The first time I had the pleasure of introducing Derek Hoke to a room of listeners, I made the point of mentioning that, in my mind, Derek was a fine example of the songwriters from East Nashville that were doing music right.
To my recollection, Derek was my introduction to the world of East Nashville, where so many of my songwriting heroes now live. Those songwriters represent the best of what comes out of Music City, writing songs more concerned with honesty and real emotion than the glitz and glam of the corporate music machine.
I’ve been a big fan of Derek’s since I first heard Goodbye, Rock N Roll, his first record that flirts nicely with both rockabilly and vintage country. Now ready to release Southern Moon, he continues to pen fantastic tunes.
I recently chatted with Derek about the new record, bringing his music to Nashville, and his regular gig as host of $2 Tuesdays at The Five Spot.
BRO – What do you remember about the first time you ever played one of your own songs live in Nashville?
DH – I remember thinking to myself, “This song isn’t very good.” I moved here from Florence, South Carolina. I’d play sports bars, hotel restaurants, and night clubs converted from run down Pizza Huts. I did it all the time. What I never realized was that I was background music. Nobody was really paying attention to what I was doing. I’d play covers and originals and then get handed money at the end of the night. Pretty simple. No criticism if I was terrible, thought perhaps that would have been helpful. My time playing in Nashville was at The Radio Cafe. I realized several things. There were no televisions, everyone was facing the stage, and everyone was listening. There was no college football game going on, and there was no drunk guy yelling for some Skynyrd. This was all new to me, and it was terrifying. I played one more show after before ditching everything I knew and unlearning how I’d been writing and performing music up to that point. I needed to find my own voice and my own sound, because now, people are listening.
BRO – You wrote a lot of this record using an electric guitar, as opposed to your traditional acoustic. How did that change your approach?
DH – I wrote a lot of the new record around guitar licks I was coming up with. I’ve been taking over lead guitar duties when my band plays live, so I’d practice and practice on that electric. I’d stumble upon some happy accident and think, “Whoa, I gotta remember that lick.” A good example of that from the new album is in “Trouble In Mind,” a simple blues lick that goes against the beat. Another is in the title track, a pretty cool bluegrass lick I was doing around the house. It was fun to write some songs around pieces of a melody instead of being boxed in by just strumming chords on my acoustic guitar.
BRO – How often do you get your musical socks knocked off during $2 Tuesdays at The Five Spot?
DH – Very often, in fact. A lot of acts come through on tour, so they really give it their all. We recently had Julie Rhodes from Boston come by, and she and her band were amazing. Nights like that are what keep $2 Tuesdays fun and alive. It’s great watching an audience fall in love with an act they’ve never heard of before.
BRO – We are featuring “Still Got Time” on this month’s Trail mix. What’s the story behind the song?
DH – Have you ever seen an older couple riding a Harley down the interstate? The kind of couple that still goes to concerts in the sixties or sells the house, buys a Winnebago, and travels the country? It’s basically about that. It’s about having fun and being in love after being in love for a long time. I wrote it with Elizabeth in mind to sing it with me. It has an Appalachian feel to it that really suits her voice. I wanted to treat it like a duet, and Elizabeth really nailed it.
BRO – Got a good mooning story?
DH – I don’t, but I have told a few people to kiss my ass.
Each Tuesday, you can find Derek Hoke hosting $2 Tuesdays at The Five Spot. Drop by, spend a little money, and get wowed by some singers and songwriters you have yet to discover. Derek will also be on the road in late April, with shows in Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, North Carolina, Virginia, and Tennessee.
You can get more information on Derek Hoke, the new record, or when he will be appearing somewhere near you right here.