Scott Hrabko's music is equal parts folk, swing, blues and country with a twist that's unique to Kansas City. His second album and his first with his backing band The Rabbits, Biscuits and Gravity, was released in early 2015 to great acclaim. Working in a musical vein similar to such luminaries as Loudon Wainwright III, Randy Newman and Lyle Lovett, Hrabko describes in his interview how he learned to "trust my own ears" with his own style. We are fortunate to welcome Scott Hrabko to Listen Local.
Please introduce yourself. Where do you live and work? What does a typical day look like for you?
I live in Brookside with my wife, son and dog. I work from home as a freelance video editor and singer/songwriter.
After I drop my son off at school each morning I usually take a long walk in the park to clear my head and get a little exercise. Then I come home and dive into whatever project I have going on. Right now I’m just beginning work on my third album -- second with The Rabbits -- which is about half written. When the family gets home from work/school I make dinner and then watch baseball, or in the off season, think about baseball.
Your most recent album, Biscuits and Gravity, was released in early 2015. What are you learning about your own craft or the recording process that has surprised you this past year?
I am pleasantly surprised that I've figured out how to produce good sounding recordings on my own without a bunch of fancy gear and almost no budget. I’ve really learned to trust my own ears.
It's taken me a long time to get to the point where I can listen to my recordings with pleasure, instead of cringing and wondering what the hell I was thinking. I really didn't think I'd live to see the day.
Who or what currently inspires you? What music are you raving about?
The Kansas City Royals! My family. My band, The Rabbits. Sweet potatoes for breakfast. Black coffee. As for music, lately I’ve gotten back into listening to jazz, which I’d kind of forsaken in favor of other obsessions the last few years. I’m amazed by the scope of Jaki Byard’s recordings — how he embodies the entire history of jazz, from early New Orleans to the 1960s avant garde like it’s the most natural thing in the world. You just get the feeling he and his band are having a ball playing that music. Bill Evans is somebody whose work with Miles Davis I already loved, but now I’m finally getting around to his solo recordings.
What artists do you look to these days for inspiration? What do you admire most about these artists?
Randy Newman, Michael Hurley, Nick Lowe, Loudon Wainwright III, among many, many others. I'd put Loudon Wainwright among of our greatest songwriters, but he's rarely on anybody's radar. He can write convincingly about any subject under the sun, but his songs about family relationships are really something nobody else can even touch. He's not afraid to reveal himself fully in his lyrics, including the aspects of his character that are not so nice. I admire Michael Hurley because he just follows his own, quirky muse and doesn't seem too concerned about fitting in anywhere. There are so few authentic individuals these days, when market-think has infiltrated every aspect of music-making right down to the subconscious level, to the point that most singers and bands sound interchangeable -- they don't even realize that they're adopting the same mannerisms. We've never needed misfits like Michael Hurley more than we do now.
What most excites you about music and creativity in Kansas City?
I don’t know if it was my imagination, but when I lived in Chicago years ago it seemed that all of the bands hated each other and that we were all in competition. Since I came back here and finally got around to playing solo acoustic gigs about 5 years ago I’ve been amazed at how open-hearted the music community is. A good example of that is every Monday night at The Brick, during Rural Grit Happy Hour. They’ve really made me feel welcome, even though I didn’t come up in their scene, with all of those great bands in the 90’s and 00’s, and I'm at least a half a generation older than most of them. On all fronts — not just music — it’s a place that seems to be coming into its own. The only problem I see is that it’s still not a huge population center and there’s so much going on to choose from that the entertainment pie is sliced pretty thin. All the more amazing that the musicians support one another!
Scott's book and film recommendations from the Johnson County Library catalog.
By George Saunders:
CivilWarLand In Bad Decline,
By Walker Percy:
The Collected Poems of Theodore Roethke by Theodore Roethke
Same Place, Same Things (Short Stories) by Tim Gautreaux
Love & Death