Megan Mullins Forms ‘Hot’ New Trio With Her Brother and Husband
The multi-faceted Megan Mullins is back to doing what she does best ... which is anything that involves music! The talented 24-year-old singer had her first taste of success as a solo artist on Broken Bow Records with her debut Top 40 single 'Ain't What It Used to Be' and her 2009 hit 'Long Past Gone.' But now Mullins has teamed up with her brother, Marcus Mullins, and husband, John Bohlinger. Together, the three are making new music as the Tennessee Hot Damns.
Taste of Country recently sat down with the trio to discuss the formation of the Tennessee Hot Damns, their debut album, 'Ready! Aim! Fire!' (available for purchase through iTunes, CD Baby and Amazon), and their new journey as a hot new new trios in country music.
Obviously, Megan, you were pursuing a solo career when you first started, so how did the formation of the Tennessee Hot Damns fall into place?
Megan: I was on Broken Bow for eight years. I recorded three different albums with three different producers. I was originally signed with Marcus as a duo. Then he joined the service. He was deployed to Afghanistan. So then it was just me. We started off recording our duo stuff, and then when he left, I did an album with [producer] Mark Bright, I did an album with Randy Scruggs, and the last album I did was with Buddy Cannon. But they never put any of them out. We cut over 40 sides before it was all said and done, they just didn’t put an album out. It was fine for what it was.
From there, when I got off [the label], I was actually pretty excited about doing whatever it was that I was doing … playing with Randy Owen and Shakira and a bunch of stuff like that. With Shakira, I did ‘American Idol,’ ‘Dancing With the Stars,’ ‘The View,’ ‘Rachel Ray,’ ‘Saturday Night Live,’ and we did this promo tour in Europe for about six months, which was basically every TV show that’s over there. Then I did shows like ‘Nashville Star’ -- John and I both did that. He was the music director for the six years the show was on the air.
Then Marcus came home on leave. Much like we do since we’re musicians, we would just sit in the living room and play music. We had been writing songs. One day we were just sitting around, and we were like, “Hey, let’s make an album!”
Talk about the recording process of 'Ready! Aim! Fire!'.
Marcus: We recorded it in about eight days. When we needed a song, we just wrote it as we went.
Megan: It just kind of all worked out.
John: With the alcohol, our total cost for making the album was about $30.00 [laughs]!
Megan: We recorded it in our living room. We had a big time doing it.
Marcus: It was great. It was so much fun.
Compare the days of your solo career to now playing in a band with your husband and brother. I imagine there's a big difference artistically.
Megan: I just realized I’m happier making music with these two than I am in any other situation. It’s more fun for me to play with them than just being a solo artist. I definitely enjoy this more.
John: When I look back at some of Megan's performances when she was working her first single on Broken Bow, they were stellar performances, but she was reflectively doing all the work. That had to have been tough.
Megan: On my radio tours, I took them with me, so we were always kind of playing together, but it was just my name. Now we’re all playing together, and it’s us.
Marcus: There’s a good energy when we’re all together. We communicate really well together. We have so much fun doing it. It’s good that we can actually do this project.
What can fans expect to hear on the debut album?
John: It's funny because we really do cover everything! From old-time country shuffles to gospel bluegrass to modern country to everything!
Megan: There’s a little bit of swing.
John: Instrument-wise, there’s viola, violin, clarinet, pedal steel, bass, guitar, accordion, piano, electric, Dobro and banjo.
Megan: And it’s just the three of us.
Marcus: We played everything.
Megan: Everything you hear, it’s one of us playing.
John: So there’s 11 instruments, and we might even be missing some … shakers and stuff like that [laughs]!
Marcus: We did everything within the inside of that CD case, including the pictures. It’s all homegrown.
Talk about the song selection on the album.
Marcus: We just started writing the stuff we wanted, in addition to some stuff we had in our catalogs.
John: Some of the songs we wrote right then, and some we had for a while. We wrote ‘Kisses Never Lie’ five years ago. Megan and I were in the house band on ‘Nashville Star,’ and Marcus had just gotten back from the air force. We thought that he should be a contestant [on ‘Nashville Star’] because we thought he was better than all the other guys competing. He just needed original songs, so we got together and wrote that song for the show.
Marcus: What was really cool about putting the songs together for it was we didn’t have a label breathing down our throat about this or that … we worked just as creatively as we could to try and make a good record instead of it having to be a certain format.
John: I think the reason there’s all that great music in the '70s and early '80s was because there were albums. It wasn’t single-driven; it was album-orientated. Artists would build and make albums like ‘Rumors’ or ‘Hotel California’ or whatever, where they put anything they wanted on there. They weren’t thinking about, “I’ve got to have to have a three-minute radio hit that’s up and bouncy.” They just put anything they really dug on there. That’s kind of going away because everything’s so single-driven. On top of that, with downloads, people no longer buy records, they buy hits that they’ve heard. All those chancy, weird songs that really have something that you might have to think about a little more that has never been released.
Megan: We just kind of did whatever we wanted … in the comfort of our living room!
Have you guys been out touring the trio much?
John: We’ve all been so busy.
Megan: We’re all going in different directions. Just in the past three or four weeks, John’s been in France, Italy, Croatia, Africa, South Africa, Montana,and Greece before that. We all need to be on the same continent to do any shows [laughs]!
John: That’s the reality of it. We’re all working musicians.
What's the story behind the name of the band?
Marcus: The Tennessee part, obviously we’re in Tennessee.
Megan: And that is where we all came together.
Marcus: The Hot Damn part is in honor of the 100 proof liquor that fueled our recording and songwriting.
John: We’re really hoping for an endorsement. It would be one of those blessing/curse kind of things [laughs]!
Watch the Tennessee Hot Damns Perform 'Kisses Never Lie'