IMPROVIJAZZATION Nation - Issue # 95
INTERVIEW with Pat Huggins
From the earliest days of my interest in music, way back in the lil' town of Huntspatch, Alabummer (that's Huntsville, Alabama, for those of you who haven't been there), I've managed to hook up with some great players & showmen... Pat is one of those who I got to know (well) from weekend shows at a local pizzeria called "The D'Livery Stable"... he surely "looks" a lot different now, but the talent that shone through at those performances is amplified somehow by his more "dignified" look these days... he could spike a MEAN volleyball, too... J so, without further ado, here's our interview with one GREAT singer/player, Pat Huggins!
Zzaj: Besides learning to brush your teeth, tie your shoes and ride your bicycle way back in Guntersville, what "history" ultimately brought you to being a musician? Was it one of those "Mayberry" existences that you just had to escape from, or did the chords & notes just "emerge"... in udder words, please give us a bit o' bio...
PH: For me, I think learning to play (and eventually compose) was inevitable. Even before I began to play an instrument, I listened very closely to songs. I was particularly fascinated by songwriting, and was especially attracted to artists who wrote, sang, and played their own material. Early on I performed in all sorts of configurations, ranging from rock and roll bands to lounge lizard acts to solo singer-songwriter gigs. And as time went on I included more and more of my own compositions in my repertoire. Before I got into aviation, making music seemed to be the only conceivable option for making a living as far as I was concerned.
Zzaj: I've always admired your lyrical ability, no matter what name it was under (insider joke, sorry)... what spurs you to lyricize?
PH: I love words. Due to a rich multi-cultural and racial diversity, the American English lexicon in particular provides an enormously fertile source of material for aspiring composers. Lyricists such as Chuck Berry, Bob Dylan, Randy Newman, Tom Waits, John Prine, and Leonard Cohen (to name a few) have been a source of endless inspiration for me. Additionally, authors like Mark Twain, Kurt Vonnegut, and Ernest K. Gann influenced my writing as well.
Zzaj: On your "Write On" album, I noticed a LOT more instruments (orb-viously) than in your solo performances so many years ago back in Huntsville... who did the arranging? Yourself, or was it a group effort?
PH: In regards to the basic tracks, I have the arrangements worked out ahead of time before I present my songs to the band. However, I try to create an environment in which the musicians feel relaxed enough to contribute openly and freely. The number one rule is to laugh and have fun, which we always do.
Zzaj: I had a hard time adjusting to your "Captain's uniform", Pat... probably 'coz when I knew you, your hair was much darker/longer... do you get to play/write much in Qatar?
PH: Even though I wear four stripes on the job, and even though my hair is quite a bit shorter and grayer than it was in days gone by, deep down inside I’ll always be a musician and songwriter. I guess it’s in my genes and in my jeans... J I brought several guitars and a keyboard with me from the USA, so I get a fair amount of writing done out here in Bahrain (not Qatar).
Zzaj: Since your playing & writing style (in my mind, anyway) is very "Americana" oriented, tell us how you deal with the "split personality" aspects of being a sorta' "country", sorta' "rocker", sometimes "near-jazz" kinda' musician? Or do you?
PH: Man, I enjoy all types of music, whether it’s rock and roll, jazz, blues, country, gospel, you name it. To quote Duke Ellington, there are only really two kinds of music—good and bad. I’ll draw inspiration from any style if it makes the song better in the end. There are no limitations.
Zzaj: Your list of favorite musicians (at www.pathuggins.com ) is way too long for my taste... can you kind of narrow it down to 2 or 3 who are not only favorites, but who influenced your own playing most?
PH: Wow, that’s a tough one. Can I have five? Way at the top of my list would be Ray Charles, Elvis, The Beatles, John Fogerty, and Tony Joe White (followed very closely by several dozen other favorites).
Zzaj: If I remember right (& heck, I might not... it's been nearly 30 years since we last saw each other), you weren't a "big" tech-head... have times & job situation allowed you to get more into the technical aspects of recording, or are you inclined to let the techies do the tech part, & you just PLAY?
PH: I have ProTools and an M-Box for putting down rough ideas, but when I’m recording an album I prefer to have an ace engineer on the job. That way, I can focus on being a producer, singer, musician, or whatever else is required at the time.
Zzaj: Logistics for your next CD should be relatively easy, since you're flying the "big ones" now... any idea what it will be themed on? You know, give us a lil' "gossip" on what's comin' up for Pat Huggins musically.
PH: Well actually the fourth and fifth albums from “Pat Huggins and A Damn Good Band” are in the can right now. The only thing left to do is a small amount of editing and then the final mixes. The next album will be called “The Fourth Coming Album” and the one after that will be titled “Mud Is Thicker Than Water”. One, or both, of them will be released in the spring of 2010. I’m also planning on recording a new studio album in Muscle Shoals, Alabama this coming January.
Zzaj: My personal belief is that the Internet & all the associated advances in recording technology, music sites, etc., has made a big impact on the "music industry"... (basically killed it)... since we ARE 2 different personalities (JC & AH), your view may vary from mine... tell us what you think about all this high-falutin' commo, please.
PH: The demise of the old school way of selling records was inevitable.
Now, more than ever, it’s important for artists to hit the road and promote themselves directly to the public. The more crowded the internet becomes with product, the more important it is get out and spread the gospel, so to speak. The trick is in finding a unique marketing angle that helps you to stand out from the crowd.
Zzaj: The readership of this magazine has quite a few "struggling artists", who often ponder whether music is a career worth following... please give us a few "words of wisdom" on why it IS worth doing (or not doing).
PH: Making music is an ancient and honorable profession. Not as old as prostitution of course, but equally as pleasurable (I hope)... J Seriously though, anytime you can find something in life that’s this rewarding, you should stick with it. Money earned is not necessarily a accurate gauge of success. I made a living as a musician for many years before I got into aviation full-time. Oftentimes it was a struggle to make ends meet, but I never regretted giving it my best shot. Ironically it was my flying career that funded the recording projects many years later, so I was lucky enough to find an alternate career that complemented and supported my music. My “words of wisdom” to struggling artists would be to trust your instincts and stick with what you believe in. Only through imagination, determination and perspiration can you realize what’s in your heart, soul, and mind. Even if you never become a household name, in the end you can sleep well knowing you’ve pursued a worthy goal. To me, that’s success. Good luck!