The English major and Mentone native has only been performing for less than a year, but his name is quickly becoming a staple on the local scene.
Hughes started playing at the age of 12, but never flirted with the idea of venturing onstage until arriving at the university. It wasn’t until the Christmas holidays in 2010 when Hughes and a few other colleagues from his job at local restaurant Struts ventured down to Pelham’s one night and, after taking in a live show, Hughes left expressing his interest in wanting to perform onstage. One thing led to another, and Hughes began his career playing his first show at Brother’s in Jacksonville on Feb. 5, 2011.
His first night was a little “terrifying,” though.
“When you think about the fact that the Allman Brothers and Alabama and several other big-name artists have played on that same stage before, it was a shock that my first show was going to be there,” he reflects of walking in their footsteps. Things took off from that point, however, and nearly a year later, Hughes has played just more than 100 live shows.
“After I played that first show, it was just addicting. That’s all I wanted to do,” he says.
Hughes soon began penning more of his own music, and released his first album, Walk the Horizon, earlier this month.
“I try not to write the same thing over and over,” he says of his songs, which falls into the alt-country genre. “It annoys me when you see somebody playing live, and they’re playing originals, and I love originals … but I don’t like it when somebody’s up there, and all of their songs are originals, but they all sound the same.”
How he’s able to do it all, though, can’t be pinpointed to one specific tip.
“I guess I just manage my time better than I think I do,” he says, remembering how at the beginning of his career he balanced playing two to three shows a week, school and his job at Struts. “I don’t know how in the world I was able to do that, honestly.”
Even though Hughes has since left his cooking apron behind, his focus always goes back to school, where he maintains a 4.0 average — until this past semester, when he made a B, his first since seventh grade. (“That didn’t have anything to do with music, it was really hard class, honestly,” he explains). His heavy canvassing of the area has earned him a modest following, but don’t expect Hughes to get too big for his britches anytime soon.
“I’ve been recognized a few times, but I don’t think of myself as a celebrity or anything, and I don’t expect anybody else to freak out when they see me either. I’m a student, too — I’m here to get an education.”
While Hughes’ shows are often too late for his parents, who still live in Mentone, to see, he maintains that they love his second career.
“They’ve always pushed me to just do what makes me happy,” he says. “They bought me my first guitar. They pushed me to work more in music and to learn more about music.”
Hughes’ plans after he graduates (preferably a semester early in December), are still up in the air, but the idea of going to Nashville and trying his luck as a professional musician seems enticing.
“If it were to happen that I was able to make a career out of [playing music], I would feel blessed beyond belief. It’s truly what I love to do,” he says.
Even if he were to find a job and work full time, his passion will always lie in his music.
“No matter what, I’m going to play music. It doesn’t matter if it’s my full-time job or it’s just something for fun on the side. I’m going to play music no matter what.”
Hughes performs regularly at Locomex Mexican restaurant in Jacksonville on Wednesday nights, and will be featured at 8 tonight at The Peerless Saloon on West 10th Street in Anniston.
To view upcoming concert dates, listen to tracks and more, visit Hughes on his Facebook page at facebook.com/danielhughesband.