By Blair Jackson
Two years ago Nate Hancock left Fayetteville with 1,000 CDs, a guitar and the faith that he would find success in California. Already established as a local musician with the Eoff brothers, and toting an album featuring Grammy Winner Joey Williams (Blind Boys of Alabama), Hancock had strong foundations in place before the move.
But in California he had no gigs and few contacts. “Moving out of a community with hometown support, going somewhere else, everyone starts out at zero. I realized I had to start somewhere,” Hancock says.
On his first day in California he shouldered his guitar, grabbed a handful of CDs and walked down the street. Fifty feet away from his new front door, Hancock chose his first venue: a street corner by an outdoor café. “I played for tips on the corner. It went so well that after a couple of hours, I made a hundred bucks. I was shocked at how easy it was.”
After a few performances, Hancock arrived at the corner to find people waiting for him. “People had already identified me,” Hancock said, “and it was nice to have the support.” When venue owners asked where they could see him play, Hancock told them, “You can catch me on the street.” And they did.
Hancock continued performing on the streets even after he started booking shows and traveling to New York City to pitch venues. “Being a street performer has been the most influential experience in my life as an artist because it’s so pure. It was humbling to be in New York and come back to play on the street.”
It was on a trip to New York City that Joey Williams introduced Hancock to drummer Jamel Hopkins and bassist Randy Stallings — 15 minutes before a show they were scheduled to play together. “Having never practiced or rehearsed, we all knew it was something special,” recounts Hancock.
The improvisational merger produced an epic jam session; all three musicians clicked into a sync of R&B that exceeded all expectations.
“It was fate,” says Hancock. “Out of all the billions of people on this earth, I run into these two guys, and we just happen to click. The way I describe it is, you walk in the room with two strangers, and everyone in the room is applauding for you.”
That first night in NYC was just over a year ago. Since then, Nate Hancock and The Declaration has performed more than 20 shows coast to coast; and they are determined to take the group to the next level at the national scene.
“There’s definitely way more risk involved, so much more on the table when you are out there nationally. The things people ask and require of you are professional. They don’t care that you’re a newcomer or from a small town. They don’t have time to care.”
With the same air of confident determination that made their first show in NYC a success, Hancock says the band plans to “step up to the challenge” of reaching the next level of professionalism. He has matured into a musician who has learned the importance of making well-calculated decisions, but who still draws creative inspiration from a journey that began with his two most basic resources: faith and music.
Hancock says the band’s upcoming album, Blind Faith, will pay tribute to his journey as an artist and as an individual. “It started out leaving Fayetteville as a locally known artist, then taking a leap of faith and venturing out.” Hancock continues, “Without God in my life, none of this would be possible. I am blessed to be able to come back after taking on the world alone.”
Nate Hancock and the Declaration kick off 25 days in NWA at George’s Majestic Lounge on Friday, Sept. 9, an event that also marks the end of the band’s national tour and serves as a milestone for Hancock. “I left Arkansas with a guitar and a bunch of CDs. I’m coming back with an RV with my name on it, a band, and a full itinerary.”
Editor’s Note: If you haven’t gotten a chance to listen to Hancock’s new album, check it out at www.myspace.com/natehancock.