Young soul: 70-year-old singer fronts New Orleans band

Soul of the party: The band John the Martyr, led by 70-year-old singer Bill Hudson, will play Brooklyn Bowl on July 20.
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This band is old and new and something blues!

A 10-piece collective of mostly 20-something musicians from New Orleans will serve a gumbo of gospel, blues, and jazz at Brooklyn Bowl on July 20. And John the Martyr’s singer, 70-year-old Harlem vocalist Bill Hudson, gives the outfit a seasoned, soulful voice.

Hudson’s experience as a singer spans many decades, but his latest break came while he was performing in the subway with an a cappella group, as part of the official Music Under New York program. Hudson said that entertaining the diverse crowds as they waited for their trains improved his stage skills immeasurably.

“I learned how to ‘read’ or anticipate what the crowd wanted to hear, be it a ballad, up-tempo, or whatever,” said Hudson. “Grab their attention — then keep it.”

Guitarist Kyle Ridley, a New Orleans native, heard Hudson perform with a doo-wop group on a subway platform one day. Impressed, he struck up a conversation with the singer, which led to a friendship. Ridley recruited childhood friend and drummer Dustin DiSalvo, and with Hudson they formed the band John the Martyr, named after the deconsecrated church in Manhattan where they recorded their first single, “Feeling Good.”

Hudson says his loves singing with John the Martyr, and that creating new songs with the band — including the band’s latest single, which he wrote with Ridley — keeps him going.

“I’m motivated by being around talented, creative people,” he says. “To be part of a song’s birth is very gratifying for me. So things like that keep you raring to go!”

Some advice from his grandfather many years ago set Hudson on the musical path he follows today.

“He told me, ‘You can fail at something that you don’t love, so you might as well take a shot at something you do love,’” he says.

John the Martyr at Brooklyn Bowl [61 Wythe Ave. between N. 11th and N. 12th streets in Williamsburg, (718) 963–3369,]. July 20 at 8 pm. $10.

Posted 12:00 am, July 16, 2018
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