Huggy and the Feel Goodz walks into the Sonny Helm Room with instruments in hand and a visible excitement on their faces at the sight of the enormous record collection. They waste no time looking through the vinyls and imitate some of the sillier album covers while telling stories about their parents’ music collections.
“I was born and raised on Michael Jackson, Chaka Khan, all that fun stuff,” reminisces lead singer, Jonny Huggins. “When I was growing up, my family would clean on the weekends at my house and listen to that kind of music. My mom would share with me her experiences of going out to the disco in Germany and having the time of her life while listening to this music. It’s something that’s always been ingrained in my life.”
Although the band's love for music grew from simple childhood memories, their journey as professional musicians is far from simple or easy. The band has been through The University of Texas at Austin’s jazz program, where performances were a little more regimented and the music they performed wasn’t their own.
“It was such a huge insecurity of mine personally, being a music major in jazz and classical performance,” reveals Jonny. The lead singer admits that being in school felt isolating at times. “Like, Is it bad that I wanna dance? If I hear something on stage that I vibe with, can I clap in the middle? Or is that not a good look? I felt vulnerable. I couldn’t really find my place in the music scene. I love classical, I love jazz, I love trombone. But something that just resonates with me is pop music from all the decades.”
In starting their own band, Huggy and the Feel Goodz gets to showcase their musical training to develop music that’s purely theirs. Though a formal music education places constraints on their creative expression at times, the band's background and technical skill is what sets them apart from other groups.
“The beautiful thing [about being music majors] is that the musicality in our group is unreal. Unreal! No one can touch these guys,” praises Jonny. “These guys I would argue are some of the best musicians around town.”
Being musically skilled is one thing, but what Louk Cox, the band’s musical director and saxophone player, really values is the fun that their talent allows them to have with their audience.
“Getting on stage and playing music that we created, especially as jazz musicians, just produces a strong sense of connection between us and the audience,” elaborates Louk. “This band allows us to do that really well because we’re all writing and getting together and it’s something that we’re passionate about. It’s really powerful. We all like to play a show where the audience is super engaged. Especially if they’re dancing, that’s something that we all get into. We all get a rush. This is just the kind of music that we all already listen to and there’s an absence of this music in Austin that we wanted to fill.”
For the band members, creating and performing music as Huggy and the Feel Goodz is all about using what they learned as classically trained musicians to create a space for their audience to let loose, have fun, and feel good.