Hughes, a self-taught instrumental guitarist, is a former member of The Lumineers and a contributing songwriter on the group’s Grammy-nominated debut album.
Aside from Hughes’s notable contributions, his solo work, the focus of his musical efforts, speaks for itself. Since he began playing guitar in 2002, Hughes has self-released three albums, won multiple awards, and developed a unique, dynamic style.
Using a single acoustic guitar, Hughes layers harmony and percussion, mixing serried fingerpicking and hand tapping with melodies to produce a rhythmic, acoustic blend. The percussive effect of Hughes’s approach adds depth to his single-instrument music, and his multilayered songs often sound like the products of ensembles.
To expand beyond the sound of purely traditional acoustic music, he says, “I do my best to try to blend as many different elements of different styles together.”
Hughes’s range of inspiration translates into melodies resemblant of folk and bluegrass fingerstyle, laced with a refreshed sound drawn from unexpected sources like hip hop and video game music.
The active nature of his hands-on technique makes for an energetic performance, and Hughes has been praised by fans for putting on captivating live shows and engaging with his audience.
“In my experience from going to different shows, many times there’s a real separation between the musicians on stage and the audience,” Hughes says. “There’s no interaction and there’s no give … I try to be as real as I possibly can be, even if it’s uncomfortable.”
Fascinated with fingerpicking for nearly a decade, Hughes has spent years practicing the complicated technique, which he says is always a work in progress. But there are clear signs that his practice is paying off.
In March 2013, CSU TEDx organizers invited Hughes to demonstrate his two-handed guitar skills at the TEDxCSU event. He also qualified as a finalist at the competitive International Fingerstyle Competition in 2012, an achievement that earned him the Larrivee acoustic guitar featured on the entirety of his most recent self-released album, Only In Dreams.
Hughes will make an appearance in Venice as part of his 2014 Western U.S. tour. Stop by Witzend tonight to experience Maxwell Hughes’s live performance for yourself!