I have a thing for openers. And it’s not because I’m trying to be hip or because I want to name-drop a band that you don’t listen to yet. It has a lot to do with a belief that often the openers have something to achieve beyond arrival, giving a performance that shows inflated levels of passion and a set that lingers with you through the main act. I stood on the lower level near the stage at 3rd and Lindsley, pen and notebook in hand to cover Boy and Bear playing later that evening, and I noticed electronic drum pads and a computer set on stage for the opening act. With hesitation I watched Josh Kleppin assume the technology and Dillon Hodges stand center stage with an acoustic guitar. Hodges introduced the act as his new project, Firekid, a modern blend of folk vocals and drum tracks, and the juxtaposition was intriguing enough. Then they started with a Doc Watson and Drake mash-up. And if that doesn’t pique your interest as much as it did mine, keep reading.
Hailing from Florence, Alabama, singer-songwriter Dillon Hodges has called Nashville home for less than two years. Catching the bluegrass bug around 11-years-old when he began taking guitar lessons in the Shoals area, and he grew with his instrument to become a singer, songwriter and player with an identifiable soul and sound. Hodges walked into his first guitar lesson with a “benchwarmer complex for girls” and book of Creed songs, and thankfully his guitar teacher disregarded both. As he describes, his teacher “planted the love for music,” breeding his style with a flat-picking technique and enthusiasm for bluegrass that inspired him to create and compete, eventually earning himself the first-place title at 14 competitions to date. After a few years of guitar focus, Hodges began to write at the age of 15, and with writing came singing. “When I heard John Mayer for the first time, I thought, ‘if he can do it, I can do it,’” and so began his vocal exploration, currently arriving at a textured and wide-ranged voice with Appalachian nuances and wisdom beyond his 23 years. With his style in groove and Seeds I’ve Sown EP in tow, Hodges met his fiancée in Nashville and merged his Alabama roots with Music City’s scene.
“Moving to Nashville changed the way I write songs,” Hodges comments as he elaborates on his style and the newly established Firekid persona. After getting his folk fix for several years as an artist under his own name, he ventured to invent Firekid, a new endeavor with an awaited release and an already impressive reputation. “I wanted a chance to try something different, and it was different enough from the Americana and bluegrass that I have been doing.” With a “while I’m young” mentality and a definitive songwriting talent, Hodges partnered with other Nashville talents to craft 17 potential songs for an expected release. Even though Firekid is just Dillon Hodges, he wrote with other songwriters, “making it feel like a band.” The songs are lyrically dynamic and fit Hodges’ voice effortlessly, emphasizing the importance of crafting songs to match a desired sound. He goes so far as to comment on our state of Americana obsession with a title track, “Americana Dream,” proving our culture guilty of our ironic and trendy ways (I include myself as well). Songs like “Boomerang” make you eager for more, and partnered with his elevated musicianship and seasoned voice, the songs and style of Firekid become an engrained audible memory and tangible necessity.
“Shared experience is a really powerful thing,” says Hodges. Share the experience with him as Firekid opens for The Wind and The Wave this Sunday (October 12) as Lightning 100 presents at 3rd and Lindsley.