennon (harmony).
Bob is proud of this recording, which – thanks to Peter Case’s vision and Joseph Arthur’s loops, among many other things – relies on a less crafted, more visceral sound than the straightforward folk-rock in his catalog.
His ambitions are also different from the old days, when conquering the world still held some appeal: he just wants a few more people to hear the songs. But, for Bob personally and perhaps for others, Lost Soul is about more than just the songs or the sound. As one fan put it in a recent email:
“You know, I think seeing you ‘back’ could be the most inspiring thing I’ve come across in years. After sleeping on it, I’m rethinking all the things I thought I’d never do again...”