Mic Check: Kelly Hogan readies new release with The Flat Five

Atlanta native Kelly Hogan has a new project with the Chicago-based Flat Five. From top left,  Nora O’Connor, Kelly Hogan, Alex Hall, Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough.
Atlanta native Kelly Hogan has a new project with the Chicago-based Flat Five. From top left, Nora O’Connor, Kelly Hogan, Alex Hall, Scott Ligon and Casey McDonough.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Georgia native has spent the past two decades in Chicago and Wisconsin.

Editor’s note: With live music and concert reviews on hold due to COVID-19, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution is focusing on how Georgia musicians are spending their time in our feature, Mic Check.

It’s been more than 20 years since Kelly Hogan left Atlanta, and even though she doesn’t get back as often as her family would prefer, she still has fond memories of her old life in Cabbagetown. (“That’s where all of the musicians lived because it was cheap, but not anymore!” she said with a wry laugh.)

Her Facebook page sports a photo of her donning a Clermont Lounge mask and even though Rutledge and Douglasville — home to her parents and step-parents — changed from places with “a McDonald’s and a KFC, and now it’s all malls,” Hogan misses the people and the “green” of Atlanta.

After spending a chunk of her singing career — which has included stints with Neko Case and The Decemberists, as well as songs with Mavis Staples and Jakob Dylan — in Chicago, Hogan moved to Albany, Wisconsin, about two years ago. While she loves the tiny area — “It’s not even a town, it’s technically a village,” she said — the quietness that appealed to her has become a bit isolating during the pandemic.

But Hogan, simultaneously spirited and droll, is looking forward to next month’s release of “Another World,” her album with Chicago-based The Flat Five. A new single, “This’ll Be the Day,” arrived last week, and while touring plans remain vague, she’s forging ahead with a mix of optimism and trepidation.

Q: What have you been doing since the pandemic started?

A: I cried a lot (laughs). I don’t play an instrument; I can play tambourine, but no one wants to hear that, period. I was here just seeing how things are going to shake out. We ended up canceling Flat Five shows after selling out in Milwaukee Feb. 28. I did go to Chicago in April, and it took me a week to decide if I should do it or not. I went to the Wilco Loft (the band’s recording studio) — they needed female vocals for a Corona beer commercial, ironically — and the guy who runs the studio knows me. It was just me and the engineer there, and I came straight back. I’m glad I did that because it was dozens of dollars for me.

I like being alone and living alone, and now I’m a butler for my dogs. But when the iron doors started swinging shut, you start to worry it’s never going to be the same again. What you want in a show is what (musician friend John Thomas) used to say is a “flesh casserole.” I don’t know if we’ll ever see that again — the sweaty thing with music festivals.

Atlanta native Kelly Hogan has spent time singing with Neko Case and The Decemberists.
Atlanta native Kelly Hogan has spent time singing with Neko Case and The Decemberists.

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Q: Tell me about working on the new record.

A: We’re all in different bands, so we recorded over 15 months. We have to try to sneak it in when we can and would do little parts. We started in March 2019 at the Wilco Loft. Our drummer, Alex Hall, has an amazing studio, and we’re so comfortable there, so we recorded the rest there. We made an inter-band vow to be a positive band, but the new record has some dark colors to it. We worked really hard, and we’d love nothing more than coming to play your town… but maybe later.

Q: What have you been listening to?

A: All of my records are behind my head right now, about 1,000 of them, and they’re waiting for me. The Indigo Girls, that new record is so good. That first song ("S*** Kickin')? They have out-bro-countried bro-country. The details are beautiful, like a Joe South song. It’s so Southern. I do feel homesickness for stuff like that. “Country Radio” — I need a face diaper for that one, and “Look Long” is so hopeful. Listening to that helped. I wore that record out. I love all the songs. The last show I saw was a Wilco show on March 9. I went up to Madison, and that’s when things were starting to be like, “Should I go to this show?” So I stayed in the back.

Q: What do you miss about life?

A: I sing all the time around the house, but I miss reverb so much, singing into a microphone. People who can accompany themselves will be asked, can you play this online show? I can, but it would just be me standing here singing. A lot of people I know have done that, but I haven’t really been able to. The rest of The Flat Five started playing shows outdoors in the summer. I (recently) hosted a show on the Hideout.com for their series called To the Front. It’s for people who are semi-known like me, a medium-sized circus peanut. We get to pick three people we think should be more known, and I was also part of a benefit called Hot Stove Cool Music, which raises money for children’s charities… The future of what we used to do is not going to look the same, but there are some crafty folks out there doing it for themselves.

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