Somewhere in America, artists are still making records.
There is still a place for experimentation, taking chances, and leaving in mistakes; for lyrical imagery and themes that tie songs together.
It does not include hired-gun songwriters, rehashed ideas, and an aim to get famous quick on flash and superficiality.
Brendan Hogan's second solo album, "SilverQuick", was recorded in a home studio using a single microphone, a few guitars, a couple old tube amps, and a lot of experimentation with ordinary (and extraordinary) household objects, analog and digital synths, and a lot of delays.
"SilverQuick" features 12 new songs, and a 10+ page booklet with lyrics, artwork, and instrumentation details. The album is a “Do What You Want With It” release. That is, it was written and recorded it as an album (with lyrical threads and themes tying songs together) to be listened to as an album, but once you buy it you may do with it as you please: Import it into iTunes, or give it to a friend. But do it justice at least once and sit down at a CD player and listen to it with the booklet. It’s worth it.
In late-2009, Hogan wrote and recorded his debut CD, "Long Night Coming", featuring original roots, modern folk, and blues-based songs, as well as two familiar standards in the folk and country genres. His work in songwriting and performing since its release has seen him share stages with Kris Delmhorst, Slaid Cleaves, Geoff Muldaur, Ray Bonneville, Eilen Jewell, Les Sampou, Spider John Koerner, and others in the Northeast US and beyond, and the popular NPR radio show "Car Talk" featured Hogan's song "Big Black Car" on its program. The Boston Phoenix newspaper has called Hogan "a distinctive new musical voice".
Folks like The Black Keys and Jack White get it. Hell, even John Mellencamp made a live-to-tape mono record recently. True music fans expect a little more from the artists they appreciate, and Brendan Hogan’s new album "SilverQuick" stays true to the methods of making a genuine album.
Full band available upon request.
Latest full-length album, "SilverQuick" .
"Morning Light (A Ballad of James 'Whitey' Bulger)", Single .
Debut full-length CD, "Long Night Coming" .
Morning Light (A Ballad of James "Whitey" Bulger)
Rock Cast in the Sea
Looking Up at Down Again
Big Star Falling
'SilverQuick' Album Review
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BRENDAN HOGAN "SILVERQUICK" Most folks tend to know Brendan Hogan first and foremost as a tastem...BRENDAN HOGAN
Most folks tend to know Brendan Hogan first and foremost as a tastemaker. From 2002 to 2009, as the host of the sorely missed “Blues on WGBH” program, he kept me in my car glued to the radio as he played forgotten gems by the likes of Victoria Spivey and James Brown. Now he’s on WUMB, spinning blues, roots, and songwriters on Saturday night’s “Dark Was the Night.”
It was a pleasure, then, to learn Hogan is also a gifted local singer-songwriter who imbues his songs with a deep love of American roots music. On “SilverQuick,” however, he casts his net well beyond those influences for something more elusive and, ultimately, more transcendent.
It’s the follow-up to his 2009 debut, “Long Night Coming,” but it couldn’t feel more removed from that album’s detours into contemporary folk-blues. At times “SilverQuick” falls somewhere along the lines of Tom Waits’s mercurial brand of Americana and Daniel Lanois’s ambient explorations. A touch of David Bowie hovers over the songs, believe it or not.
For now, Hogan is selling “SilverQuick” through his website (www.brendanhogan.net) and on CD Baby.
“The album is meant to be listened to as an album, so I wanted it to be available in a format that could support the album aesthetic,” Hogan writes in an e-mail. “Downloads don’t allow for that. It’s just an artistic statement (as opposed to a marketing strategy).”
- James Reed, Globe Staff
'SilverQuick' Album Review
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Brendan Hogan "SilverQuick" Boston, MA (Self-released) “Contemporary folk-blues that’s unafr...Brendan Hogan
“Contemporary folk-blues that’s unafraid to take risks”
Flash back to 2009: a New England tastemaker with an inimitable voice debuts his first effort, Long Night Coming, an album of folk and country sounds, blending lush storytelling with a distinctive acoustic twang. Now, in 2012, Brendan Hogan has become a fixture of the scene and his follow-up, SilverQuick, is the result of creative experimentation and being unafraid to take chances. With a new sound best described as contemporary folk-blues, this effort is a testament to staying true to oneself. Hogan has masterfully created a collection of memorable tracks. “Impossible,” with its witty lyricism and enticing groove, could fit comfortably within Jason Mraz’s debut, as could “Junker.”
The rawness of Hogan’s voice throughout such heartfelt compositions as “Call Me Anything” and “Perfect Blue Dizzy” serves as a further example of his dedication to the craft. The passage of time has significantly strengthened Hogan’s gift for storytelling, an ability that puts him within the leagues of Ryan Adams, Pete Yorn, and even echoes of Tom Waits. 2009’s Long Night Coming and 2012’s SilverQuick are indicative of Hogan’s versatility as an artist, all while reaffirming his insatiable desire to share his gifts with the world.
Produced, Recorded & Mixed by Torey Adler and Brendan Hogan
Recorded at A-Train Studios in Beverly, MA
Mastered by Torey Adler
Review by Julia R. DeStefano
'Long Night Coming' Album Review
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The strength of originals like the wistful “Nothing Belongs to Me” and the rambunctious, blues-fuele...The strength of originals like the wistful “Nothing Belongs to Me” and the rambunctious, blues-fueled “Big Black Car” lies in Brendan Hogan’s chiseled, unhurried performing style and his direct manner of storytelling. The Cambridge songwriter allows each sculpted note of his acoustic guitar to assume its correct emotional weight, and his lightly dusty voice resonates with a Northeastern twang mellowed by a sense of experience that extends well beyond his years and into the roots of his inspirations.
Those include Leadbelly, whose “Goodnight Irene” is potent fodder for Hogan’s worldly delivery, and Porter Wagoner, who’s represented here by a particularly bittersweet “Green, Green Grass of Home.” But Dylan, Robert Johnson, and the Band are also within his distinctly American scope, and so are the sounds of the open prairie and the dark Maine woods.
Hogan is best known locally as host of the Blues on WGBH radio show, but this debut transcends genre and marks the arrival of a distinctive new musical voice.
'Long Night Coming' Album Review
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"So tie the laces on your shoes. We've got some walking to do." But this is not a stroll through ..."So tie the laces on your shoes. We've got some walking to do."
But this is not a stroll through the park. It is more like the impromptu, purposeful but directionless movements of a refugee.
In the world laid out in Brendan Hogan's 'Long Night Coming' the rich are uncaring and peers are malevolent. Love is fleeting at best and life-threatening at worst; lovers are married (and not to each other). Movie theatres burn down and family bonds are easily broken. The world is bereft of safety and security.
And that's just from the original material. Added to the milieu are two of the saddest songs in the American Songbook: a song about sweet anticipation of returning to the familiarity of home that abruptly ends as a prisoner's interrupted dream ("Green, Green Grass of Home") and another about an impossibly difficult love that inspires suicidal tendencies ("Goodnight Irene").
The way the collection of songs on Long Night Coming form a consistent literary landscape is impressive. Maybe even more impressive is that Hogan never crosses that dreaded line into being maudlin. Instead, the nihilistic attitude his writing adopts is a combination of Yankee-like pride in self-reliance, defiance to the causes of the world's ills and indifference to its end results.
You get the feeling that the long night that is coming will not be Hogan's first. He seems pretty all right with it.
How does it sound, you ask? Well, it's not what you might expect from the seven-year host of Blues on WGBH. In fact, one of the very first things Brendan said when we first met was, "this isn't strictly a blues album." And that's a good thing.
There is a Van Zandtian sensitivity to it, except maybe with an emotional detachment reminiscent of recent Dylan (and no I'm not placing him in that esteemed company, but merely citing evident influences). The song styles jump around and cover a lot of ground in the American Roots mega-genre. To make things interesting, instruments like ukulele, accordion, toy piano and organ are put in the songs where you wouldn't expect them and kept out of the ones where you would.
Hogan's Saturday night radio show has been off the air for two months now and I really miss his informative voice in the night air. His show taught me a lot of what I know about blues history and it's kind of ironic that, as soon as I got a platform to speak of it, his was taken away.
But his writing and performing career is his real passion, and his music isn't just a consolation prize for his audience. Were I given the opportunity to choose, I'd still take him in this incarnation.
'Long Night Coming' Album Review
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Cambridge Singer-songwriter, Brendan Hogan will be playing at the Lizard Lounge on the 29th to celeb...Cambridge Singer-songwriter, Brendan Hogan will be playing at the Lizard Lounge on the 29th to celebrate the release of his first full-length album 'Long Night Coming'.The Lizard Lounge is a very appropriate place to have the release party for Hogan, since it is the same venue he started up in, playing open-mics and sitting in with other bands.
If you like Bob Dylan you'll love 'Long Night Coming'. The album is mostly soft and very pretty with light country and Celtic accents. Some songs like "Rock Cast in the Sea" and "Big Black Car" are larger and more swingin'. "Rock Cast into the Sea" is a fast, accordion-involved piece and really stands out on the album which shows Hogan's versatility. All the lyrics are balladic or poetic and finely composed. The title track "Long Time Coming" is a beautiful and metaphoric piece, with soft but soulful vocals. The first line of the song explains the album cover, Hogan causally posed in front of the Somerville Theater.
The thing I like about this album is the dynamic of the lyrics and music. The lyrics are incredibly dire at times, but it doesn't mater because the music that floats around the words is hopeful. (Think Dylan's "It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" or "Most of the Time")
Should be a great show and I bet you a million bucks there will be lots of special guests, local folks and lots of beer. A perfect show to see to top of the awesome month of January (honestly though, there have been some great shows this month.) Also a great album to get you through the epic awesomeness of February in New England.
'Long Night Coming' Album Review
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BRENDAN HOGAN Long Night Coming 10-song CD Released in the fall of 2009, 'Long Night Coming' mark...BRENDAN HOGAN
Long Night Coming
Released in the fall of 2009, 'Long Night Coming' marks the formal debut of Brendan Hogan’s signature folk and country sound. Having spent ten years in radio as host and producer at WERS and WGBH, Hogan’s songs are a blend of original roots, modern folk, and are highly blues-based. Through lush storytelling and an acoustic twang, listeners are able to easily resonate with Porter Wagoner’s “Green, Green Grass of Home” and the nostalgic opener, “Nothing Belongs to Me.” Others, such as “Big Black Car” are larger than life, toe-tappin’ with an authoritative edge, while “What’s the Difference?” is a beautiful duet between Hogan and Danielle Miraglia. A solid effort, 'Long Night Coming' is poetic and expressive, conjuring images of tranquility–of country roads and hillsides: “Tie the laces on your shoes; we’ve got some walking to do.” (Julia R. DeStefano)
Artist Interview: Brendan Hogan
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Artist Interview: Brendan Hogan I met Brendan Hogan when we shared a gig outside of Philadelphia ...Artist Interview: Brendan Hogan
I met Brendan Hogan when we shared a gig outside of Philadelphia a few months ago. He impressed me with his resolute stage presence, strong voice and clear articulation of the songwriting craft. I caught up with Brendan recently as he prepared for a full month of gigging on the East Coast.
Q You were a DJ a long time- Were you actively playing during that time? What characterized your radio shows and does that inform your live show at all?
BH: I was a music radio host and producer for about 10 years in Boston first at WERS and then at WGBH. I listened to and absorbed a lot of old blues recordings during that time. There is an unassuming poetic spirit to those records that is rarely found today, and that approach to making music is very appealing to me. There is no bullshit involved. The players I admire had no option but to hustle a living making music. Half the time they didn't seem to care if the wheels were about to fall off, or if anything made sense. That's the problem with a lot of modern blues for me. It's so slick you could comb your hair in it, and some people do. With this in mind I was honing my chops as a performer and songwriter in bars and venues around Boston while keeping myself anchored on weekends with the radio program for about two years. I decided early on that I am not a blues player and that confuses some people given the context in which they might be familiar with me. I am influenced by blues music. I admire some of the players immensely, and have a great respect for those who can play it well and add to it. But I'm not comfortable claiming any right to it. I hold my relationship to the music it at arms length because it's too potent a thing to hold close. The radio gig ended at precisely the same time my CD, 'Long Night Coming', was released. I've hit the ground running with consistent touring, promotion, and songwriting since then. I haven't really looked back.
Q Who are you currently listening to now? Anybody obsessing you, that you think is just GREAT?
BH: I can't get enough of Kris Delmhorst, especially her latest release which came out in 2008, called 'Shotgun Singer'.' The record is a masterpiece and something I didn't realize I was looking for until I found it. I opened a show for Kris in April of 2010 and during her set was mesmerized by her approach to melodies, lyrics, and chords as a solo performer. Then I listened to 'Shotgun Singer' and was swept away by the production on the record, which she recorded for the most part by herself in a home studio in Maine. I admire the way Kris is capable of conjuring moods whether performing solo or with a whole palette of sounds on a record.
Jesca Hoop also has a great new record called 'Hunting My Dress' that has been inspiring me in some of the same ways Kris Delmhorst has. (As a side note, Jesca was a nanny for Tom Waits' children at one time).
And The Beatles' new mono remasters have been on steady rotation in the car, where I do most of my listening. The availability of the mono mixes on CD has given me another excuse to dig into their recordings all over again. I just read a book called 'The Complete Beatles Recordings' that goes into detail about every Abbey Road session of theirs from 1962-1970. It's a unique account of the creativity that blossomed in just a few short years among all of those guys. They broke just about every rule of the time for writing and recording and could have failed just as handily as they succeeded.
Q How did you first get into songwriting? Can you remember your first song?
BH: My first song was written on my family's upright piano when I was 17. I was very into The Beatles at the time (still am) and remember wanting to write a song that sounded like the solo White Album tracks; jangly, surreal, and Beatle-y. I recorded it on a crummy portable tape deck, but the tape has since disappeared and my memory has faded. Some day I should try to sit down and remember it.
The first song I wrote that I still play on occasion was written in the span of a couple hours during a plane ride to Chicago. It's called 'Borderline'. I wanted to tap the shoulder of the person sitting next to me to show them what I had done. I was proud of it and people seem to like it.
Q Please talk about how you write? Do you wait for inspiration or do you sit down and write regularly?
BH: I don't look at songwriting as something you do like washing the dishes or mowing the lawn. It's too mystical a thing to treat like a chore, although I do think there is a benefit to having some kind of regimen to help keep the channels open and clean. The songwriters I admire are great at telling stories in their songs, whether they're like short story prose writers, or like poets. I've always liked using imagery and poetry, melody, and sound textures to help tell that story; moody things that could turn around and bite you without warning. The songs I write tend to convey an attitude or a feeling that requires a listener to work a bit. I probably ask a lot from people in that way. But the inspiration for me to write is always there, so I just go with it. I'm always jotting down phrases and ideas or working out melodies.
Q What's the plan for 2011? Will you be doing more recording and touring?
BH: The plan for 2011 is to keep playing, writing, developing and trying to offer something worth listening to. I'm predominantly a solo performer so it's a little more work for me to keep up with the business side of things, but it has to be done. Whether it's the best way or not, I've approached it like being on a raft on the sea. I wanted to see how far out I can go, and now there's no going back. Every now and then there's a gust of wind and a strong current pushing me. Sometimes there are lulls. But I know there's got to be land out there somewhere.
Currently I'm working on a record of new songs and constantly performing. Check out a show sometime.
Brendan Hogan is appearing at venues throughout MA, PA, NY, MD & beyond. Check his http://www.myspace.com/brendanhogansongs for a list of dates.
Interview with Brendan Hogan
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Brendan Hogan’s music is a transporting experience. The listener ends up as a witness to struggle, ...Brendan Hogan’s music is a transporting experience. The listener ends up as a witness to struggle, longing, and the need to seek a way out of despair in all its dark colors. Armed with an acoustic guitar, his live shows embody both a focus and a soulful quality that is deeply rooted in the blues. His debut CD Long Night Coming evokes all of these qualities and more. He will be celebrating the release of the record at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge, MA on January 29, 2010.
The Deli: How would you describe your sound?
Brendan Hogan: It’s introspective, acoustic, post-blues roots music.
The Deli: What was it like making “Long Night Coming”? Did you have any expectations going in to the process and were they met?
BH: The only expectation that I had was to complete it…I went through so many phases of starting and stopping the process…it started out as something that I thought would just be a solo record and done in a few months to being an album where half the songs have a rhythm section. I surrendered to the idea early on that it wasn’t going to be exactly what I thought it was going to be in my head. I really didn’t know what the process was like, so I just let it take its course and let the songs become what they were going to become. I only had a few rules like I did not want a lot of guitars on it, and I did not want any obvious instrumentation like harmonicas, which is why we opted for the accordion and the ukulele. No heavy crunchy guitars. My goal was to keep the project moving and not get bogged down.
The Deli: Let’s talk about the songs on the record. Eight originals, two covers…was there anything grouping the songs together thematically that came to light during and after the recording?
BH: Any awareness I have of the songs I get from performing them…there is no cohesive thread running through all the songs. There are some similarities that I have noticed in my own writing though…I was thinking I should shrink-wrap some razor blades and include them with the CD. [laughs]
The Deli: The first track, “Nothing Belongs to Me,” seems like such a personal song, but combined with a lot of fantastical and imaginative imagery. That seems like a common thread in your writing. How do you balance the autobiographical elements with the more character-driven aspects of your songs? Do you start writing a song with personal elements or do you have a character in your mind going in?
BH: It starts very personal but it doesn’t end up that way. I wind up making the song work for me, so a song like “Nothing Belongs to Me” comes from a very personal experience but it winds up telling a story that becomes its own character. Songs usually start with a single phrase, and I will try to send it in one direction, but it will end up finding its own path.
The Deli: How do you know when a song is done?
BH: The last couple of songs I have written, I have just felt the need to move on after awhile. When I feel like I have gotten the point across, and I feel I need to make myself stop editing the song.
The Deli: Why did you decide to include “Goodnight Irene” and “Green Green Grass of Home” on the record? What drew you to cover those songs?
BH: Well, I’ve been playing “Goodnight Irene” for awhile now and thought I’d take a stab at it to show some of the roots of where I am coming from. That was written by Lead Belly, who’s not only a blues or a folk singer, but a songster. The lyrics are just awesome. He was in state penitentiaries twice in his life and somehow later in his life would sing songs for groups of children and was in Disney films. The song is something parents sing to their kids at night, but listen to some of those verses! Lead Belly was the first blues singer I ever listened to, so it was kind of a personal choice. “Green Green Grass of Home” shows some of the roots of where I think I’m coming from too. The song has a story that hits you square in the chest and that’s right up my alley.
The Deli: Other than Lead Belly, who is inspiring you these days?
BH: I’ve been listening to a lot of songwriters lately. A lot of WUMB [folk radio] type stuff…people with a well-honed craft…a unique and succinct perspective on life that they can put to a three-minute song. My friend, Danielle Miraglia , is always an inspiration, as are the working and traveling musicians in the Cambridge/Somerville community. Frank Morey has intensity and dirt in his music that I really like. Dwight & Nicole, too. Dwight’s one of my favorite guitar players and singers, period, and Nicole has an ability to let it flow that is rare to come by. Everyone I watch play has something to offer. I’m especially drawn to solo performers, though. Nothing beats a solo performer who can provide it all themselves - the songs, the energy, the show, the dynamics.
The Deli: How has being a DJ [ for WGBH radio ] informed you as a songwriter and/or performer? Any there any advantages or even disadvantages you feel you have as a result of having been a DJ?
BH: The feeling of songs, like how all of the songs on my record were done in one or two takes…it’s about going for the feel, and that is directly drawn from the blues. I’ve listened to a lot of that music! It’s about getting the mood established which influences how I play. I am not a blues player per se, but that approach to getting a feeling, as opposed to a kind of perfection has influenced me.That’s an advantage.
The Deli: When did you first pick up the guitar?
BH: I got my first guitar when I was ten…before that I had some of those balloon guitars you used to get at the carnival [laughs]…I always loved the guitar. I took some lessons, went through various stages like Nirvana and the Beatles. Then I found Lead Belly, Robert Johnson and the blues. I learned a lot from Chris Stovall Brown. He taught me a lot about the vocabulary in playing blues.
The Deli: Was there a particular moment or experience when you realized you were serious about music and wanted to make records?
BH: I always knew I wanted to play music. One of the reasons I got into radio was because I secretly wanted to be the performer, but I did not think I was good enough when I was 18, 19 years old. As long as I can remember I‘ve loved music and wanted it to be a central part of what I do. When I was three years old I used to dance on a table to Michael Jackson and all that stuff. I got lucky doing radio…after college I sent out air-check tapes to radio stations and nobody got back to me except WGBH. I was playing guitar all this time, and I also took a corporate day-job that made me miserable. It was leading nowhere. I was really miserable in my life. I can remember it was seeing that Townes Van Zandt film, “Be Here to Love Me.” I saw that at the Brattle Theater and it was like one of those “where have you been all my life?” kind of moments. Townes is not a household name, and he’s not exactly a role model being a guy who drank himself to death by the time he was 52. But seeing that film made me feel good, made me feel happy. Because of who he was and what he did musically. I think that inspired me to finally get the guts enough to start going to open mics around town.
The Deli: Yeah, there’s that scene in that film where Townes is talking about how you have to put music before everything else in your life including jobs, relationships, family, etc.
BH: He took that to the extreme, yes. You have to do it. In my life at that point I was miserable. I had not tried, and that was a bad feeling. You can’t even regret something if you haven’t tried it. So that’s what it was. I can’t believe how it has turned out… it’s as good as I could have imagined.
The Deli: OK, finally, here’s a silly question. You have to pick one…Dylan or the Beatles?
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Minimalist doesn't begin to really capture Brendan Hogan's beautifully unadorned music. Sometime...Minimalist doesn't begin to really capture Brendan Hogan's beautifully unadorned music.
Sometimes he's joined by a fiddle, keys or drums. But I think he's at its best when it is just him and the strum of his gently melodic, raspy voice -- the voice of an old soul in a young man's body.
In his bio, he confesses to be an introvert, and his songwriting brims with the sort of introspection of someone who watches the world intently. The Delta blues undercurrent that runs through his music reflects his love and scholarship for the likes of Lead Belly, Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson.
And he knows his stuff. If you can't quite place the name or the voice and haven't been holding court in the coffeehouses of Cambridge, where Hogan has been making a name for himself, you might know him as the host of "Blues on WGBH."
This past spring, he played a residency Tuesday nights at TOAD in Cambridge - a frequent haunt of fellow Nashua Folk Festival artist and sometimes collaborator Danielle Miraglia. Like Miraglia, he graduated from Emerson with a degree in creative writing.
He will be hitting the stage at The Nashua Folk Festival in Greeley Park on Sunday, Aug. 31, at 3 p.m. -- the only New Hampshire date on his calendar right now. Hopefully we'll hear more from him and his guitar on this side of the state line.
Take a listen to the exquisitely simple "Looking Up At Down Again." Let me know what you think.
DJ Turns to Performing: Hogan Spins and Sings
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DJ Turns to Performing: Hogan Spins and Sings by John Weeks CAMBRIDGE – Brendan Hogan might ju...DJ Turns to Performing: Hogan Spins and Sings
by John Weeks
CAMBRIDGE – Brendan Hogan might just be the coolest guy in town.
The 26-year-old Emerson grad who hosts NPR’s “Blues on WGBH” radio program is an American Studies graduate student at UMass Boston and has been making a name for himself as a solo performer in local bars and clubs.
“I’m keeping a lot of balls in the air,” said Hogan, who has been performing original material around town since February. “I hope they all pan out. I’ll make it work somehow.”
Hogan is fourth-generation Cambridge, a city filled with singer-songwriters and the venues that allow them to pour forth their music. His father bought him his first guitar at age 10 and Hogan has never looked back.
“That tradition of songwriting has been around Cambridge for a long time,” he said. “Since at least back in the 60s. It is a very encouraging environment. It has always attracted people who are interested in being a songwriter or a musician. It is very inherent to the city.”
But while many of Hogan’s songwriting peers were conceived in the summer of drugs, and attended their first Bob Dylan concert in the womb, Hogan’s roots are working class all the way. Hogan came from a long line of “police officers and butchers, undertakers and nurses,” and despite the guitar from his father, the arts were never the primary focus in his household.
“There were no writers in my family,” he said. “No poets. My grandfather was a police officer in Cambridge. My parents are the hardest working people I know. My dad ran a restaurant and my mom worked in the district attorney’s office. They put themselves through college. They had to earn their own way. No one helped them. They came from huge Catholic families and they basically grew up in the projects.”
As an adolescent Hogan said he craved the blues, incessantly sought the blues and even slept while listening to the blues. An easy going kid, the young Hogan immersed himself in novels, albums and art while other kids were into “bubble gum and gossip”.
“I went to Emerson to become a writer,” he said. “I got into radio on a whim. I loved music and I was pretty good at talking about it so I sent in a tape to WGBH and they ended up hiring me. But, I still wanted to put the writing to use and I found that songwriting was the perfect match. It melds my love for poetic verse with music.”
Over the years Hogan, who is single, spent time in several “proper” bands. But when it came time to nurture his own material there was no one around who was on the same page as him.
“I like being in a band but it’s just more fulfilling for me to go out and perform it my own way,” he said. “I get to be my own musical dictator. It’s just me and my guitar.”
Hogan’s music is very laid back, he said, not gruff like standard Delta blues.
“Blues isn’t even all I play,” he said. “But, it is very inherent in everything I write or play. Blues is more of a feeling than a structure to me. It’s life and yeah, love comes into it.”
Among his many influences, Hogan tips his hat to Bob Dylan, Lightnin' Hopkins, Robert Johnson, Townes Van Zandt, Leadbelly, Mississippi John Hurt, Sippie Wallace, Kurt Cobain - and Jack Daniels.
“Townes Van Zandt, I really got into him in the past year,” Hogan said. “He was a big, bright, brilliant artist who drank himself to death.”
Despite the stature of these legends, however, Hogan says he is “mostly swayed” by current performers such as Paul Rishell and Annie Raines, Lloyd Thayer, Danielle Miraglia, Ryan Montbleau and Elam Blackman.
“It is the players out performing today, whom I see develop and create on a very intimate level, that serve as the most immediate influences on my own songs or playing techniques,” he said.
Going from the security of the radio studio to the vulnerability of the stage hasn’t always been easy.
“I had to get up the courage to go out there and do it solo,” Hogan said. “A lot of people say the hardest thing to do is get up on stage by yourself. I’ve been building my comfort level for being on stage alone. There are things that I’ve learned. When you get up there, your job is to entertain. That’s your purpose. You have to realize that you are putting yourself in that position. You have to expect the unexpected, especially when you don’ t have a reputation.”
For Hogan, the hardest thing to deal with is the feeling that, “nobody is paying attention or nobody cares.”
“It’s hard to gauge the reaction of the audience,” he said. “You may feel awful about your performance but then they rave about it. You are terribly exposed. You need tremendous confidence. If you let your insecurities through it’s just a downward spiral. People will start to believe you don’t believe in yourself.”
Hogan said he loves connecting with even just one audience member through his performance.
“I played one place and there weren’t many people there, but there were these two barflies basically comatose at the bar,” he said. “I opened with this old Dave Van Ronk song, “Cocaine Blues”. The way I played it was pretty recognizable. It woke them up, and in their drunken haze they started heckling me in a nice way. That’s a good thing, if I can wake them up.”
Hogan enjoys throwing down with his interpretation of classic songs such as “Cocaine Blues” but said performing one’s own material is what it’s all about.
“There is a lot of street cred given for writing your own material,” he said. “Interpreting is still cool. It’s good to keep all those old songs alive. But digging down and coming up with your own material is something every artist needs to do.”
Hogan hopes to start playing venues in Maine, Rhode Island and New York City, but at the moment is happy to be building his fan base in Boston. He’s even begun getting paying gigs.
“One of my dreams is to get out on the road,” he said. “I’d spend my life on the road. I’m envious of people who do. Right now I’m basically anchored here.”
Hogan also hopes to release an album in the near future, and has some of his home recordings available on his Web site (www.brendanhogan.net). Thus far he has resisted the urge to play his own songs on the radio show.
“I feel it’s more appropriate for me to feature other artists,” he said. “I do tell people where I’ll be playing next though.”
If you care anything for the current state of blues, then Brendan Hogan is a name you should know. And with his hard work and focus, it’s a name you won’t be able to keep from knowing.
Songs vary. The majority are original with a few song interpretations/covers included. Set length typically lasts from a half hour to two hours, depending on the nature of the show.
Solo or with band.