From the beer-soaked taverns of Milwaukee come Hugh Bob & the Hustle, new faces in Americana with an authentic honky-tonk sound.
Hugh Bob (Hugh Robert Masterson) grew up in Butternut, Wis. — population 300 — and only started writing songs about a year ago. But now that he has, two-steppers everywhere should rejoice. The band’s self-titled debut album features 11 modern throwbacks to the days of artists like Lefty Frizzell and Ernest Tubb.
Via email, Hugh Bob answered a few questions to introduce himself and his music.
CMT Edge: You started writing songs relatively recently. What made you want to get started?
Masterson: I’ve always wanted to be a writer and a singer, but I’ve always struggled with having enough confidence and was afraid of what other people would think about my lyrics or stories. I just got to realizing if I didn’t get over it and do what I wanted and try, I never would. I started telling everyone that I was starting a band before I had even started writing. That way I couldn’t chicken out of it as easily.
“Blame Me” sounds like a guy trying to end an argument. What is he admitting?
To be honest, that was the first song I wrote. It was during the first breakup with my ex-girlfriend. It seemed like I was constantly finding ways to screw up a good thing with a good person. I just started playing that A-chord and the first thing out of my mouth was “Blame me. It’s all my fault.”
Why are you so drawn to the honky-tonk style?
I grew up on a small farm in northern Wisconsin far away from a tiny town. Even as kids we spent a lot of time at the bars with our folks and their friends. It’s the social gathering place. I grew up on those old country tunes on the jukebox. Dwight Yoakam was always one of the coolest guys to me.
How does the Milwaukee music scene show itself in your music?
I think there’s a little bit of that Midwestern charm and sweetness to it but a lot of blue collar, hard-working, beer-drinking grit, too. The music scene in Milwaukee is very diverse. There really aren’t any other indie country bands there that I’m aware of.
Do you remember anything cool about shooting the video?
We know almost everyone in this video on some level. We had to play that song so many times, I think those folks probably don’t want to hear that song ever again. After we were done shooting, we had drinks with everyone and set up on the stage there at Yield Bar and played a set. By the last song, I was on top of a guy’s shoulders playing guitar. There were more than a few cabs taken home after that.