Welcome back, Kelly Hogan.
More than a decade after the release of her last solo effort, "Because It Feel Good," the singer makes a long-overdue return to the spotlight with her excellent new album, "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain," a gorgeous effort steeped in classic country and soul.
Not that the longtime Chicagoan, who currently makes her home in Evansville, Wis., hasn't kept herself plenty busy in the interim years. She remains a staple in friend and musical compatriot Neko Case's touring band and has performed alongside everyone from My Morning Jacket to soul legend
Reached at home in Wisconsin, Hogan, 47, discussed the thrill of recording alongside Mavis Staples, why she always preferred Tonto to the Lone Ranger and the genesis of the Hideout's wooden leg cocktail.
What artists submitted songs that you couldn't quite find room for on this record?
Well, we recorded 15 songs, so there are two songs from the session that didn't make it on. One is by the great Edith Frost, and one is by Chicago's own Wilco. Jeff (Tweedy) gave me ("Open Mind"), then they ended up putting it on their record, too. So we're like, "Well, we'll just hang onto it for awhile." That happened with Magnetic Fields, too. They hadn't done anything with "Plant White Roses" in 15 years, then they put it on their compendium record last year.
You've obviously carved out a nice career as a sideman of sorts. Growing up were you more drawn to Tonto than the Lone Ranger?
I was definitely more of a Tonto man. I grew up the oldest sister with little brothers and I was always taking care of everybody else. I was also just so shy when I started. I wanted to be near music or performance or theater, but I was too shy to try out for anything, so I was always on the stage crew and stuff like that. I just wanted to sing, and here we are today.
What modern artist would you like to duet with that you haven't had the opportunity to at this point?
Ooh, goodness! [Former Miles Davis collaborator] Bob Dorough, definitely. He's a jazz guy. They're making a movie about him called "Devil May Care." Years ago I sold my TV to the drummer from the Black Crowes so he could watch the basketball finals and I got a ticket to
You're obviously drawn to a lot of classic songwriters. What modern artists are you into? Like are you a closet Justin Bieber fan?
Um, no, I'm not into the Biebs because I was into Donny Osmond as a kid, and he was kind of the proto-Biebs. I mean, I love the Hold Steady. I love Craig Finn's writing, and I love them as a live band so, so much.
I'm curious what you took away from singing with Mavis Staples.
Oh, man! Mavis is so awesome. She's so positive. I had no idea when I walked in the Wilco loft that day we were recording as one. They were like, "Mavis will be here in a minute." And I was like, "Say what?" I always say it's like she swallowed the sun. She's very radiant and she has a great sense of humor. She's always been doing it. She's moving. She's changing. She's not afraid. That's why I called my record "I Like to Keep Myself in Pain." It's just another way of saying, "Keep yourself out there, for better or worse."
You long tended bar at the Hideout, where you worked for 9 years beginning in 1998. Do you still know how to make a wooden leg?
Of course I do! I've been rehearsing there, because they're so nice, and I go behind the bar and I still know where everything is. Nothing has changed. So hell yes, I could make you a kick-ass wooden leg. You know that used to be called the Hogan, right? My friend invented that drink for me down South, and I drank so many it was called the Hogan. I wanted to have a signature drink for my band the Wooden Leg for our Hideout residency, so I rechristened it, and there you go.
Kelly Hogan personality test
What's the last album you bought? "A reissue of all these old Carole King demos. It's killer!"
Song you've listened to on repeat recently? "Way Over Yonder" by Carole King "I listened to that on repeat in my hotel room before I played Millennium Park. I was playing jacks on the bathroom floor to calm my nerves."
Song you never want to hear again? "Oh god, there are so many. I'll go with 'Having My Baby' by Paul Anka. It's so disgusting."
Best concert you've seen in the last year? "I got to see Loudon Wainwright III at Town Hall when I was in New York recently and it was with Suzzy Roche, Lucy Wainwright Roche, Rufus Wainwright and Martha Wainwright. It was like a big family reunion."
New band you don't know personally that deserves to be big? Avalanche City "They're from New Zealand and they're really great."
Favorite movie ever? "Ooh...ever? I like the 1961 version of 'The Haunting.' Let's say that, but also put down that this was a really difficult question."
Chicago's best music venue? "Shoot, man. Let's say the Mutiny on Western, because they always want bands and it features the world's longest urinal. That is a niche no other place in Chicago can fill."