A Leap of Faith

 

 

photo

 

     Ever since I was a kid, I’ve always had some sort of uniform hanging in my bedroom closet. From child’s play to a choice of profession, I’ve worn many different uniforms during the past 35 years. My first one had patches from the local army-navy sewn all over it. I wore it in many neighborhood battles where my trusty bike never let me down. My next uniform had funny looking stripes on it, and it matched perfectly with the sign above the door of the local grocery store where I worked. Later on, I took a leap of faith, signed my name, and proudly wore the uniform of the United States Army for 7 years. To this day, you can still find me wearing a pair of camouflage pants around the house on the weekends. Why? Because they just “feel” right and because as an American…. I can. I took another leap of faith when I turned twenty-one and for the next 13 years wore another uniform. This time, the color was blue but the mission was the same, “to protect and serve.” My day to day life as a police officer brought me many interesting stories, some of them sad, some of them funny, and some….well both.
     I’ve been a cop for 13 years. As many cops in this country, I could not afford to live on a cop salary alone. I found myself doing many different “moonlighting” jobs over the years. Most of the time, on my days off, I’d be working as a security guard at places like the shopping mall or football games. These jobs were not very fun, but they were more fun that living without groceries. What started as another way of making extra money a few years ago, turned into a way for me to give up those moonlighting jobs. I had become a “barstool musician.”
I’ve been very blessed over the last several years to have a second job that I love. I could have easily continued to work jobs that I merely tolerated to help pay the bills, but instead I was able to do something that brought me joy. As it turns out, apparently it brings a lot of joy to other people too. I’ve also been blessed with a family that has supported me from day one. Without them, I would never have been able to keep up this crazy life. I did 130 shows last year while also working as a full time cop. 2013 looks to be even more exciting for me. Through all this, I have come to realize that I cannot work as a cop and a musician any longer with my full attention directed towards both. It’s taken me the course of the last year to make my decision which I pray is the right one.
     A new uniform hangs in my closet this morning. Faded jeans and t-shirts now take the place of my blue polyester. I’ve decided to take another leap of faith that will land me on the other side of the blue line I’ve been walking for 13 years. I’ve put down my badge and picked up my guitar to play music for you. I’m a little nervous, and a little excited at the same time, but I’m also certain that this is something that I must do. If we are to teach our children to chase their dreams, we must also chase ours. I hope you like what you hear from me, and I hope to see all of you at a show real soon. -MH

Meeting The Mayor of Margaritaville

Jimmy Buffett's dressing room, Birmingham, Alabama

Jimmy Buffett’s dressing room, Birmingham, Alabama

    I checked my bank account to make sure I had enough money to cover groceries and the entry fee. I was a little bit worried when I noticed that I had less than a hundred bucks, and payday was another week away. This is the sort of life you get used to when you are a cop by day and a bar-stool musician by night. I said “what the hell” though, and went ahead and entered the contest. American Songwriter Magazine held this contest in each magazine. You submit lyrics without music and receive a chance to win prizes and a write-up. I won 3rd place once before. It made me feel like a real songwriter to get that magazine in the mail every couple of months. This time was different. I couldn’t remember what songs I had submitted. Maybe it was time for a long-shot. Maybe it was time for a song that worked well in the south Mississippi bars where I was playing. I could always send in the one about the redneck that married his cousin, or the grandmother that chewed tobacco. Not this time, this time I was sending in a song about Jimmy Buffett.

      I was first introduced to Buffett by my parents on our annual family vacations we would take every summer. My first tape…that’s right, I said TAPE…was Changes in Latitudes. My 13th birthday brought me the boxed set and I was hooked. That following spring break, we drove to Key West and visited Margaritaville, Captain Tony’s and even snapped a few photos of Jimmy’s House. That whole month, before and during our trip, I imagined what I would say if I got the chance to meet Buffett. The trip was amazing, memories were made, but Buffett never came. In 1996 someone broke into my truck and stole my entire Buffett collection. I hope it changed their life, I searched the pawn shops and used record stores for a year and my music never turned up.

     As I became a singer/songwriter, it was a no-brainer to me why I started. I started because when I heard “A Pirate Looks at Forty” for the first time, I knew what I wanted to do with my life. I wanted to be a barstool singer. Many years and beers, jobs, almost college degrees and a wife and kids later, I learned that a barstool singer is a tough job to maintain, and unless you can pay the bills with free draft beer, it’s tough to keep the lights on without some kind of record to sell.I started writing the song “Dear Jimmy Buffett” in my kitchen one day a couple of years ago. I was boiling a few shrimp and reminiscing about my Key West trip. The thought occurred to me, what I would do if Buffett dropped in on one of my shows? What would I say to him? I’d most likely stutter or say something redundant about being his biggest fan…unless I could sing my thoughts to him, yea that would work for sure. Would I ask for his autograph? No…maybe something unusual…how about a record deal instead? Hell you only live once. Write that down.

     I won first place in the American Songwriter Magazine lyric contest in 2012 and an article was published on me, as well as the lyrics to “Dear Jimmy Buffett.” At 7:35 a.m. on a Sunday morning I received an email that said “Give me a call, J.B liked your song.” The chain of emails that followed that day led me to a stage in Birmingham and Tallahassee alongside who I now call Jimmy, where I performed my song and he performed his new song too, “Dear Matt Hoggatt.” 21 years later, I was in Key West again, but this time I was headlining at Margaritaville and staying at Jimmy’s house. On March 15th, 1993 I arrived at Margaritaville as a tourist, but on March 15th 2012 I was a performer. I guess life really does imitate art. Now, I have a record available on Mailboat records entitled “Hotter than Fishgrease” and I wrote most of those songs in my Kitchen too. Did I ever tell Jimmy what I wanted to tell him when I was 13 years old? Nope…. I can’t remember what it was that I wanted to say. What I can tell you though is, never stop dreaming.

Matt Hoggatt at Key West Margaritaville on March 15th, 2012

Matt Hoggatt at Key West Margaritaville on March 15th, 2012

Matt Hoggatt in Key West on March 15th, 1993

Matt Hoggatt at Key West Margaritaville on March 15th, 1993