Singing the Soapbox Blues

Originally published by 225 Magazine on December 31, 2013.

By Amanda Wicks

Denton Hatcher has an uncanny talent for writing a hook, and that’s no easy task. Sometimes it’s a howling wolf exasperation, as in his song “Crazy,” which exudes the heartache that comes with giving more than you get in a relationship. Other times it’s a smoldering harmony that moves between hope and exuberance, like “When You Come Around.”

With all of his music, Hatcher builds to moments of emotional and physical release, so that listeners fully take in the pain, struggle and triumph that his music embodies.

“I can’t sing about it if I don’t relate to it,” he explains. Most of his songs deal with what Hatcher describes as the “good and bad of love.” He says, “Everyone wants love, and if you can’t make it happen properly, it can affect you deeply.”

Hatcher grew up listening to Motown and country classics, and those influences resurfaced when he started writing his own music. “It’s one of those things that kind of sleeps in you for a while,” he says.

It’s Americana music that blends the rhythms of Motown with the instrumentation of country, along with some rockabilly and surfer rock thrown in for good measure. Although Hatcher writes the songs, his band the Soapbox Blues builds on the ideas. “I feel like our sound is really influenced by Willie Nelson’s Shotgun Willie,” drummer Scott Sibley says.

The band has gone through several personnel changes over the years, but Hatcher believes he’s found a great fit in Sibley and bassist Cody Ruth. Hatcher and Sibley first met when they played for local favorite Righteous Buddha; Sibley helped record and mix Hatcher’s first album and then came on board to play live shows. Ruth joined later after he started playing with Sibley on another musical project in New Orleans.

“We connect in important ways, and that helps so much when we’re playing music,” Hatcher says. The three have been touring regionally for the past year, and the response to their music has been immensely positive. “People always seem to have a good time even if they’ve never heard of us before.”

Their live performances locally and in prominent New Orleans venues like Tipitina’s and One Eyed Jacks showcase the fun they have together, as well as the fluidity the songs take on in front of an audience. Depending on the venue, the crowd and the night, the band approaches the songs differently, and this kind of flexibility always engages audiences. “It’s a sign of a great songwriter that you can take a song and strip it down acoustically or build it up for other genres,” Sibley says.

The trio also lends a hand to many of their musician friends, recently collaborating—for example—on Betsy Badwater’s album, which Chris Thomas King produced.

Sibley and Ruth also performed as the rhythm section on singer-songwriter Clay Parker’s recent album Any Old Time, which Hatcher engineered. “Denton has a great grasp on Southern music,” Parker says. “Everything I hear, I love.”

The band’s next project will be to record an EP showcasing many of the new songs they’ve worked on over the past year.

Denton Hatcher and the Soapbox Blues will play the T-Bois Blues Festival in Larose, La., come April. They are also performing at Mud and Water in Baton Rouge Jan. 11.