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  • Writer's pictureCharles Luberisse

Behind The Lens: JD Hinton

Updated: Apr 12


How did your journey in music begin, and what inspired you to pursue a career in the industry?

In Waco, Texas schools and churches where I grew up, there was a lot of music. Some hymns made you want to come back to church on Sunday night to sing and be a part of that feeling. On café jukeboxes, the rhythm, the beat, the energy of early rock and roll lit a fire in me. I was just a boy. I didn’t know who Chuck Berry or Buddy Holly & The Crickets were, but I liked their sound and I couldn’t get enough. I wanted to be where these songs were made before I knew what a recording studio was.

My piano lessons began in the first grade. I learned music theory before I understood how important that would be later on. I was in high school when a chance meeting with a local disc jockey turned into my first real music business break. I got my own radio show on Waco’s top music station. I had no idea how to start a band or even be in a band, but on the radio, it was John, Paul, George, and me. It was Crosby, Stills, Nash, and me. I played the records. I chose the records to play. I paid my way through college. 

I borrowed a college roommate’s guitar and taught myself how to play. Using what I learned as a disc jockey playing hits for hours everyday, I began writing songs. I knew about song structure and hooks. I had to learn about the music business. 

In radio, I met some key people in the music business. Once I knew where to knock on doors, I moved to LA to make music.  

Can you tell us about your musical style and the genres that influence your work

Pick any day. I heard country, jazz, gospel, hymns, rock, blues all the time. In Texas you’ll also hear German, Czech, and Mexican music. You’d recognize the names I grew up hearing: Bob Wills, Hank Williams, Patsy Cline, Roy Orbison, Bobby Blue Bland, and Janis Joplin. I heard a lot of styles, but “the song” has always been what drew me in.   

My musical style includes elements of all the music I grew up around in Texas. Songs are cinematic in my mind. The words weave into the music to tell a story or set a mood. Looking back, Paul Simon made me want to write songs. Buddy Holly made me want to have a band. Bob Dylan showed me how important songs can be. 

What’s the story behind your latest release, and what message or emotion are you trying to convey through your music? 

Layers of things go on inside you when you fall in love. Waves of feelings break over you and around you. Fall In My Arms is about that roller coaster ride. Climbing that first steep hill, you know what’s coming and you are locked in for the ride. The chug chug climb uphill perches at the top just for a second. Then, whooooosh, all you can do is pay attention and hold on. Even when it’s scary, you WANT to be there. You have to be there. Fall in my arms. Let’s go. 

How do you approach the songwriting process?  Do you have a specific method or routine?

I’m more spontaneous than scheduled. I do make notes all the time. I jot down ideas, phrases, words that catch my imagination. I pick up the guitar or sit at a keyboard and begin to play… anything. While I play, I hear something that, like a word or phrase, catches my imagination. I record it. These ideas are where everything begins.  

Sometimes a song idea compels me to begin writing immediately. This would be in the “inspired to write” column. I’ve also had to write on assignment to turn in a song for a movie. Both approaches have worked for me. 

I don’t have a method or a formula. I know when I get quiet, music shows up, like a cat peeking in a door before coming in to take over the room. 

What challenges have you faced as an emerging artist, and how have you overcome them?

One early and ongoing challenge: People will ask you “What do you do?  What have you done?”  Instead of thinking of this as “explain yourself” I saw it as a chance to “introduce myself.” To be honest with a flair.

Luck or “connections” may open some doors, but you have to know what you’re doing. Meeting people is essential. People cannot like you… they cannot hire you or call you unless they know your name. Meet people. Who you know is a way the world works. What you know keeps you in the room.

Are there any artists or bands that have had a significant impact on your musical journey?

I loved all the Brill Building songwriters. The Motown songwriters amazed me. I’ve mentioned Paul Simon and Bob Dylan earlier. If we stay in that arena, I’d add Joni Mitchell and Leonard Cohen. I will never forget the day I first heard David Bowie, The Talking Heads and Tom Waits. This list could go on for awhile. Let’s save that for the prospect we might meet for coffee and finish the list. 

How do you stay creative and inspired when working on new music? 

I have a keen amount of curiosity. It’s a little like the yearning, the longing you feel when the one you love is just out of reach. I think this goes on even when I’m exhausted. 

Can you share a memorable moment or highlight from your career so far?

Singing at the Vatican for The Pope on Christmas Day ‘99 and watching Celine Dion record a song I’d co-written for an indie film will always top the list. 

Recently, I sang three of my songs in a Heroes Linked program honoring six Medal of Honor Recipients at the Beverly Hilton Hotel. As I sang, the 40 ft video wall behind me showed images of soldiers being soldiers. The video images were chosen to go with the words of my songs. I will never forget the experience to be in the room with these brave and courageous… heroes.

In what ways do you use social media and online platforms to connect with your audience?

YouTube, Threads, Instagram, Facebook…  love them. Hope to see you there.

What one inspirational quote or montra (mantra?) you believe in and where can people connect with you?

I have a few. This is from Carl Jung: “The world will ask you who you are, and if you don’t know, the world will tell you.” 

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