by Jim Boyle
Like a lot of aspiring musicians, Nick Hoffman dreamed of one day hearing a song he wrote and performed airing on the radio.
The Nowthen native has also dreamed of having his own record for sale as he’s flipped through CDs at a Walmart store.
After Tuesday of this week, this country music entertainer, who up until this year played fiddle for Kenny Chesney, will have checked both dreams off his list. So will his bandmates Krista Marie and Damien Horne, who came together with him to form The FARM.
THE FARM’s self-titled debut album goes on sale July 17.
THE FARM’s debut single, “Home Sweet Home,” has already been a regular on the radio airwaves. It recently cracked the Top 20 on both the Country Aircheck and Billboard charts.
“I have always been fulfilled playing with Kenny, and even when I was with High Noon, but there is no substitute to playing music you created,” Hoffman said.
It sounds crazy, but the stars for Hoffman’s musical career started lining up as early as the age 5, when he began learning to play the fiddle.
His teacher was Cindy Soltis just north of town, he said. He attended Parker Elementary School at the time, but had switched into the Anoka-Hennepin School District by the time he entered junior high.
By the time he was 12 the idea of moving to Nashville was cemented after seeing a performance on the Grand Ole Opry television program.
It was a performance by Roy Acuff, a country music legend, who captivated Hoffman with his playing and his spinning of his fiddle bow.
“It was kind of like seeing The Beatles on ‘Ed Sullivan’ for me,” he said. “It opened my eyes to a whole new world. It made Nashville this mysterious place. I was destined to move to Nashville.”
He ran away from home and went to Branson, Mo. at the age of 17 — a year shy of graduating from Anoka High School.
“That was all about chasing a dream,” Hoffman said.
He focused on his music — even if it was only playing for pocket change on the street at times — and managed to pass a high school graduation equivalency program.
He came back to the Elk River area and joined the cover band High Noon, which has since hung it up but has been added to the Minnesota Music Hall of Fame.
“My time with High Noon was real formative,” Hoffman said. “It gave me the freedom to be the kind of performer I wanted to be. They gave me the chance to hone my craft and step out as a performer.”
Hoffman decided in 2000 it was time to make his move to Nashville. One of the only guys he knew in Nashville was someone he met in Branson who was now playing with Chesney.
He called him and the guy said they had just fired their fiddle player and would he be interested in filling in.
It was a great opportunity, and he took it. Chesney was still only performing for crowds of 500 at the time. But the climb from there would soon be considerable.
“Remember here that I didn’t move to Nashville to be a side guy,” he said. “I wanted to be an artist.”
Hoffman rode Chesney’s wave for nearly a dozen years, enjoying every minute of it, but at the same time never forgetting about his own dreams.
“I watched Kenny grow, and I got to be part of it from the beginning,” Hoffman said. “I continued to work on my music and getting a record deal.”
That record deal ended up being THE FARM.
“We weren’t looking to be a band, but the first song we put together was ‘Home Sweet Home,’” Hoffman said. “We continued to write and realized we may be on to something special.”
Hoffman said of the trio, each had their own solo careers they were considering but as they kept writing they couldn’t overlook the opportunity that was coming together.
“We thought this is lightning in a bottle,” Hoffman said. “We all decided we had to set aside our own aspirations and begin working together.”
The FARM has three lead singers, and they share in the writing of the band’s music and taking the lead when it’s warranted.
“Even in THE FARM I can trace my path in my part of THE FARM,” Hoffman said. “I still do little tricks I learned in High Noon … and little tricks I learned with Kenny … and at the Sherburne County fiddle contests my grandfather helped organize. My roots run deep there.”
The decision to leave Kenny Chesney and a solid gig was not easy in some respects, but in others it wasn’t at all.
“In the end it wasn’t a decision,” Hoffman said. “It was a no-brainer. Thousands of artists never get an opportunity I had. Some of it came from hard work. Some of it was luck. But when you get that opportunity, you got to run with it.”
Hoffman hasn’t been with the Kenny Chesney band on this year’s tour at all, but when Chesney and Tim McGraw stormed Target Field this past weekend that’s when it hit him that he had made the leap.
“It’s bittersweet,” Hoffman said. “Truth is, I wouldn’t have it any other way.”
For Hoffman, the thrill of performing comes in the sharing music.
“The thrill is bringing music to people,” he said. “Whether its one person or 100,000, it’s an honor. I take that with me.”
Hoffman says music is in his blood.
“I came from a musical family,” he told the Star News. “My grandfather was a violinist. My grandmother is the best old time piano player I know. I fell in love with it early.”
His grandfather, Harry Hoffman, the founder of Hoffman Engineering in Anoka who died in 2002, always told him you have not arrived until you have played at the Grand Ole Opry.
Nick Hoffman has done that with several performers, including Chesney, Trace Adkins and James Otto. He has also performed his own music there with THE FARM. He performed the first time with his grandfather’s fiddle.
“My whole path, from the time I was 10 or 12 to now, has perfectly laid out everything it took to get to this very place,” Hoffman said.
Where his path will take him next is unknown. Hoffman, Marie and Horne say they won’t forget their roots.
“It’s kind of ironic and cool that our first song pays homage to where we’re from,” Hoffman said. “When we first got together we realized we needed to find common ground. Where we’re from is important to all of us.”
Marie is from upstate New York, has trained in many different music styles and was a motocross champion.
Horne is from North Carolina, is an ordained minister and a member of the Muzik Mafia.
Together they are THE FARM. Oh, and by the way, you can find their CD at Walmart and many other retailers.