“Denver’s changed so much since I moved here in 1980,” Mollie O’Brien says. “But Swallow Hill has maintained the same wonderful commitment and love for the music and that’s a wonderful thing.”
Mollie’s concerts in Daniels Hall with guitarist (and husband) Rich Moore are a Swallow Hill tradition. She and Rich are happy to be back and we aim to make them feel right at home when they play with the Hamkickers Club in Daniels Hall on Friday, January 26.
Though Mollie always keeps in touch, we thought new year, new show, why not catch up a bit? Mollie was happy to oblige.
People at Swallow Hill have been telling me about what a great band The Hamkickers Club is – can you tell me more about them? How did you and Rich bring them into the fold?
Well, we love the Hamkickers Club. We started that band back in 2005 and had a regular gig at The Walnut Room for about a year with them. It was a way to get up and do some R&B songs from my old catalog and just try to have fun with drums and bass and everything that hopefully would make people want to get up and dance.
I’m hoping that the 2018 version of this band gets people dancing in the aisles of Daniels Hall, but if not maybe they can stay in their seats and dance in their pants.
The band’ll be me, Rich, Eric Thorin in bass, Glenn Taylor on pedal steel and Russ Meissner on drums.
By the way, what is a hamkicker?
Here’s how I got the Hamkickers Club name: In the definitive biography of Louis Armstrong, An Extravagant Life, the author tells of a New Orleans promoter named Clarence Williams who would host house parties and shows and dances all over the city.
This was during the turn of the 20th Century and there was a pretty big depression all over the country. In the black quarters of New Orleans you can imagine that, if things were bad all over the country, they were terrible there. So, in order to get people to come out to these dances the promoter would advertise that he’d give away a ham. The ham was strung from a rope in the ceiling, and to win it you had to kick it, and whoever kicked the ham the farthest won the ham. In order to keep the action going the promoter would gradually raise the ham up making it harder to kick it. The catch was that only women could kick the ham and they couldn’t wear any underwear. Hence the name The Hamkickers Club.
You recently shared with fans that when you and Rich return to Mountain Stage in West Virginia in February, your daughters Brigid and Lucy will perform with you. Even for an accomplished musical family, that’s quite a milestone! What is it like to share a stage with Brigid and Lucy and witness their progression first hand?
We’re going to West Virginia the second weekend of February. The biannual induction ceremony of the West Virginia Music Hall of Fame will happen that Saturday in Charleston, and I’m going to co-host the show with the Broadway star Michael Cerveris. One of the new inductees is Fred “Sonic” Smith and his widow, Patti Smith and her two kids Jesse and Jackson will accept the award.
Rich, Brigid and Lucy and I are going to perform the Hazel Dickens song, “West Virginia is My Home,” and we hope maybe something else with all the other people who’ll be there to perform at the ceremony. We’re all hoping we don’t say anything dumb to any of the Smith family.
I first performed on Mountain Stage in 1985 and have performed there so many times that they gave me a Mountain Stage jacket with my name (spelled correctly) on it. Rich has done many of these shows with me, and we are thrilled to take our daughters there, show them off and show off what a beautiful thing Mountain Stage is.
What advice have you given your daughters as they branch out into the music business, that you wish someone had told you when you were starting out?
They love to sing with us but don’t like the business part. So I think it’s safe to say that both daughters are a tad wary (weary?) of the music business. We’ll just leave it at that!
You and Rich maintain a busy tour schedule, is there an artist or two that you’ve encountered in the last year that really made you sit up and take notice?
We got to hear Willis Alan Ramsey at Fischer Fest near Austin, Texas in November. Neither one of us had heard him live and we were transfixed. We heard Marc Ribot at Dazzle and he was wonderful. No talk and all action – just amazing. 3hattrio is a band we just love and they’re from Virgin, Utah. They play “American Desert Music” and are unlike anything else out there. Juana Molina (from Argentina) is a singer who knows no boundaries. Her music too is unlike anything we normally hear.
You’ve also released several albums over the last several years, from Mollie & Rich albums, to family projects and beyond. Do you know what your next recording project will focus on, or are you still figuring that out? How do you know when you’ve hit upon the right formula for an album?.
Ahh, the record business – my favorite subject (after the music business). We are taking a break from recording and trying to figure out how to spend our hard earned money to produce an album that will be heard on subscription streaming services for a small amount of money per month, and for free elsewhere. It’s very frustrating to me. It could be that we just record and make vinyl and be done with it!
Is there anything you’d like to add?
Both of us are just happy to be doing an another annual show at our musical home, Swallow Hill. The whole place is perfect: the show producers, the volunteers, the fabulous sound, everything is always completely up to snuff and we feel so welcome there. We’ve seen lots of people come and go at The Hill over the last 37 years and this year will be no different I suppose. Denver’s changed so much since I moved here in 1980. But Swallow Hill has maintained the same wonderful commitment and love for the music and that’s a wonderful thing.
See Mollie O’Brien & Rich Moore With The Hamkickers Club on Friday, January 26 in Daniels Hall. Click here to purchase tickets.
This Q&A was conducted via email with Swallow Hill’s Associate Marketing Director Barry Osborne.