18 Jul 2019

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Hobnail - Interview with Rob Joass from Hobnail

14 Jun 2019 // An interview by Steve Shyu

Any thoughts on the current state of country music in NZ and where you see it headed? It has grown up and spawned bastard children all over the place, which is exciting and healthy. Hobnail have been in the New Zealand's country/folk scene for over 25 years now, and in celebration of this milestone, they're releasing a best-of album Boots and All on 28 June, as well as booting off a nationwide tour covering most of July 2019, stopping off everywhere from Golden Bay to Whanganui and Christchurch.

Lead by frontman and songwriter Rob Joass, Caroline Easther is also along for the ride, renowned as drummer of The Chills and Verlaines. With both Rob and Caroline receiving acclaim and international fandom, the tour is sure to be unmissable. 

Muzic.net.nz's Paul T Gheist managed to get time to yarn with Rob about his most memorable show to date and reflect on changes in Aotearoa's music scene. 

First round's on me - What’ll you be having? 

At this time of the day it's a flat white, thanks.

Out of Hobnail’s back-catalogue, which is your favourite album and why?

I'd have to say Fortune Horses; it's the one where we "grew up". Before then we were kind of searching for who we were, but Fortune Horses set the template sonically and quality-wise. I think there are some really great songs on there, and it still sounds great.

What inspired you to write the renowned song Every Single Day?

I get a little dark sometimes, and this was me trying to remind myself that despite the fact that we're all going to die some day, that there is a lot to love about life, so make the most of it.

Of the past 25 years performing live, which of your shows to date is your favourite or most memorable? 

The South Country Fair in Southern Alberta, Canada. We'd driven about 10 hours from another festival in northern Saskatchewan, hadn't had a lot of sleep, and were on stage about an hour after we arrived. There was a serious prairie thunderstorm headed our way, and we weren't sure if we'd even get to play. But we did, and the audience was amazing, then the heavens opened just after we finished. It had taken an enormous amount of effort to get there, we were a long way from home, but there we were, living the dream. The little band that could.

What are some exciting things fans can expect of this new tour?

I hope they'll be as excited as us about hearing some songs we haven't played for a while. It's great to rediscover material in the back-catalogue. We'll be having a few guests at our Wellington show that we haven't played with for a while, so that will be a blast!

You have a pretty extensive nationwide tour coming up; which stops have you been dying to play at?

Always love the Boathouse in Nelson and Mussel Inn. Also, Hobnail have never played the Wine Cellar before, and we have Bernie Griffen with us for that, so really looking forward to it.

What kiwi musicians have you recently been listening to a lot? 

There has been a weird and wonderful few months where several friends released new albums. Bill Hickman, Caroline Easther, Jeff Simmonds and Barry Saunders and Delaney Davidson all released great albums in April/May, so they have dominated my listening. 

Being the seasoned performers that you are, what’s one piece of advice you’d pass on to up-and-coming Kiwi musicians? 

Love what you do. If you don't, it's not worth it. There are easier ways to make a living.

What’s the biggest difference between New Zealand's music scene now compared to when Hobnail first started?

People have become every accustomed to not paying for music. We would have sold 10 times as many CD's 25 years ago as we expect to sell now. It's tough out there.

Any thoughts on the current state of country music in NZ and where you see it headed? 

It has grown up and spawned bastard children all over the place, which is exciting and healthy!

Check out Hobnail's tour dates here and catch them on the road next month! 


About Hobnail

From humble beginnings in Wellington bars Hobnail have gone on to release 7 albums, and tour extensively playing clubs, venues and festivals throughout New Zealand.

Their album Fortune Horses was a finalist for Best Folk Album at the New Zealand Music Awards. Songs Dead in the Water and Baggage were both nominated for Best Country Song, while their 2015 album String Things was generally regarded as the best of their career. They have just released their 7th Album Blue Sky Songs.

Festival favourites with a loyal following, their live performance has been described as “spellbinding”, “captivating”, “incendiary”, “rousing” and “highly spirited and entertaining”.

Visit the muzic.net.nz Profile for Hobnail


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