I have a stage name, Hobohemian, that I have been using for years – a public persona, a guess you could say. Though I don’t dress as a hobo or act much like a bohemian, I am inspired by the images I associate with both hobos and bohemians.
I have been fascinated with hobos ever since I was a kid growing up in New Mexico. We often visited a restaurant called Hobo Joe''s - a southwestern knock-off of Bob''s Big Boy. Perched outside the entrance to the joint was a giant, stylized hobo with every accouterment we have come to associate with these mythologized creatures - bedroll, bandana, ragged dungarees, and equally rugged features punctuated with the marks of a rootless existence.
The bindlestiff of popular lore writ large on a restaurant menu. This was just the thing to capture the imagination of a pre-teen who longed to ride the rails to wherever, for who knows what purpose, on a romantic journey far from home. The siren call of rock and roll would soon be heard.
Later still, in the pre-graduate school era of my continuous childhood, a harmonizing influence would resonate with the so-called beat generation bohemians, scruffy literary types lighting out into and lighting up the American wilderness on their own journey, both into the heart of America and into the heart of hearts - their own. These twin images inspired me to write and make music.
I have a hard time describing the style of my music, probably because there are multiple stylistic elements to it. I see what I am doing as definitely pop music, in the sense of having a basis in melody, but you will hear a blues inflection some of my songs, a rock edge in others, and a folk feeling in still others. Maybe I should steal from that wireless phone commercial and call my music Poprockafolkyblues.
I play multiple instruments, most of them proficiently – none of them masterfully. I learned piano first, and you will hear the keyboards as a prominent element in my music. I picked up cello next, but I have not played that instrument in years (and do not have access to a cello). On my next CD, I can promise you a cello. I learned bass next – I switched to it from the cello because my high school orchestra needed a bass player. Years later, I taught myself guitar. Ironically, that is the instrument that has been most consistent for me ever since, though I feel like I have hit a plateau in my playing. I want to study guitar more seriously in the future. I have a lot to learn!
I find musical inspiration everywhere. I am a musical omnivore. Mostly, I listen to so-called indie rock, bands like Spoon, the Decemberists, Arcade Fire, Andrew Bird, the Shins, Midlake, My Morning Jacket, Built to Spill, etc. However, I love late 60’s pop music from bands like the Beatles (of course), the Zombies, the Mamas and the Papas, the Byrds, the Hollies, the Kinks, the Who, and so on. I went to high school in the 80’s, so I still get a thrill when I hear music from that much-maligned era. If you play “Rock Lobster” by the B52’s, I will dance the spastic worm after going “down. . . down. . . down. . . down. . .” Play “Come On Eileen,” that one-hit wonder from Dexys Midnight Runners, and forget it – I’ll be in tears or something, remembering the cello player from Florida I danced with on that magical night back in ’84, blah, blah, blah.
The Police were my absolute favorite band in high school – there was a period of about three years in which I listened to almost nothing except the Police. Seeing them again recently was a bit of a throwback thrill, and I learned that Andy Summers is a far better guitarist than he was allowed to be in the Police. Speaking of live acts, the true performers in the world – like Bruce Springsteen, The Who, The Flaming Lips – these bands inspire me in a different way. I played in a ska band in college, then known as Boy O Boy (now known – and still playing music! – as Fighting Gravity), and can still see myself pogo jumping on stage, relentlessly moving to the music. I jump less now, for sure, but that exuberant spirit in the interaction between music and audience, is still there for me. That’s why I love performing so much. I play in a couple of cover bands, Out to Lunch, which is made up of fellow teachers at the Virginia high school where I teach. Also, a band called Stereo Goat serves as another musical outlet. Playing covers is fun, but obviously writing and playing my own music is more deeply satisfying. Look here for the products of that labor of love.
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