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What got you into music, and if you had not gotten into music what would you be doing today?
Like most kids my parents put me into music lessons when I was quite young; piano, violin, dance as well. One of my earliest memories was as a 6 year old playing Cotton Eyed Joe on the violin in a traveling show. In my teens I took up the drums, playing in every jazz band, orchestra and musical in the B.C. area, eventually enrolling at the local conservatory, where I got to work closely with jazz icons like Paul Horn and Misha Piatigorsky. After University I played with the funk rock band The Party On The High Street, performing constantly all over the world for six years, releasing 5 albums, one of which was recorded at Bear Creek studios with Ryan Hadlock, a Grammy nominee for his work with the Lumineers. While with The Party on High Street we partnered with a pair of actors and helped write a musical titled The Saints of British Rock.
This is my first venture as a solo artist, after 6 years on the road with TPOHS and the subsequent hiatus from music during which I lived in Los Angeles I’ve returned back to my home in Canada, where in 2021 I released my first full length album “Exit Conditions" and followed it up with a single Wake Up Call in January of 2022 and a second in May of 2022 titled The New Queen.
What do you like to do when you are not playing music and how does that influence your creativity?
Music is my creative outlet, so when I’m not doing it I tend to do things that don’t burn up that creativity. I garden a lot, hike with my dogs, I got into powerlifting a few years ago and am contemplating doing a competition some time in the future… though my long spindly appendages have no chance of winning… haha. I’m also working on getting my private pilot's license. It takes a lot of mental energy. I find all of these alternative experiences really help build inspiration for when I’m back in the studio.
How long has your band been around?
I’ve been making music on my own for about 2 years now.
Where are you based out of and how did that influence your music?
I was in Vancouver B.C. for a few years before returning to my home town of Victoria. While in Vancouver I made a lot of great connections in the music scene. I was introduced by a friend to this really cool musician complex in east vancouver, it's an old apartment building where each apartment has been turned into recording studios or jam spaces. It's an incredible place to hang out, make friends and find inspiration.
How did you come up with the name of your band and what does it mean to you?
“Hootin” is a mashed-up contraction of my last name: Houghton. The nickname first made an appearance during my days with The Party on High Street. My favorite animal is an owl, when our guitarist found this out he started hooting at me while we were on stage. Eventually this morphed into sounding like my last name. From there I couldn’t escape it and decided it was best to just embrace it.
Tell me about your most memorable shows.
I consider myself a recording artist and am not performing at the moment. When I was playing with The Party on High Street we were playing at Wild Mountain Music Festival in Hinton Alberta. It was really exciting because it was our first show with some big name Canadian acts. Each night had a headliner, but after the headliner was a late night act that played on the same stage. We were lucky enough to be booked as the late night act after the Saturday night headliner, Blue Rodeo. The festival grounds were packed for Blue Rodeo’s performance, so we were excited to get a lot of their residual crowd when we went on. But no one told them about the late night acts. After they finished, they and all their roadies left with a lot of their equipment still on the stage, thinking that the program was done for the night. We couldn’t get on stage to set up because the stage manager wouldn’t let us on with their gear in the way and wouldn’t move it without their permission. It took two hours for us to get on stage, by which time most of the crowd had dissipated. We still had a great time and an ok crowd but it makes for a funny story.
What is your favorite venue to play at, and do you have any places you want to play that you have not already?
Generally my favorite venues are music festivals, especially the small ones. There is nothing better than camping in the artist area with all of the other bands, jamming around a fire waiting for your set, going out to watch your new friends perform. It's always a magical experience.
If you could play any show with any lineup, who would be on the ticket?
One of my favorite Canadian bands right now is Half Moon Run, I would be ecstatic to share a lineup with them.
What is some advice that you would give to someone who is just getting into playing in a band and some advice that you would give to your younger self?
I would tell myself to never be embarrassed by your own style/sound. Some of the worst music is made by people trying to sound like artists they like. Take inspiration or techniques from your favorite artists but when you try to sound like them you stomp out your own voice. What I think people connect with the most when listening to music is the real personality of what they are hearing. I spent way too long hating my own music because it didn’t sound enough like this artist or that band…. Once I gained enough confidence to be proud of my own creation my music became way better.
Of your songs which one means the most to you and why?
Of the ones I’ve currently released I think the first track on my recent album Exit Conditions, titled Wisdom means the most to me. As I get older I’ve really gained appreciation for all of the life I’ve lived and the lessons they’ve so far taught me. Not all of these experiences were positive or fun, but often the best lessons are learned the hardest way.
Wisdom is about that exchange that we all make: the time we have left on earth, for the experience we gain. It’s a message that we should value all experiences for what they can teach us… even negative ones . It's a sort of transaction we all make throughout our lives, but affects each of us differently. I want each listener to reflect on their own transactions: how it shaped them.
Which songs are your favorite to play and which get requested the most?
I’m not performing right now but one of the songs I get asked to play a lot is a cover I do of Chris Stapleton’s You Should Probably Leave. He recently came out with a studio version that is unfortunately a little over produced and emotionless but somewhere on youtube is a video of him performing it years ago on a small outdoor stage. The emotion and raw power of that performance was haunting and I try to emulate that with my own cover.
What is the creative process for the band, and what inspires you to write your music?
It has taken me quite a while to come to a description of the style of music I create. The best I have come up with so far is “Expressive Alternative”. Being a drummer by trade, rhythm and energy are usually the most important factors in good music for me; lyrics being a close second. I usually begin writing a new song with the drums or percussion to define a feel. From there I take time to think about all of the things that have been going on in my life that tend to otherwise be hard to express verbally; things I’ve been feeling, thinking about but maybe struggling to articulate… I then pick one of these ideas that I think fits the energy of the track I've put together so far. I build the rest of the instrumentation to fit the tone and timbre of the idea I’m trying to express. Finally, I then find lyrics that don’t describe the feeling I’m trying to express… but demonstrate it. I want each of my songs to be about something. A concrete idea that I can name but allows the listener to have their own experience with.
What kinds of messages do you like to get across in your music?
I like to talk about things that are important to me at the time. A lot of ideas and feelings are impossible to describe so I like to try to invoke those same feelings in my listeners by showing them how it feels. My song Spaceman is about a friend who had cut off a lot of his friends and was being a bit of a recluse. We missed spending time with him but he was avoiding us as he went through something. Wake up Call is about a period of my life where I had lost track of the things that mattered to me. I wasn’t doing any music, I had a good job but had no motivation… I think I just got too comfortable, too lazy… I lost the drive to experience new things and explore like I used to do.
Do you ever have disagreements in your band, and how do you get past them?
As a solo artist I disagree with myself constantly. More than I ever did with band mates.
What are your plans for the future, and do you have anything that you want to spotlight that is coming up?
For the time being I am focused on writing and recording music. I have a new single titled McLean which will be released later in 2022 that I’m really excited about. This one was inspired by my mother and her hometown of McLean Saskatchewan.I also really enjoy recording videos of my solo jam sessions in my studio. I post these regularly to my instagram. All of the links to my social media are available on my website: www.hootinmusic.com