Mixing rock, pop, jazz, Americana and whatever he can shoehorn into a tune, Hill’s song titles like “All She Needs Is a Spanking,” and “The Mean Therapist Blues” give an idea about the man’s sense of humor and musical direction.
Hill, a native San Diegan who performs at Dream Street on March 20, was born without a socket in his left hip. Consequently, most aspects of music are more difficult for him than for the average person.
“I’ve loved music since I first heard the Beatles at the age of 10,” Hill said. “I started to find various forms of meditation and the like that have made it easier for me and I decided to just bring the tension in my body into my songs. It’s such a part of me. Why not make it part of my music?”
While the music on his album “Terribly Happy” can be intricate and lush, their creation is quite the opposite, he said.
“I play keyboards and write the songs that way, I then make demos with simple arrangements with several synthesized instruments,” Hill said. “I also know two chords on guitar and can strum down so I fake playing my song ‘Pitter Patter.’ It actually has five chords but I just tap the side of the guitar during the chords I don’t know. Nobody seems to notice that I can’t play guitar.”
Though Hill has released numerous cassettes in the past, “I never recorded anything that was past the ‘demo’ stage till I made this album,” Hill said. “I really believe music is all about the songs in the end, and I wanted to wait until I had 13 battle-tested songs that lots of people liked. Some of the songs I have performed more than 500 times. The album is kind of like a greatest-hits album because it doesn’t include the songs of mine that never made it big in my shows.”
For producer Sven Erik Seaholm, the appeal of Hill’s music seems obvious.
“The Happy Man is on a mission to spread happiness into the world, and while his shows can be wild and unpredictable, he’s actually a very clever songwriter,” Seaholm said. “So, many of his tunes address weightier topics. He always manages to make the listener smile. I really respect that ability.”
Though its inherent quirkiness might limit potential airplay, “Terribly Happy” has drawn a lot of attention. But Hill isn’t surprised.
“Once I heard that final mix of the album, I was very, very pleased with it and I knew people would like it,” Hill said. “The critical acclaim has been cool, but what has been more important is the fact that so many of my local heroes, from Steve Poltz to Lisa Sanders, have honestly loved my album and shows. I mean straight down the line. That’s the most rewarding thing for me.”
It’s a testament to the love the local music community has for Hill that, while many local musicians have praised the album, a small army of San Diego’s top talent also took part in recording the disc. In addition to Seaholm, on hand are nearly two dozen musicians, including singer-songwriter Isaac Cheong and chanteuse Cathryn Beeks as well as members of The Smart Brothers and The Wrong Trousers.
The real coup, however, was in securing the Pacific Coast Horns, Paul Litteral and Paulie Cerra. The duo have worked with a long list of major acts and can be heard on such hits as the B-52s’ “Love Shack” and James Brown’s “Living in America.”
“When I announced I was making an album I was blown away by the number of quality people that wanted so badly to be on it,” Hill said. “I had 22 but I could have had 100 people if I wanted, and if it had been practical.”
“I simply cannot tell you how much of an honor it was for me to have everyone want to be involved,” he said. “There’s a line in the album’s title track, ‘It’s all about the people you meet along the way.’ I get choked up singing it every time.”
“Happy Ron” performs Friday, March 20 at Dream Street, 2228 Bacon St., at 9 p.m.; ages 21 and up. For more information, visit www.myspace.com/happyron.