I spent the summer of 1997 listening to a tape of the Jody Grind while driving in a Volkswagen Golf. The singer for that Atlanta band was Kelly Hogan, whose career since then has included joining the Rock*A*Teens, four LPs, countless collaborations and an appearance on Aqua Teen Hunger Force. You may have seen her on stage last year singing with Neko Case at the Paramount. Kelly's going to be in Seattle early next week and was nice enough to reveal some pertinent info tidbits.
Hiya, Kelly Hogan! What's new?
Everything, man—everything. I'm at The Hideout in Chicago right now, practicing with my band fellas, Casey McDonough and Chris Scruggs, for our show at the Triple Door.
Yes, you're singing there on Monday night! How do you feel about Seattle?
I LOVE SEATTLE. It's good for my complexion.
Any things in particular that you like?
I like how y'all's fruit is so large. Your blackberries are like our apples. HUGE. Like the Barry Bonds of fruit.
Any memorable Seattle memories?
Back in July of 1995, I was painting houses in Atlanta, where I'm from — and I had been painting tri-color Victorian gingerbread trim in a week of 100+ degree heat, and I got off that 30-foot ladder and got on a plane and flew to Seattle, where it was a perfectly cool 68 degrees. I almost cried with happiness and relief. I did a week out on a pier stage with the Indigo Girls in a production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It was insane.
How is living in Wisconsin?
Literally cheesy. My fella works in a cheese factory and we're constantly googling "ricotta recipes..."
Do you eat at Culver's?
Maybe once a year by accident. My dogs like it because they give you a free "puppy scoop" if you have canines at the drive-thru window.
Do you miss Atlanta?
All the time, friend and family-wise. But not the heat, no.
Do you miss eating boiled peanuts?
YES +++++ the canned ones don't cut it, though I love the little organ grinder and monkey on the label.
A slew of all-stars (M. Ward, Andrew Bird, Magnetic Fields, Robyn Hitchock, Catherine Irwin (Freakwater), Handsome Family, VIc Chesnutt, Gabriel Roth (of the Dap-Kings), Robbie Fulks, Jon Langford, and Jon Wesley Harding) have contributed songs to your new record. What is it called? When does it come out?
It's called I LIKE TO KEEP MYSELF IN PAIN, which is the title of the Robyn Hitchcock song on the record. It comes out June 5th.
Do you remember an exact moment of feeling very proud of what you're doing? I mean, with all of those great songwriters and through your work with Neko Case, was there a moment that hit you that you realized that you're doing a really good job?
Well, walking into the studio, cold, with Booker T. Jones and James Gadson and Gabe Roth and just saying "hey fellas" and counting off the first song and making music with them all week — that was a crazy deep feeling. Any time someone actually calls me to come contribute to their record or live show, I feel good about that — that they want what I have to offer.
You've written a song called "Golden" on your new record that's about Neko. What are the details of that?
Neko called me on the phone back in about 1999 from a payphone while she was out on tour, having a hard time, van breakdowns, etc., the usual tour grind stuff — and on the way to work that day I saw a billboard of Ted Nugent and for a second I saw her head on his loin-cloth-clad body and I said "YEAH MAN, she ought to be on a billboard," so I wrote the rest of the song at my desk that day at work. It's a wish for her for good things. She's such a bad-ass.
Do you watch television? If so, what do you watch?
Hulu and Netflix on my Roku. I don't have cable. I don't watch much, but I like Modern Family and Up All Night. I love me some PBS, nerd that I am. And sometimes I "smoke a carton of tv cigarettes" by watching dirty dirty America's Next Top Model or Kitchen Nightmares. DIRTY!
What are you listening to lately?
The new Chris Scruggs record, "Heartstrings" which isn't out yet, but stay tuned, because IT and HIM are so good! That was terrible grammar, but you get my drift. And the Nancy Wilson/George Shearing record from 1964 or thereabouts — great song on there, "All Night Long" but the whole record is perfect. I love Nancy Wilson. AND I love Seattle's NANCY WILSON, too! Don't even get me started on HEART. xoxoxox!
Are you good with keeping houseplants? Do you have a lot of them?
Yeah, I am. I rescued an orphan Norfolk Pine a few years ago (those shitty ones that they spray glitter on at Christmas, I feel so sorry for those little guys!) and now my tree "Randy" is almost seven feet tall. I need a bigger house.
It's been 11 years since your last release, Because It Feel Good. What have you been doing since then?
Oh, geez. I sure haven't been idle. Singing with Neko, my kids band Wee Hairy Beasties, a project with John Wesley Harding called the Love Hall Tryst, singing a cappella madrigal ye olde songs, doing a three-year residency at The Hideout with my jazz band The Wooden Leg, singing on Mavis Staples' record, touring with Jakob Dylan, and eating a lot of cheese.
When I looked up Because It Feel Good, I noticed a lot of people call it Because It Feels Good. Does that drive you bats?
Naw, it's cool. People are gonna do what they wanna do. Maybe if they knew the story behind the title—it involves a 4th grade girl dragging her butt in the dirt on a playground.
Word around town is that you make a good banana pudding. Can you reveal your secret? Do you use Nilla Wafers?
I'll make it for you, but I won't tell you. Yes — NILLAS!
What is Booker T. like in real life?
VERY deep. A still presence. A genius. So nice and genteel. Disturbingly HANDSOME. Very quiet and thoughtful. If you can crack him up, it's like 40,000 bonus points in life. I told him that one of his solos on the record (on Pass On By) sounded "great! like spit skidding across a hot griddle!" and he fell out. And then he said "remind me never to eat pancakes at your house."
And James Gadson played drums on your new record! That's something else!
GADSON! YES +++ he's incredible. You should insert the link to him playing with Bill Withers on Old Grey Whistle Test here!
Do you have a lot of pets? If so, what are they?
Two dogs, Tennessee Ernie and Eddie Spaghetti. Shelter rescue mutts. And I name all the spiders in my house. Love spiders, man.
Can you recall what your musical tastes were when you were 15 years old? What was your favorite band then?
The B-52s. LOVED THEM. The Cars. Queen. Billy Squier. And, uh, Journey.
Are you currently on tour? How do you travel?
About to be — VAN touring, man.
Do you have a favorite piece of clothing?
Sorry to out myself, but I live in OVERALLS. Key or Liberty. I am the Junior Samples of Wisconsin.
Kelly Hogan is playing live at the Triple Door on Monday, April 2 with Puddles Pity Party.