Into the Mystic: Interview with Hieronymus Bogs
The first time I heard Hieronymus Bogs was in concert at a local bar and I was mesmerized by his solo performance. Many of those who were in the audience were mesmerized too. Some sat on the venue’s floor and listened attentively to the bearded holy man with the banjo and bells onstage as if he was the vessel of a spiritual communion. Much in that same way, Hieronymus Bogs’s albums like “Grow” released in 2014 and his latest album (“Lowlives Divine”) have me hypnotized.
What makes Hieronymus Bogs so special besides the quality of his music is the authenticity of his soul. He “walks the walk” so to speak and works in various artistic mediums including spoken word. His music can be described as alternative folk or homespun Americana but there are also moments of lush orchestration that invoke images of beautiful foreign places. The music is both gentle and mystical in its orientation.
I posed some questions to Hieronymus Bogs via email and he took his time to give us a bit more insight. An edited transcript follows.
Q: You reside in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico what’s that like?
It’s a small, mostly quiet town in the southern part of the state that is known for its hot springs, which are said to have been frequented by Geronimo. It runs along the Rio Grande River with mountain views in almost every direction. It acquired its name by participating in an airing of the 1950’s game show Truth or Consequences.
Describe the essence of Hieronymus Bogs.
I try to make music that ignites inner contemplation and that is offered not as an exit from the self, but as an entrance to the self.
What has drawn you to playing your style of music?
My own need to express feelings and longings, my need to hear certain colors in music, and to journey through ideas in song, that pertain to myself and others in ways that are contemplative.
Describe your songwriting process.
I write ideas down daily and continue to revisit and refine them in my sketchbooks. I play with word phrasing until those ideas generate more information about the subject. Once I’ve got an intuitively growing idea, I attempt to understand where it wants to go and where I want it to go. Usually about that time I start to explore musical colors and chord progressions. Then the wrestling begins in terms of fleshing out a broader landscape for the idea to live in. I write lines over and over again often making minute changes in words and the arrangement of words until things start to sit comfortably. Toward the end I make fine edits that are closely linked to the musical structure and word delivery. When the verses start to feel equally crisp I know I’m getting close to finishing. At that point the real wrestling is done and it’s time to tend to my wounds and start on a new song.
Tell us about your new album.
“Lowlives Divine” was written in about a year and recorded in a three-month period. I had begun to write these songs on a Southwest winter tour and continued to write more when I got back to New York. Within two months my family and I relocated to New Mexico and in New Mexico I wrote the final songs, “Seest Thou Not” and “Wild & Free”. Most of these songs speak directly to the audience and are less about story telling. The songs seem to reside in an inner world that’s filled with strong shadows and dim lights. Sam Snyder (of Brooklyn, NY based band Maybird) had done some re-mixing and reworking of a song I had previously released called, “No You Just Me” and I liked what he had done to it. I was confident he could achieve the affect I was looking for, so I asked him to produce it. I sent him my guide tracks and asked other musicians to contribute instrumentation for those tracks online. Sam compiled all the music and added his own contributions to complete the songs. I was impressed by Sam’s ability to unite and enhance the songs in a way that carried the overall vision of the album to greater heights with its dark palette of sound and production.
What brings you joy?
My family, community and nature give me joy. Creating art gives expression to that joy and the need to cherish it. Hopefully what I create benefits my family, community and beyond. The task of the artist is to serve, and that brings me joy too.
By Roman Jones