Though Howie Day spends about 150 nights on the road every year, his favorite thing to do when he comes home to Maine is take a road trip.
Day began working as a full-time musician in his teens, living with his parents in Brewer. He had hit songs on the radio in his early 20s. He was so focused on building a career in music, he didn’t spend a lot of time exploring Maine beyond his next club gig.
Now, 35 and settled into the routine of writing, recording and touring, he looks at his home state a little differently.
“The whole time I was growing up here I was just thinking, ‘I’ve gotta get out of here.’ I probably didn’t really go anywhere farther away than Bar Harbor,” said Day, from his family’s home in Brewer last week. “Now when I come home, I drive around and say ‘I wonder what happens if I go left at this fork instead of right?'”
Day’s quick fame brought publicized troubles. A few years after signing with Epic Records, he was charged with disorderly conduct and fined after allegedly locking a woman in his tour bus. He was later given probation for rowdy behavior on an airplane.
“Who knows why I did that stuff? Craziness. Most of us have to grow up at some point; I did my growing up in front of a lot of people,” said Day. “I remember people telling me that your 30s is the place to be, the time when you’ll be comfortable in your own skin and realize what’s important. I think I’m there.”
Day will bring his guitar and his catalog of original songs to the Vinegar Hill Music Theatre in Arundel on Thursday. He’s currently on a solo acoustic tour.
He’ll play songs from all four of his studio albums, including early hits and crowd-pleasers like “Collide” (2004) and “She Says” (2005). “Collide” was his biggest hit, reaching No. 14 on the Billboard singles chart and making appearances in several TV shows.
By the time he was 15, Day was playing gigs all around Maine and went on the road after graduating high school. He used his own money to record and release his first album, “Australia,” in 2000. The album won accolades at the Boston Music Awards and attracted attention from the Epic label, which signed him and re-released it. His second album, “Stop All The World Now,” came out in 2003 and featured both “Collide” and “She Says.” The album reached number 46 on Billboard’s album chart.
The melding of strong acoustic guitar parts with strings and more gentle orchestral parts in “Collide” is something heard in many of Day’s songs. His songs are often melodic, but powerful, with his voice ranging from lilting to raspy. He says the Beatles were a major musical influence on him, but that Dave Matthews and the jam bands of the 1990s caught his ear too. Around the time he really started getting serious about music as a career, he discovered “Brit pop” bands like Oasis and The Verve.
“Nowadays, I’m like everybody else. I listen to a little bit of everything, because it’s so easy, on the phone,” said Day. “Right now I’m into Sigur Ros from Iceland, pretty ethereal and dramatic. I’ve always had a penchant for dramatic music.”
Day’s latest album, “Lanterns,” has common ground with his early albums, but it’s a little more subtle, a little more polished and quiet. And the lyrics can be complex.
On the song “Life-Sized,” Day writes about “never living in the moment” and being “just too big to hide.” Later comes this verse: “I live outside; I’m on a stream-lined; Row of land mines; Caught me off-line; Be my luminol; On a phone; When it’s late; And I’m stranded.”
Day says it’s important to him to try different things when writing music and lyrics. To do that, he said, he needs to come off a tour, regroup, settle in and think about writing. He says he thinks the idea of musicians writing on tour or writing wherever they are may be romantic, but it’s not very practical.
“I think that idea is kind of a myth. You use a different muscle when you’re gigging,” Day said. “I need to not be worrying about traveling and snowstorms and things like that.”
And when it comes to writing songs, Day says he keeps it simple. He doesn’t use complicated equipment to cut demo recordings in his home. He doesn’t want the distractions.
“I sit on the couch with my guitar and a cassette recorder or just using the voice memos on my phone,” he said. “The first time you record a song you want it to be for keeps.”
WHEN: 8 p.m. Thursday
WHERE: Vinegar Hill Music Theatre, 53 Old Post Road, Arundel
HOW MUCH: $40 to $45