Published Jun 27, 2012Over the past decade, Kelly Hogan has mostly devoted her amazing voice to other people's bands. Since her last album (Because It Feel Good, released on Bloodshot Records in 2001), the Atlanta, GA native has been backing musicians like Neko Case, Jakob Dylan and Mavis Staples, enhancing their music with her warm, expressive vocals. For her new album, friends and colleagues returned Hogan's favours by writing songs especially for her. The late Vic Chesnutt, Robbie Fulks, M. Ward and the Handsome Family are among the stellar songwriters responsible for I Like to Keep Myself in Pain. Their compositions give Hogan the opportunity to do what she feels she does best: interpret the songs of others.
How did it feel to record an album after such a long break?
Amazing, especially given the location: EastWest Studio 3 in Hollywood, where Pet Sounds, among other legendary projects, was recorded. And the personnel (Booker T. Jones, James Gadson, Gabe Roth, Scott Ligon]), and the songs I had to work with; it was a terrifying and dreamy fantasy camp situation.
How did you come to decide to ask friends to write songs for you instead of just covering existing songs you like?
My beloved honcho, Andy Kaulkin at Anti- Records, suggested I make a list of everyone I've ever worked with and solicit songs for this project from that astounding corral of badass ponies.
How long did it take for songs to start coming back to you after you'd asked for them?
They started trickling in right away, but I had songs coming in right up until the recording date about two years later.
How did it feel to receive all of these songs written especially for you to sing?
In a word, "humbling."
Which songs were you most surprised by?
Maybe the M. Ward song, "Daddy's Little Girl," based on the subject matter and point-of-view. And Vic Chesnutt's song surprised me ― not by being fucking great, because that's how Vic always is, but by telling me my life story in that one song. How did he know?
How is recording your compositions different from recording songs that other people have written?
Maybe I feel a little more responsibility to kick ass when it's someone else's song? I don't know; I take every song interpretation very seriously.
Have your attitudes towards songwriting changed since your last album? Do you see yourself recording more of your compositions in the future?
I have really been enjoying writing on my tumblr (http://hoganhere.tumblr.com/), but I don't know if that'll turn into an increased song output or not. Plus, not to sound like too much of a douche, but I feel like what I do ― interpretation ― is a noble pursuit that's honourable and necessary. I feel like I'm leading people to other artists ― a little trail of breadcrumbs back to the Handsome Family or Catherine Irwin.
I'm a huge Magnetic Fields fan. How did you choose "Plant White Roses"?
Claudia Gonson from the Magnetic Fields suggested I cover that song. She said it was a good song of theirs that she felt had never got its day in the sun. She sent it to me and I loved it. It was like an orphan and I took it home, knitted it a sweater and fed it a bowl of soup.
Seems like there's more soul and less twang on this album compared to your previous recordings. Was that the influence of the band?
I try to never force a framework, sonic or otherwise, onto my records in advance. And I don't really feel like my last record, Because It Feel Good, was especially twangy; it just sounds like me, to me. The songs dictate everything, and you have to remember that while Booker T. is Booker T., he also produced the Stardust album for Willie Nelson. I don't think about genre ever; I just think about the songs.
Any other projects coming up?
The Neko Case band are working on her next record and I'm beyond stoked about the new Neko songs. I've been listening to them while I'm in the bathtub, working on my vocal harmony arrangements. I wrote a song last year with Patterson Hood from Drive-By Truckers and we had such a good-as-hell time; we are figuring out how to do that together again as soon as possible. Other than that, I'm just trying to maintain, maintain, maintain!
Read a review of I Like to Keep Myself in Pain here.