Interview: Jacob Staron of Hook and Line
Hook and Line is an Americana band formed in Honolulu, Hawaii. With no fancy effects, it’s all about great songs, energetically delivered with heart and harmony. The band features an ever changing lineup of guitar, blues harp, fiddle, upright bass and customized cajon, topped off with vocal harmonies. All these elements come together to create a unique Americana experience. The multi-instrumentalist and songwriter of the band, Jacob Staron, spoke with me about the origins and future of the band.
Americana Highways: Can you tell me a little bit about where you’re originally from?
Jacob Staron : I grew up in Iowa. I went to college in Iowa and studied music at University of Northern Iowa. After college I moved to Minneapolis with a friend and started teaching lessons and playing music. Lived there between 2007 to 2014. End of 2014 moved to Hawaii.
AH: When you were living in the Midwest were you playing in bands?
JS: I’ve been doing music my whole life. My Dad was a band director and that got me into music and I started studying music, taking private lessons. All through college I studied classical and jazz. I was doing a lot of jazz trio/quartet gigs and also a lot of wedding quartet gigs all along the way. In Minneapolis I continued writing original music with my bands, Deep Soul Deities, which was hip hop and funk music, and Organasm, which was a jazz/funk trio. I really didn’t get into doing Americana music until right before Mari and I moved to Hawaii around 2013. I wanted to start a group that was acoustic, more oriented to the song and lyrics. When we moved here I knew that was something I wanted to do partially because I only brought acoustic instruments. I started playing what I had, a cello, my guitar, and my mandolin.
AH: How did the formation of Hook and Line come about?
JS: Shortly after I moved here in early 2015 I met the Infamous Bourbon Boys at a show. I had just moved here and wanted to meet everybody I could, and I introduced myself, and said I play mandolin, cello, I like your music, I think I’d be a good fit with you guys and we should jam. Two years later that band broke up, the lead singer moved to Kona, other members moved and the band dissolved. That’s when I formed Hook and Line. I took one of the remaining members of that band, found a bass player, and started Hook and Line in 2015
AH: Can you tell me about the other members of the band?
JS: We’ve gone through alot of members but the core is myself, my girlfriend Mari, and our bass player Alex Morrison. Over the years we’ve had Jason Parker from the Bourbon Boys play banjo, Kelly Howerton on slide guitar, he has a band called The Haole Kid and Local Boy, then eventually we recruited Caroline Pond on fiddle. She’s from Asheville, North Carolina and also grew up in Georgia and used to play in a band called Snake Oil Medicine Show. The lineup that we have on our album is me, Mari, Caroline, Kelly Howerton, Alex Morrison, and cajon player Jonathan Heraux.
AH: Significance of band name?
JS: Our band name Hook and Line comes from a lyric in a Pokey LaFarge song “La La Blues”. “If I was a catfish, in a river in Saint Louie, I’d be the biggest fish, honey, anyone had ever seen, you know I’d never get caught, cause I never bite the hook and line, all the women try to catch me, as I go swimming by.
AH: Who writes most of the songs?
JS: I write most of the songs. What we’ve recorded so far is all original music that I’ve written with the exception of one cover by Mississippi John Hurt. Some of them I wrote in Hawaii and some I wrote years ago in Minneapolis.
AH: I really like that the album, Lemons and Limes, is all originals. To me it sets you guys apart. I love the interplay between the harmonica and the fiddle. How did that come about?
JS: What happened is that Mari is a singer but when I would sing she wanted to play an instrument and she started playing harmonica. She started learning harmonica and all the different keys. Basically my role in the band is to play rhythm guitar and then the solos go to the fiddle or to the harmonica or on the album to the slide guitar.
AH: I love Mari’s vocals. She has that blues growl.
JS: When we play live everyone comments on that. They’re like “Oh my God your voice you sound like Janis Joplin!” or “you got this growl” When she gets going and firing on all five cylinders, lookout! When we play live there are a few songs where she really gets to shine and let loose.
AH: Can you talk about some of your originals?
JS: For “Holly,” when we moved to Hawaii we packed my old 93 Honda station wagon and drove from Minneapolis through Denver, through Vail, through Salt Lake City, through California, up through southern Oregon, up through Portland, through Seattle. It was a month long. Throughout that trip was when I wrote “Holly.” We were in Ashland, Oregon and we were going to hike to Pilot Rock and the road was a 4 wheel drive road. We had driven there and were driving back. The lyrics, “Go around that corner one more time Holly. On that black rock highway in no time, Holly. We’re going where the water tastes like wine, Holly’.’ The name of the car was Holly. That’s the origin of that song.
The song “Waves Roll In” I wrote in Hawaii. It’s about how in Hawaii everything changes every year. Just constant in and out of people and friends. You notice you stay stable but everything is changing around you.
I also wrote “Lemons and Limes” in Hawaii. When we moved out here we volunteered on a farm for a month so we would have a free place to live. I wrote that song about being a farmer in Hawaii, growing fruit trees, having an orchard, living in paradise. It seemed like such a dream life. We would go to parties on these farms and that gave me that vibe of what a great life. Gonna move to the country, plant some trees, drink some whiskey and hang out and sleep late. It’s not like that but hypothetically.
“Stars Fade Away” is not on our record but I wrote that song about a friend’s Mom that passed away. We were texting and he was saying how he had to go to Chicago and just found out his Mom died. It was so sad. At the time I was playing guitar and moved by that and started writing and came up with that metaphor of stars fading away. The whole idea is the stars are there but you can’t see them when the sun is shining. They fade away when the sun comes but they’re still there.
AH: How do you choose your covers?
JS: When we started the band we said we were going to do originals and interesting takes on covers in an Americana style. New songs and old songs and put our own twist on them. We started getting these long gigs. Three hour gigs where we had to fill up some time. In the process of that we learned a boatload of covers. I would pick covers that work that I could teach to a band in three minutes or more like thirty seconds before we start. Out of necessity we needed to learn some covers that we could play. Lately, “Saturday Satan”, and other songs we recently started doing, I found because of Charley Crockett, who I’m a big fan of. Our covers are a mix of old country, traditional bluegrass, blues, and anything from modern music we can put a twist on.
AH: Band influences?
JS: One of the big influences of ours is The Wood Brothers. Back when we started I would say The Wood Brothers were our number one influence. Then as the time we started to make the album I was really into Pokey LeFarge and so our album is kind of modeled after that sound of Saint Louis blues, riverboat jazz, a mix of jazz and blues. I wanted our songs to be like that. They’re all kinda upbeat, a little bit of swing, a little bit of jazz, a little bit of bluegrass. Lately I’ve really been into old country and honky tonk music.
AH: What’s the future of the band?
JS: We have two records in the works. One is gonna be really honky tonk style, country western swing feel and the other one is gonna try and be a mix of Hawaiian style, ukulele,12 string guitar, mixed with our style of americana. I’ve got a lineup of songs I want to do but we’re in the process of transitioning. Alex is moving out to California and we have to find a new bass player.
We just got off of a recording session. I said we needed to get together and pick some favorites and record some of the covers we’ve been doing and make a live recording of that. We recorded Tide Is High, some old blues songs, some Wood Brothers. We just did songs we love to do and we’ll hopefully release that on streaming services later this year
After that, like I mentioned, we’re looking for a new bass player and I want to find someone to take over my spot on rhythm guitar so that I can switch over to pedal steel and do that honky tonk album. I want to get a band together that can really focus on the original music and try to play higher quality gigs. We’ve had our best luck in 2020 and 2021 with private parties, secret whatevers. Hopefully we can do some outdoor gigs and festivals when they come back.