I am a working musician and, as a result, I don’t get to go out and hear much live music. When I’m working, that’s also when most of the plethora of musicians you find on this beach are working, too; save for the off-season. That’s when the rubber hits the road, and for the best all-around players, the playing season just eases off and really never ends.
That’s what I found when I arrived from Southern California at the end of 2015.
My first stop? Art’s Place in Kitty Hawk, and its weekly Wednesday night open mic hosted by one Monte Hooker.
Here’s this guy, with his white beard and ever-present hat, reigning over, what appeared to me to be, a fairly chaotic situation. A little tiny room, packed to the gills with patrons and musicians, and the only access to the bathroom for everybody in the room being right through the “stage.”
And he pulled it off like it was nothing. That’s what years of experience, coupled with his love of music, brings.
Whether you’re a seasoned professional dropping by to showcase a newly written song or two, or an aspiring artist dipping your toe into the musical ocean for the first time, Monte Hooker will afford you respect and assist you with whatever you might need to get up in front of that packed room and do your thing. And that’s a rarity in the “open mic industry.”
As a result, he’s had some of the top artists in the region and beyond, drop by to partake in his efforts. And he’s been doing this most every Wednesday for the last three-and-a-half years.
A multi-instrumentalist and a fine singer, Mr. Hooker doesn’t have to do what he does for his living, but his love for music drives him to work his “straight job” every day and year-round, go out and spread what’s in his heart. And what, exactly, is in his heart? Nothing short of a massive list of some of the best songs written in the history of music over the past 60 years or so and a desire to share them.
So…after you read this, thumb back a few pages in this issue of Coast OBX and look at the music listings. Seek out Monte Hooker, and give him a listen. It doesn’t matter if it’s one of his solo gigs or his band — The Mo-Rons — at Aqua in Duck. If you love what he does half as much as he does doing it, he’s done his job.
I might also suggest that if you are one of the aforementioned seasoned or aspiring artists,or you’re here on vacation, you’re welcome to try your hand at Monte’s open mic at Art’s Place on Wednesday.
I caught up with Monte via the miracle of email and at last Wednesday’s Open Mic at Art’s Place.
Q: If you’re not a native, what brought you to the Outer Banks?
A: I’m originally from Elizabeth City, North Carolina, and moved here because I have always loved the area.
Q: How would you describe your music?
A: My music is the songs I love, and it varies in styles and genres, spanning six decades.
Q: Who is your greatest musical influence?
A: My biggest influences would probably be Jimmy Page and Eric Clapton because of the different styles they have.
Q: What is it about music that touched you?
A: Music is always in my head and in my heart. I love it all. Groups. Solo. It just moves my soul.
Q: What was the first concert you attended? Did it light a fire under you to be a musician yourself and get up on stage?
A: My first real concert was The Doobie Brothers and Free. The fire was lit before that, just to play. Luckily for me, I made it to the stage.
Q: Are you self-taught?
A: I am mostly self taught, but I was lucky to have some friends to show me things. That helped me move forward in the pursuit of getting better.
Q: Besides guitar, what other instruments do you play?
A: I mainly play guitar, but I can play bass, drums, percussion and some keyboards.
Q: How many different musical projects (duos, trios, bands) are you involved in?
A: This year, I am doing solo and playing with my trio “The Mo-Rons.”
Q: What’s your favorite venue to play on the Outer Banks? To listen?
A: My favorite venue is Aqua Restaurant and Spa to play. Listening at any outdoor sunset venue is my favorite.
Q: What do you do in the off-season? Do you have a day job? If so, what is it?
A: Off season, I practice and mess around in my music room, recording. I work full time troubleshooting wastewater systems all over the coast.
Q: Was there a person in your life that motivated you to pursue music?
A: The music I hear in my head made me want to play.
Q: If you could perform with anyone, living or dead, who would it be and why?
A: I would love to play with George Harrison. His musicianship and message of peace and love are timeless.
Q: What one song have you heard that you wish you’d written?
A: I wish I had written “Here Comes The Sun” by the Beatles.
Q: If you could choose a time period in which to perform music, what would it be and why?
A: My time period is now. So much music from the past and with today’s technology it provides an amazing palette to paint soundscapes.
Q: Do you listen to new music, and if so, what are you listening to?
A: I listen to the radio and hear a few things I like, but not any one group. Tedeshi Trucks Band is probably my favorite. I could listen to Derek play all day.
Q: The music business can be tough. Did you ever consider quitting and doing something else?
A: I could never quit playing; it’s who I am.
Q: McCartney or Lennon?
Q: Where were you the first time you performed onstage and how old were you?
A: S.L. Sheep Auditorium in Elizabeth City. I was 17 or 18.
Q: When you write a song, is it positive or negative inspiration that drives you?
A: My songwriting is mainly trying to make a positive out of a negative. The music and melodies come to me. I struggle with the words.
Q: Your favorite album? Why?
A: Led Zeppelin’s “Physical Graffiti.’ There are so many different styles on that one album.
Q: Your favorite song? Why?
A: Led Zeppelin’s “Thank You” and The Beatles’ “Something.” They are beautiful love songs.
Q: How do folks find out where can you be heard this season?
A: My Facebook page, The Mo-Rons Facebook page, OBX at Night, Outer Banks Live Music, and Coast and Coastobx.com.
Q: If you were me, what question should I be asking you?
A: “What is my favorite type of gig?”
Q: What is your favorite type of gig?
A: Sitting in with any number of the very talented performers on the OBX. I never get enough of that!