Last month we visited Greg Hoy’s latest release, ‘Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell’ and figured it was high time we had a chat with him about his music, and what makes him tick. You can catch up with all our previous reviews here, but right now read what Greg has to say (especially his last answer!).
Hi Greg, thank you for speaking to us! We’ve loved your work ever since we first wrote about ‘Green’, just over 2 years ago now, so it’s great to finally catch up with you!
First of all, how’s the Covid-19 Pandemic been for you? Have you found it a help or a hindrance in your work, and do you feel that, now even as we’re coming out the other side (slowly but surely), the music business as a whole has changed?
First of all, I truly appreciate the attention Essentially Pop has paid to both my own and other artists’ independent music. I love being turned on to new releases via your IG presence and website. Having trusted sources for information has never been more important.
The second part of your question is difficult to quantify. Are we all paying more attention to what matters in this life? And perhaps also — what is the definition of attention? And really, what matters? The coolest part of pandemia was watching people slow down a bit. Many friends took up new creative endeavours such as baking, painting, and sweatpant-wearing. The music business became even more terrified about losing its ever-decreasing piece of the financial pie yet independent makers thrived. Seems like a huge win to me.
What have you learned from the Pandemic that you’ll take onboard with you in your music? What about in your life outside music?
Learning new ways to connect with people without being face-to-face became everyone’s favourite past-time. I mean, it was just 3 short years ago that Trump was president, and no one you know had a ‘USB-powered selfie light’ for their Zoom calls. Personally, in the summer of 2020 I made a full-length LP at a real 2 inch tape recording studio (John Vanderslice’s Tiny Telephone, Oakand CA) then became a dad for the first time. What can I say? I am an obsessively analogue creative.
Your most recent single, ‘It Sure Got Cold After The Rain Fell’ is a cover of an old but gold ZZ Top classic. What was it about that song that appealed to you so? How have fans reacted?
The trio did a 5 week tour with around 22 shows all over the midwest in August and September of 2021. It was incredible to get back in touch with live interactions, see these beautiful United States, and feel human in the truest sense of the word again. ZZ Top bassist Dusty Hill had passed earlier in the year. Many places were playing early records by them in the ether of life – we heard ZZ at bars, & whiskey tours in Tennessee, soundchecks in Missouri and Minnesota.
The song itself is an outlier for ZZ Top, and also for us. It’s kinda slow, it’s a ballad, I played piano on it, and it’s really, really long (the original clocks in just past the 7 minute mark). And when we released it coming into the dark of winter, it felt just right. The response has been pretty incredible. Most people have commented on my resonant, bluesy vocal take, as well as my piano playing — two things that maybe I haven’t explored a whole lot these past years. But it’s not like you can half-ass a ZZ Top cover recording, ya dig? As we rehearse for these new tours, I can’t find a place for it in the live set so it lives in its own little space – just like ZZ Top does.
Who have been your greatest musical inspirations, and why? Have they changed over time, or are there some artists you just keep going back to, whose sound has really stood the test of time in your mind?
Such an evolving question over time! Here in northern California where I am based, it’s hard to talk about *the cold months*, however I just spent some time in Nashville, then Pittsburgh, and at my cabin near Duluth, Minnesota. This means I can stake claim to bone-chill, and how it affects the music one may consider comforting (to be fair, I grew up near Pittsburgh, PA, so hunker-down winters are no stranger). My last few weeks have been equally split between Nat King Cole, Elliot Smith, and the Rolling Stones circa ’76-’80. All work well with a wood-burning fire, some brown liquor, and scandal-ish storytelling late nights that may or may not be based on 100% total truth.
The Beatles documentary was big for the house these last months, and my almost-2 year old loves ‘The White Album’, and ‘Revolver’. Total cliché, I know. And while that documentary is great, really, how many times can you hear rehearsal takes of ‘Get Back’? But my daughter also loves Jim James, and Nikki Lane (who did this last minute show I caught in Nashville a few weeks back… wow).
What about life? Who or what inspires you most?
Today, it’s protest, people speaking up for their own rights, and those of others. We were just in Minneapolis where the teachers’ union is on strike. Kids were out of closed schools playing at the park. The temperatures slowly crawled up enough for that as well as comfortably seasoned picket lines in front of all the schools. Somehow, being locked inside for a few years with limited access to real information created a plethora of vapid arguments that ultimately did nothing to elevate us as a species. Every topic is the Super Bowl, now. ‘Whose side are you on?’ We need more options than that. I’m thankful we are getting back to looking each other in the eye before we decide if we should spit.
What’s the songwriting process for you? Do songs come to you fully formed or do you have a melody, or the lyrics first? Is there a certain mood you’ve got to be in before you can write?
I always need some deadline or consistent schedule to write songs. In the case of the last LP ‘Cacophony’, I booked a week in the studio then went in the garage the weekend before the session with my suitcase kick drum, a pot of coffee, and a guitar. There was a writing burst in January when I began meditation practices. Sometimes, I need a theme. That can be knowing the players involved if it will be a full band session. Or sometimes, I get a new guitar and it has songs in it waiting to be written. There’s a white board in my studio with some phrases that may or may not be future song titles or album themes: for example, ‘Post-Doom Lullabies’ is a current one.
What are your favourite instruments to use, and why?
Drums help me a lot. Writing from the brain is nice. Writing from the booty is better.
If you could start all over again, what, if anything, would you do differently, and why?
Hm… making videos for years for songs has become a lot of fun. Maybe taking some classes in video editing early on? It’s hard to say. I enjoy learning new things. I’ve been stuck in iMovie for a decade or so. For my new year project, I bought a cheap PC laptop to learn some new editing software. Wish me luck. Windows still sucks as an operating platform!
What’s next for Greg Hoy?
There’s touring in 2022. The Build Back Bitter tour has two legs booked so far — one in May here in California as a 5 piece, then a July trio routing based out of Denver. I’m considering fall shows on the east coast because we haven’t played there since 2019 however gas prices are… well, you know.
I’m remixing and remastering a record from 10 years back that will be released next month, and there’s about 2 LPs worth of material still waiting to be finished and mixed from last year’s recording sessions. I’ve started releasing a new season of interviews via the Limited Mileage podcast which is a lot of fun for me. I also finally started a publishing company called Earhopper to help keep track of the 500+ songs in the catalogue. And still trying to finish a musical that I started in 2020.
And finally – I ask this question of all those I interview – what question do you wish someone would ask you in an interview, but nobody ever does? And what’s the answer to that question?
Ha! That’s pretty meta! I think you just asked it. So this is my answer.