Sometimes it’s pre-ordained, your destiny, no matter how hard you try to deny it. Ian Hinkley was born in Seattle but after a couple weeks’ time, the family had moved to Southern California, then nine years later moved to Sonoma, where Hinkley has called home ever since.
His mother was a folk singer and guitar player and his brother David, 13 years his senior and also a local musician, played guitar and sang as well. Young Hinkley broke his musical teeth on a harmonica when he was just 2, learning Ray Charles tunes, and the family would sit and play and sing harmonies to Neil Young and other folk singers.
Hinkley joined his first band when he was 18 and, no coincidence, it was with his older brother – an act called the Cavemen – where he stayed for seven years, playing in local bars and clubs even when he was underage. After the band broke up, Hinkley tried to convince himself music just wasn’t worth pursuing, and wondered why he wanted to do it in the first place. Was it notoriety? Girls? Boredom? He had no idea, so he stopped, but often found himself noodling on the guitar as his daughter slept and it dawned on him: This was never going to go away. It was in him and he really had no choice in the matter but to play. He decided to begin to write some songs and got some friends together and the Bumblin’ Bones was born.
Four years later the act is still going, with a minor personnel change, bringing in Jesse Spencer of Uncle Jesse and the Porch Junkies to fill the bass slot. This weekend’s performance will be the debut of the new lineup. Where you ask? The Bumblin’ Bones will be taking the stage at the El Verano Inn with the Jon Shannon Williams, the Gentlemen Soldiers and Half People tonight, Dec. 8, for an 8:30 p.m. show that will benefit Springs Fire Relief. Let’s dig a little deeper into Hinkley’s musical past.
Many musicians in our generation cite the Beatles on Ed Sullivan as that moment when they knew music was what they wanted to do. When did you realize you wanted to be a musician?
It wasn’t really anything like that. In fact, I had spent a significant amount of time trying to convince myself that music just wasn’t what I wanted to do, it just wasn’t for me. But I kept finding myself drawn back to the guitar, and one day, after two years, I wrote a song and realized that this was it. Music is what I wanted to do.
That first instrument you owned. What was it and do you still have it?
Well, other than that harmonica, it is a Fender acoustic that was handed down to me from my brother David and handed to him by my mother. I guess I should pass it along to someone else but I just love playing it so much.
Who are your primary influences?
Funny, because what I think are my influences are not what everyone else hears in my music. I’d like to think I’m more a Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen type of guy, but others keep saying it’s kind of like the White Stripes, but it’s not intentional.
What playlist is in your iPod?
Really new music is all I’ve been listening to lately, and mostly female orientated, people like Thao, Mirah, Mitski and Sharon Van Etten.
Tell me about your current acts.
Mainly it’s the Bumblin’ Bones at this point. I was involved with the Bowie tribute that I was really into, was doing the Shakedown Choir for a while until Stevie (Steele) moved to San Diego, but mainly only the one act.
If you could have written one song, which one would it be?
I’d have to say “Cigarettes and Coffee” by Otis Redding. It’s simply the most beautiful song I know. For a more pop kinda thing, I would say “Little Dragon” by Ritual Union. It’s the perfect pop song that isn’t all “call me baby....”