Atlanta’s genre blending ensemble Blair Crimmins and The Hookers have been creating a sound that is both unique and inspired for years. Crimmins himself began developing it some time ago, honing in on the magic of ragtime and the 1920’s, coupled with some Dixieland jazz. The fourth studio album from Crimmins’ impressive creative mind is due out in February of 2017, and we haven’t been this excited in quite some time. In honor of the news and the excitement building around You Gotta Sell Something, we took some time to speak with Crimmins about his inspiration, the upcoming album, and superheroes.
How old were you when you got into music? How did it happen?
I can’t remember a time when I wasn’t into music. I always gravitated to it when I was a kid. It felt natural. My parents brought back a guitar for me on a trip they took to Mexico. I was really young at the time, maybe 4 years old, and I wouldn’t really learn to play for another 4 years but I liked strumming and banging on the thing, I even wrote some stuff that I considered songs. I started really learning to play when I was 8 and starting expanding to electric guitar. I was hooked, fascinated by the power of it. From that point on, I forgot about being an astronaut or baseball player. I knew what I wanted to be when I grew up. It was a pure love for making music.
Creating new music takes continual inspiration- how do you stay inspired?
Sometimes inspiration comes up and smacks you right in the face. Your life throws you a curveball and you see everything from a new perspective. Those are the times when you have to write to fill that need to document and share the personal experiences that impassioned you. Either by choice or circumstance, many artist will remain in a situation or environment that will keep slapping them in the face, to always be steeped in drama and conflict. The other source of inspiration is inside your own mind, your imagination and the stories that don’t exist till you write them. That’s not always easy to do but I think it’s the purist form of creativity. The excitement and joy of creating something from nothing can inspire me to do it again and again.
What are some of the earliest records you can remember listening to?
Willie Nelson’s “Shotgun Willie” is my earliest memory of listening to anything that wasn’t kids music. The lyrics “Shotgun Willie sits around in his underwear” cracked me up and liked singing along. I had that on cassette. When I got a little older I raided my Dad’s record collection and it was loaded with classic rock and outlaw country. There were hundreds of LP’s. I have most of them now. Shotgun Willie still holds up for me and I always wonder if the horns section might have steered my musical taste.
How supportive were/are your friends and family in your pursuit of music?
Everyone has always had my back. I think my family would be more disappointed than anyone if I quit music to do something else. My friends too. If I ever said I was going to do something other than music, I think they’d laugh and say “shut up”.
What went into putting together You Gotta Sell Something!?
We were all itching to put out a new record. I had a few tunes already done but most of the others I wrote in the fall of 2015 during some time off from touring. I knew what kind of album I wanted. I just needed the time to put pen to paper. I spent a month or so on the songs then another month writing horn arrangements. I booked some studio time in late January at Stonehenge in Atlanta with engineer Tony Terrebonne before I was finished with the writing. Then, I pulled together a couple rehearsals with the band before a 10 day tour to Arizona and back. We played the new songs every night on the road then we went right into the studio when we got home. It took 5 or 6 days to get the rhythm tracks and horns done. After that, the production slowed down a little, partly because of touring but also because we were trying to hone in on the sound. Do we mix it like a jazz record or a rock record? I think in the end we found a good mix of the two.
How do you span the strong influences of early 20th century tunes with a modern twist?
I’d say “the modern twist” is in the playing and the lyrics. When I’m writing a song, I’ll use a lot of rhythms and chord changes from early Jazz but the lyrics aren’t about times gone by. For instance, the title track “You Gotta Sell Something” is a satirical song about the commercialism of the modern music industry. Then you have a band that naturally wants to play with a lot of energy and volume. We’re not traditional purists. Some people don’t like that about us. Others are drawn to that side of it. With a name like “The Hookers” what would you expect?
What’s your dream collaboration?
I’d like to work with Producer Tony Visconti. His production style is so creative. He’s done some of my favorite rock records and some far out Jazz. I’d like to hear how he’d interpret my stuff in the studio.
If you could introduce yourself in any way to an audience, no constraints, how would you do it?
I don’t feel like I’m constrained from anything. I introduce myself as a Hooker every night.
Justice League, or The Avengers?
I have to say Avengers. Captain America was a favorite comic growing up.
Anything else you’d like to let our readers know?
If you come to a show, don’t think you have to be a swing dancer to get on the dance floor. You can get up front, do the Macarena or head bang if you want. Just cut loose and have fun.
Keep up with Blair Crimmins and The Hookers – and all updates on the new album – here.