Born in Baton Rouge, La., in 1974, Hudson Bell was nine when he learned about college radio, and punk rock, initially due to the legs of the first Violent Femmes record, and then by entry way of a Thrasher Magazine given to him by a high school kid that lived down the street. In 1985, his family moved to Lexington, Ky., and at the age of thirteen, with a still-flowering interest in alternative music (as it was called by then), using a guitar his dad had once purchased, but never really played, Hudson started learning to play guitar, and writing songs. Playing in various bands throughout middle and high school, it was in 1989, using various boomboxes and cassette players, that he recorded his first cassette, which he gave to a few friends. A few years later, after working summers on a horse farm, he purchased a Tascam 4-track, and in 1992—while a senior in high school—finished another cassette, dubbed around 300 copies, and sold them. Later that year, Hudson started college at the University of Mississippi (Ole Miss) in Oxford, Miss., where he lived through 1997. While there, he recorded three more cassette tapes on 4-track (T.M. Filler, Atonal Life, and Homemade Adrenaline), which he sold at the record store on the Square, and would hand to bands/artists that came through Oxford or Memphis. Between 1995-1997, Hudson also played in a band called The Usurpers. While Hudson wrote many songs specifically for The Usurpers, the band would also perform songs from his tapes, as well.
In January 1998, Hudson moved to the San Francisco Bay Area. In 1999, with assistance from his friend Chris Cranford, he released his first CD, titled Under Boxes and Dirt, a compilation of various tracks from tapes mentioned above. Feeling its emotional weight, Shredding Paper Magazine wrote: "There is something oddly riveting about Bell's debut, something altogether heartbreaking." In 2000, Hudson traveled back to the South for a tour. Flagpole Magazine in Athens, Ga. noted the record's "Dylanesque sensibility and . . . Neil Young-like knack for turn of phrase," and Oxford Town in Oxford, Miss. wrote, "Deeply textured and nuanced performances that come upon the listener like post-modern folk songs . . . the album is appreciated more with each listen."
In the fall of 2000, after returning to California, Hudson moved to San Francisco proper, though he returned to Oxford in 2001 to record his first studio album with Bruce Watson of Fat Possum Records. Released in 2002, Captain of the Old Girls received a lot of positive local--as well as national--press. The San Francisco Examiner called it a "welcome blast of heartfelt, intelligent music." SF Weekly explained it as a "mix of acoustic meditation and electric abandon that puts the CD somewhere between The Velvet Underground & Nico and Son Volt's seminal altcountry record Trace." Rockpile Magazine wrote that it was a "record filled with major steps forward." Despite having recorded Captain mostly by himself in the studio, it was around this time that Hudson enlisted a bass player and a drummer to play live with him, and started playing shows in SF and Oakland, and they also did a West Coast tour.
In 2003, in an Oakland studio/practice space, Hudson and his new band started work on the new record that became When the Sun is the Moon, released by Monitor Records of Baltimore, Md. in 2005. Following its release, various incarnations of a live band traversed the U. S. numerous times. Pitchfork wrote that the record was a "rich, delicate album." Stylus Magazine called it "an inspiring and exhilarating release" with a "frightening amount of things going right on" it. Copper Press labeled Hudson "one of the greatest and unheralded songwriters of this generation. "Bundles of sonic joy," wrote Paste Magazine. "[I]t's truly a journey," said Popmatters. Even Guitar Player and Guitar World chimed in, GW noting how the "Vocals mesh perfectly with [the] panoramic, neopsychedelic guitar work."
Ultimately, 2006-2007, proved the zenith point for this iteration of Hudson Bell. While another record, Out of the Clouds, was finished in 2008, it wasn't released until 2010 in an ultra-limited vinyl run on St. Ives Records. No tour plans, no publicity whatsoever. Furthermore, Hudson had a newborn son. Despite there being no publicity around Out of the Clouds, there were still those that had some views on it. Erasing Clouds dubbed it a "psychedelic Western . . . the band still builds and destroys . . . but still always relate to real life." The Portland Mercury in Oregon had it listed as one of 2010's best records, and likewise it was on the Village Voice's Pazz + Jop list for 2010.
In the early 2010s, numerous touring bands coming through SF, specifically requested to play with Hudson, and therefore with John and Brian still in the Bay Area, keeping things together for these random shows poured forth a number of new songs, that with a few older songs that had never been recorded, turned into Yerba Buena, recorded in 2013, and self-released in 2016. Just two shows were played on its release: Brian Fraser came up from L.A. to play drums, and Stoo Odom (Graves Brothers Deluxe, Thin White Rope) traveled from New Orleans to play bass. On its release, Magnet Magazine called Yerba Buena, "Essential New Music." The Daily Vault called it a "giant alt-rock masterpiece," and one of 2016's best. KCRW in Los Angeles also has it listed as one of the year's best records. Furthermore, New Noise gave the record five stars, and said: "full of the nervous tension that defined the early days of alternative rock, and unfolds like nostalgia laced with modern day anthemic and turbulent indie-rock."
Later in 2016, working on new songs, Hudson found himself packing away the guitar, and trying a different approach, messing around with an old 1st Generation iPad, in cahoots with an iMac. While much different in sound perhaps from what he's done before, for the first time since his 4-track tapes in the 90s, he was working on a record at home, by himself. The resulting record, currently titled World Processor, is set for digital only release in 2020.