Jon Hogan and Maria Moss

Listen to the interview.

Jon Hogan was born Oct.12,1972, in the American West, grew up there and has lived in almost every Western state. In the 1970s, his parents immersed him in traditional American, gospel and country music. At 14, Jon was playing guitar at city-park bluegrass gigs with his sister and mother. By 20 he was writing songs. After a brief stint in the U.S. Air Force, he took up songwriting in earnest. “Cheyenne Woman,” circa 1993, was his first keeper. Since then, he’s created a formidable repertoire of ballads, love songs, waltzes, and scorch-folk rockers.

Jon’s musical influences began with Woody Guthrie, Dock Boggs, Uncle Dave Macon, and the Carter Family, and grew to include Gillian Welch and Dave Rawlings, Rutherford & Burnet, the White Stripes, Townes Van Zandt, Blaze Foley, Jack Hardy, Greg Brown, Bob Dylan, Leonard Cohen, John Prine, Danny Barnes, Jonathan Byrd, Norman Blake, and Nirvana. He’s also been deeply influenced by Smithsonian Folkways’ “Mountain Music of Kentucky Vol. II.” And the Harry Smith anthology, also known as the Smithsonian Anthology of Folk Music.

As an ardent reader and self-taught historian of the American West, Jon found heroes among the writers Norman Maclain, John McPhee, Stephen Ambrose and Louis L’Amour.

The road to Texas Living in Seattle in the early 2000s, Jon played in bluegrass bands, including the Crown Hill Billies, learning literally hundreds of songs. Whenever the road called, he’d busk; he traveled America by train with only a dollar in his pocket and a guitar on his back, finding home, friends and inspiration for songs on the rails and in the towns through which they still pass. In 2005, while on one of many 45-day Amtrak jaunts, he made a stopover in Austin; he fell hard for Texas right away, and never looked back. In the famous South Austin jam scene, Jon grew into a bandleader whose songs other musicians were eager to cover and play on.

Jim Litherland was an Austin music institution who often referred to Jon as “the Will Rogers of a future generation.” In 2006, Jim recorded Jon in three extraordinary solo sessions. Jim’s sudden death a few months later was a tragic loss for Jon and the Austin music community. Jon later released selected songs from the sessions to make the album An Ode to Jim Litherland.

Jon Hogan’s live performances have been described as “Woody Guthrie and Kurt Cobain pickin’ with the Carter family.” Jon Hogan’s charismatic vocals and percussive guitar style evoke the soul of the freethinking cosmic refugee. But it’s good writing that anchors it all. Jon’s work blends a 1930s folk sensibility with the soulful backbone of old-time Appalachia; from these deep American musical roots come poignant, well-made songs. Combining deft storytelling and unexpected topics, his songs illuminate a new, authentic Old Weird America. The Jon Hogan Songbook, with lyrics and chords for 32 songs, sold out its first two editions.

Marsha Weldon, sister of the late Blaze Foley, in early 2009 asked Jon to write music for several of Blaze’s unfinished songs. These co-authored songs are on the album Every Now and Then: Songs of Townes Van Zandt and Blaze Foley, a collection of Jon’s covers of these legendary Texas songwriters. The CD has received excellent reviews in Europe and the U.S., including one in the current issue of Texas Music Magazine.

Hogan/Moss
Jon Hogan and Travis-picker/harmony-singer, Maria Moss, have created a unique and powerful sound with their instruments and voices. It’s bright and dark, modal, yet modern, and haunting. It features both Hogan and Moss originals as well as traditional music and old-time-sounding covers of singer/songwriters. Both have recently moved to Austin, where they play as a duo and with the Jon Hogan Band throughout Texas, New Mexico and Colorado.

Maria lived in Houston for most of her life, where she had a career as a journalist and editor. After graduating from the University of Houston, she wrote for the New York Times out of the Houston bureau for two years, then was a magazine editor, freelance magazine writer and corporate communications consultant. She’d played guitar as a teen-ager and into her early 20s, appearing on the Main Stage at the Kerrville Folk Festival as part of a duo who were finalists in a blues competition, but gave up music for college and her writing career. In 2007, while recovering from breast cancer, she started playing guitar again, and quickly found a unique finger-picking style. In 2008, she went to the Kerrville Folk Festival for the first time in many years and met Jon Hogan, who immediately recognized the potential her unusual picking style offered his own music. By the end of that year, he’d become her musical coach and mentor, and she’d joined his band. Their duo work has now developed into a full-blown show in its own right.

Traditional music and contemporary audiences So-called old-time music was deadly real to the people who created it and listened to it. Jon’s performances remove the patina of age and let the audience feel the pain, longing, anguish and joy their predecessors expressed. Jon Hogan’s adaptations respect the originals and add urgency and art that has contemporary audiences feeling they’ve experienced something new, fresh and meaningful.