The lyrics are narrative and witty, intelligent and entertaining, and Crimmins’ energy is so engaging that it’s easy to overlook the outlier quality of this album. You’ll find yourself wanting more tawdry jazz just like it. Crimmins’ accompanies himself on a wide range of instruments: piano, guitar, tenor banjo, ukulele, accordion, organ, vibraphone, trash, and percussion. The Hookers are a band of ten musicians who supply Crimmins with upright bass, tuba, soprano saxophone, clarinet, and lap steel – an unlikely combination of instruments, but a harmoniously solid one nonetheless.
Together this coterie transports their listeners back into a world in which men still wear bowties and golf caps while performing, flapper girls sparkle while dancing to counter the sinister tones of the music, and the audience is always willing to get up and dance.
We got the chance to have a Q & A sesh with Blair Crimmins himself. Here is what he had to say!
How did your band form and when?
I started the Hookers in 2009. It started out as a four piece but I kept adding musicians at each show we played until I had the full seven piece band. That’s how I always heard the music in my mind. I wanted the big band with a horn section but I also made sure the songs stood on their own without all that accompaniment. I did all the touring as a solo performer to spread the music around the Southeast. Just me and my dog. I loved traveling and doing the solo shows but it was also a reconnaissance mission. I’d get to see what a town’s music scene was like, check out the venues, see if it was a good place to bring the band. Then I’d come home after a week of playing these quiet listening rooms and go straight to an Atlanta show with the full band blasting away loud as hell. It was like leading a double life for a little while. It was a good way to start things out though cause when we started touring as a band I had already laid some ground work.
How did you choose the name “The Hookers” for your band?
I was pissed at the music business. I felt like I had been lead on by empty promises and gotten little in return. I was becoming jaded. It’s a common pitfall of struggling musicians. We see the lies of show business every week on those god damn singing contests. They inflate those kids heads on national tv. Telling them they’re going to be a star and that fame is going to solve all their problems. Most of the contestants are young, naive, and have little experience in the business so they buy into all that bullshit. Some of them will go on to have great careers and the red carpet ahead of them but others will either go back to their day jobs or start doing what the majority of working musicians do every day and night. We bust our ass, nobody handing us the golden ticket, getting out there and earning your stripes. Not every show ends with an adoring applause. Sometimes it’s just you playing for one guy drinking an RC Cola at some bar in the middle of nowhere and you play your ass off anyway. You give every audience your best even if it’s just one person because that’s what you do for a living and you love it. You want to leave that one guy thinking “How the hell was I the only one here at this awesome show?”. You become realistic with your dreams and you work for them one show at a time. I wanted a band who understood that mentality and work ethic too. I’m not going to make any false promises to my band. You show up, we play a show, we have fun, we make music, you make money and I’ll call you next time I need you like a hooker. That’s the respectful way to do business with each other and I understand that cause I’m a hooker too.
What has been one of your most memorable moments as a band?
So one time I was in this bar in the middle of nowhere. There was nobody at the show except for this one guy drinking an RC Cola…
Who are some of your greatest musical influences?
I love Louis Armstrong because he was such an entertainer and fantastic musician, you can tell he loved the audience and he gave them his heart on stage. Johnny Mercer has been a big influence on my songwriting. He has a great way of putting clever humor into his songs and had a fantastic delivery. Bessie Smith is another one, she sang like her life depended on it and I like all the not so subtle sexual innuendos.
What is your dream gig?
The Fox Theater. I come from generations of Atlanta natives and the family pride would be sky high if I was playing the Fox.
How do you connect with a crowd?
I like to talk with the audience and I like them to talk back. Not heckle me necessarily but just egg me on. It gets me fired up to hear people in the crowd. I’m most comfortable playing in bars so when we play the bigger theater gigs I like to bring that bar atmosphere with me. I want to people to lose control and get a little rowdy.
If you had to describe your music in one word, what would it be?
What makes you most excited about playing Tunes from the Tombs?
I’m a Cabbagetown resident and the neighborhood has given me a lot of inspiration. One of my songs, called Old Man Cabbage starts with the line ‘Between a graveyard and the railroad tracks’. That graveyard is Oakland Cemetery. There is so much history and intrigue there. So many stories in the ground. It’s important to celebrate that and ensure it’s preservation.
Catch Blair Crimmins and The Hookers playing at Tunes From The Tombs Saturday, June 8th. Get your tix here.
Blair Crimmins and The Hookers will also be playing @ The Earl 7/12 & 7/13!