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Greg Hoy Speaks To Us About His Music, His Inspirations, And ZZ Top

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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.

Check out Greg Hoy online on his website, Instagram, and YouTube.



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St. Vincent Covers “Funkytown” For Minions: The Rise of Gru

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Some things in life are inevitable. For a while, that inevitably was a new Shrek movie with an updated pop cover like “I’m a Believer” from Smash Mouth. These days it’s a new Despicable Me movie, this time in the form of spinoff Minions The Rise of Gru. And just as we all predicted, the new Steve Carrell led film comes stacked with a loaded soundtrack headlined by St. Vincent.

For her contribution to the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack, St. Vincent covered “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. Her version was produced by Jack Antonoff and continues a run of luck for the musician that earlier this year saw her win a Grammy for Best Alternative Music Album.

Antonoff also gave St. Vincent a shout-out for her album Daddy’s Home when he won Producer of the Year at the Grammys.

Announcing the release of her funky cover, St. Vincent took to Twitter and wrote, “Excited to say the @Minions (including @jackantonoff) and I have just released our version of ‘Funkytown’ from #TheRiseofGru soundtrack. Shout out to Gru and them…” Included with the post was a graphic of St. Vincent as a minion.

Joining St. Vincent on the Minions: The Rise of Gru soundtrack are Tame Impala, Kali Uchis, Brittany Howard, Thundercat, Caroline Polachek, Diana Ross, and Weyes Blood, just to name a few.

The album will be released on July 1, coinciding with the film’s theatrical release. You can listen to St. Vincent’s cover of Lipps Inc. “Funkytown” below!



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Parmalee Shares The Music Video For Their Top Five US Hit ‘Take My Name’, A Musical Marriage Proposal.

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Back in October of 2021, Parmalee released ‘Take My Name’ as the second single from their third studio album. It was written with and produced by David Fanning, producer of the massive hit ‘Carolina’ that introduced me to the band back in 2008, Ashley Gorley and Ben Johnson. Robyn Collins of ‘Taste of Country’ described the song as “a musical marriage proposal” and lead singer of the band, Matt Thomas, says it was inspired by the marriage of brother Scott; he says “it made me think about what I would want to say to my future wife.”

Some songs almost become bigger than themselves when they tap into the lives and moods of everyone and this is very much one of those songs. It’s not difficult to see why this song has been adopted by fans all over the world irrespective of their taste in music; its words conjure all the romance and love that you’d hope to feel when you ask someone to marry you. It’s lyrically a shopping list of everything you feel at the moment you realise you’ve met the one, even if that’s after only a short time. I remember proposing to my wife after just 8 weeks and if I try to remember what I was feeling at the point I proposed and tried to put it into words I would hope it was very similar to this song. Now over 31 years later and still happily married I listen to this song and it brings all those feelings back in a rush so why wouldn’t it be the perfect song to overlay a proposal, sing at the wedding or just be part of the moment; it’s how I’d love my sons to feel when they propose to their partners. 

Parmalee are very aware of their fans needs and were quick to record a wedding version for such occasions with a less catchy percussion and a softer piano focussed vibe than the original version. There have even been brilliant occasions where the band has turned up to “crash” a wedding and sing this song to the happy couple reminiscent of Maroon 5 and their song ‘Sugar’. None of those guests will forget that wedding in a hurry!

With all the interest in the song and the brilliant videos and messages the band have received, they felt the time was right to make their own narrative video to accompany the song as an addition to the previously released visualizer. The ‘Wedding Version’ video of the romantic song was filmed in Gallatin, TN and directed by Shane Drake. The heart-warming story follows the journey of the protagonist through middle school and all the way to adulthood featuring kids from a local school, an original 1968 Mustang Shelby GT350 and appearances from the band with the lead being played by frontman Matt Thomas.

Matt says:

“From the jump, the fans have really latched onto this song in such an amazing, life changing way- our fans have been the reason for so many of our own major milestones, so it means that much more to us that folks are using our song for their proposals and weddings and allowing us to be a part of those major moments in their lives. We wanted to pay tribute to the fans who have been on this journey with us since the beginning so in the music video you’ll see a story of love and loyalty unfold across the years-but don’t expect to see any weddings or proposals – the fan created videos far exceed anything we could depict. We love watching them.”

With over 135 million global on demand streams, the song has raced up the Country charts, outpacing the band’s previous single, the multinational Number 1 smash ‘Just The Way’ with Blanco Brown and has been popping up all over TikTok with creators playing the song over proposal and wedding videos and even sparking a trend of using the sound of the song and writing “if your man doesn’t make you feel this way then what are you doing?” over the video. 

Parmalee - Take My Name (Official Music Video)

Coming from their recently released album ‘For You’, an album that has garnered critical acclaim with American Songwriter calling it “authentically real, genuinely inspired” and Billboard saying that “Parmalee find itself in the enviable position of being able to tap into multiple audiences”. What is very clear is that Country music is slowly starting to find a new, younger audience in the UK to stand alongside the existing fans of the genre. Zack Bryan has recently found himself high on the Spotify album charts and UK stars like Ed Sheeran have appeared alongside Country stars like Luke Combs at the Country2Country festival. Even Tom Odell has found himself headlining the British Country Music Festival in the Summer. Parmalee may be the band to really break down the barriers between Country music and the UK Charts with this song as the musical genre of this release is far less important than the honesty and emotion of the lyrics and Romance will always break down all of the barriers, or at least I would hope it would.

‘For You’ is out now and can be streamed and downloaded here. Find out more about Parmalee and their music online on their official website.

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Mercedess Releases debut album ‘Casa Fantasia’ along with lead single ‘Summers Already Gone’

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This Copenhagen DIY pop artist has managed the difficult task of mixing her soulful voice with vibrant dreamy production and lyrics with real streetwise attitude. The result is something that has given her the hit single ‘Obvious’ which Danish radio loved and the internationally acclaimed single ‘Back to Business’. Now she is releasing the excellent lead single ‘Summer’s Already Gone’ which sounds very modern Bond in its lo fi production but tells an unusual love story. Not a story about falling in love with a person, but about the love affair that always ends; the affair with Summer.

She says:

“I wanted to write a song that could represent both the fearlessness of the magical Summer days and the truly blue sadness of the re occuring love story it actually is when Summer eventually comes to an end. I know it’s a heartbreaking, melancholy feeling but it’s also everything I love about Summer.”

The song was written in Mercedess’ living room with Danish indie superstar Goss and the guitarist Søren Breum and is produced by the critically acclaimed artist Vera. It allows the velvet of the artist’s voice to tumble over the muted trumpets, break beats and flirty acoustic guitars and strings bringing to life the seasonal heartbreak. 

The fact that it is about the love and anticipation felt for Summer is almost more poignant this year as we embark upon the first free Summer for a few years. The affair with Summer this year promises to be a torrid passionate affair as we’ve been apart so long but the heartbreak of its end will be felt more keenly. This song will be the soundtrack to the affair for sure.

The single is released on the same day as the debut album from this exciting new talent. Mercedess says of the album: “Casa Fantasia is an album about longing for closeness and honesty. These songs are an escape from reality-a place to feel free and be yourself. Writing it was a personal journey and process to me that hopefully will make space for creativity, art and emotions for others too”

The album promises to do just that with the artist’s melancholy and yet warm and dreamy vocals and marks an exciting new chapter for an artist destined to find international acclaim  with this collection of music. Summer may come and go but I’m sure the appeal of Mercedess will be perennial. 

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