Wilkes-Barre native Bill Hoffman used years of experience as musician, teacher and student to cultivate sound
Bill Hoffman is a Wilkes-Barre native who has made a career in different aspects of the music industry for 25 years. Hoffman has taught guitar and bass lessons, played in groups who generated original music and has been a guitar player for hire in cover bands and orchestra pits. He has also owned a music store since 2000 and knows the finer points of production.
On Friday, Oct. 9, the 44-year-old guitarist, singer and songwriter will host an album release event at 279 Bar & Grill in Wilkes-Barre to premier his debut solo record “Love Becomes Madness.” The event will start at 9 p.m. and go until midnight with Hoffman playing selections from his new release.
While Hoffman’s recording is a product of his original styles in songwriting and guitar playing, his influences come from several decades and forms of rock with bands like Led Zeppelin, King Crimson and Soundgarden.
Hoffman said he appreciated the virtuosity of ’80s rock but wasn’t impressed by the cheesiness of much of the lyricism, whereas in the ’90s he found a profound group of writers in the grunge movement who weren’t as focused on instrumentation.
“I’ve always tried to take the best of each time period and chip away the falseness of it,” Hoffman said.
According to Hoffman, his style has evolved throughout his years of diverse musical experience.
Hoffman didn’t start playing until he was 16 years old, but once he started, he never stopped.
“I wouldn’t go to sleep unless I had four hours logged in every night,” Hoffman said. “I kept a journal.”
By 18, Hoffman was teaching and had formed his first original band, Dirty Rhythm, which he looks back on as a musical right of passage and his first attempt at developing a sound.
In the early ’90s, right around age 21, Hoffman was considering moving to New York City to pursue career opportunities, but his first child was born and he stayed in Northeastern Pennsylvania.
Musically, he tried to soak in everything he could.
“I focused on playing on all kinds of music I hated so I could learn,” Hoffman said. “I played in a country band for a year. I played in a disco, jazz, R&B group, pop music for several years, doing the Pocono circuit, so (I was) playing a lot of stuff un-rock-related just so I could sink my teeth into it.”
Throughout the ’90s, Hoffman said he took on about 70 students a week. “I was still growing, but I put my own writing on the side,” Hoffman said.
He also played guitar for productions of “Jesus Christ Superstar,” “Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat,” “Tommy,” and “Schoolhouse Rock” at the Little Theater in Wilkes-Barre.
Hoffman wrote the first half of “Love Becomes Madness” between 1997 and 2000. Around that time, he and a few friends put out a CD that he said never got off the ground, because they had no sense of self-promotion.
“Then life happened,” Hoffman said. With half an album written, Hoffman opened his first music store, focusing on retail sale and repairs, and put a lot of time into that part of his business. His current store, Hoffman’s Music, is on Bennet St. in Luzerne.
His personal life took precedent over writing. Hoffman got married several years ago and he now has five children, but he continued to move forward in all aspects of the music industry except his own writing.
When he did return to creating original music, it happened all at once.
“All these songs just spewed,” Hoffman said.
He noted that he was grateful for the gap between creative sessions, because coming back to it after growing as a guitar player and songwriter has allowed him to bring jazz and other influences into his work. He also said he’s learned how to use his voice to his advantage since he wrote the first half of the album.
“You always have to be a constant student in life, always push, always learn,” Hoffman said.
The album, which features lyrics that Hoffman was inspired to write by his relationships throughout the years, has both dark and melodic examples of rock, showing some of his influences but highlighting his individual style and the diversity with which he creates.
“Sure there’s influences, but I’ve always strived to, anytime something comes too close to one of them, steer away,” Hoffman said. “Not to the point of forcing it, but I have so many influences, it blends out so that it’s something a little different, I hope.”
Beyond his album release on Oct. 9, Hoffman is planning a tribute to the Seattle grunge movement at the Amber Lantern in Kingston for the end of the month.
If you go:
What: Bill Hoffman releases his debut solo album “Love Becomes Madness.”
When: Friday, Oct. 9 from 9 p.m. to midnight.
Where: 279 Bar & Grille, 279 South Main St., Wilkes-Barre
Additional Information: No cover charge.