January 29, 2023
Ithaca, NY | 42°F


Inventive funk band creates booty-shaking music

Greg Hollowell was playing his saxophone for tips on a street in Boone, N.C., when three fellow funk-style musicians found him. Now he is the saxophonist for Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, which is currently on its Easy Livin’ Tour across the country. Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band will perform at 8 p.m. today at Castaways.

Staff Writer Gena Mangiaratti spoke with Hollowell about funk music, writing songs and life on tour.

Greg Hollowell (bottom left) plays saxophone in Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band, which is on its Easy Livin’ tour. Hollowell said the band’s fresh sound can’t be classified to one genre. Courtesy of Josh Branstetter

Gena Mangiaratti: Where does the band’s name come from?

Greg Hollowell: We actually had a DOS-based program, and you would enter in the names of the band members and your instruments, and it would give you band names. We added in the people in the band at the time, and it gave us Yo Mama’s Big Fat Booty Band.

GM: You started playing saxophone in sixth grade. What made you want to be a musician?

GH: It was right before I went to college that I made that choice, and I just tried to think about what would I be able to do every day of my life and be happy with it. My favorite class was band and everything. That was about it, like, I could do this every day and be pretty happy. I thought I wanted to go into business, but then I thought of sitting in an office every day, and I didn’t really like that idea. It’s funny, because through being in a band, it’s become a business.

GM: Your music doesn’t really sound like anything else out there. On Facebook you’re classified as “Nu Funk,” but can you really classify your music?

GH: No. We call it that because it is funk — we definitely think that way. We write that way, but I feel like the majority of funk bands out there will play James Brown covers, and they’ll do a lot of old funk covers. … But there are a few of us out there that are kind of still pushing the envelope, and it’s new. It’s new music and it’s still funk, so that’s kind of where the “Nu Funk” thing comes in. There’s a good bit of rock in what we do. There’s a good bit of edge. It’s kind of leaning more towards that these days, which I really like, but the solid kind of back beat, the funk beat, that really nice heavy danceable groove, heavy bass and the horns — that’s to me what makes it funk, and then you [add] original compositions that we write, and it’s new. It’s always hard to put a label on things. I said, “Good,” when you said you couldn’t classify it.

GM: How do you create songs as a band?

GH: There are a couple different ways. Sometimes an individual will have an idea or a song in mind and they’ll bring it to the practice room, and we’ll play our parts and put our twists on them, and that’s the song. Then a lot of the times, which is the way I personally like to do it as a single line player, you know — saxophone, I can’t really sit down and chunk out chords and write a song on a saxophone by myself — so, what I like to do, this is how I write, is we just get together and start a groove and then figure out melodies and collaborate and write a song that way.

GM: What is your source of inspiration for your songs, both when you are working as a group or as an individual?

GH: That’s kind of a hard one to answer. Sometimes if there’s a groove going, I’ll try to just hear a melody and just try to pick it out. I always say that the notes are there, you just got to pick them out and put them in the right spot. Sometimes I’ll try to sing something, and then I’ll play it, and I’ll just keep playing it, trying to make something that I want to hear. It just comes from playing and from thinking about music constantly and all that kind of thing.

GM: What is your favorite part about touring?

GH: I really like when we get to a new place and a bunch of people show up. I really like sharing what we do with these folks, and it just goes hand in hand with being successful. In a band, obviously you do what you like to do, and it’s great when it’s successful. … It’s a hard job, but it’s a great job.