Photo Credit:  Jessie Kriech-Higdon

 

The kitchen of the Hallahans’ beautiful home in the Cherokee Gardens section of Louisville gets a lot of morning light. This is both by physical and by social design. In this room Patrick — a big teddy-bear of a man who rose to prominence as the drummer of My Morning Jacket, and whose new local culinary venture, Butchertown Grocery, has been hailed as one of America’s best new restaurants —creates sprawling meals for, and with, his family. It is an airy, bustling eat-in space, where the family congregates before Brigid, a school librarian, goes to work — and when she returns. It’s also where their five year-old daughter Flora dances and builds forts and sits down to draw, using it as a primary staging area for her childhood. Naturally, this room has a freewheeling soundtrack.

 

Patrick Hallahan cooking with Flora, his daughter.

 

“We always play music when we’re cooking, making banana bread” says Patrick, one morning in late May. He’s just finished cleaning up after breakfast. Flora is floating between a pair of towers she’s erected out of her toys, while Harry Belafonte’s great calypso, “Man Smart (Woman Smarter),” a part of her personalized playlist, is pulsating, quietly but insistently, from the PLAY:5 speaker perched on the backrest of the reddish wood bench. “And I feel like Sonos has introduced us to a more varied and non-stop listening situation.”

Patrick was raised not far from here, in Hikes Point, a working class suburb of eastern Louisville, at least the sixth generation of his mom’s side of the family to grow up around the old Kentucky port town on the banks of the Ohio River. Shared songs and shared meals are his heritage.

Says Hallahan, “My grandmother Joni Brohm was a lounge singer, and she’d rehearse her band in her basement. I was probably three-years old, thinking ‘Oh My God, this is amazing.’ I was so blown away by it that I’d never leave.” Patrick calls his grandmother’s basement  “a haven for my musical upbringing and my siblings as well.” There was of course a record player and a glass cabinet filled with 45s of songs Joni’s band was learning — “we cut our teeth on that stuff.” Soon the basement featured a toy drum, the kids were playing band, and the family stereo moved to the room that Patrick shared with his younger brother. “There was always music in the air, and an underlying current of it in whatever our family did.”

 

Patrick Hallahan reading to his daughter.

 

“And,” he quickly adds, “cooking came to me the same way music did. It wasn’t something I sought out — it’s been a part of me forever.” The oldest of four, two brothers and a sister, Hallahan says he began reading cookbooks when he was four or five years old. “I started learning basic stuff, cooking for myself and for my siblings, at an early age; but we’d also wake up early and make my parents breakfast. In fact, if you would have asked me in 5th grade what I was going to be, I would have said, ‘a chef.’”

The twin passions of cooking and music have naturally entered his own household: “When we’re all home together, our family loves to spend time in the kitchen, cooking and socializing. Flora comes down the steps in the morning and I start making her breakfast. Sometimes she helps mix things in a bowl, but sometimes she sits down at the kitchen table and starts drawing or doing something creative and immediately wants to listen to music — and it’s because these are her [musical] choices playing out of those speakers. That’s another tradition I’m trying to pass on to Flora. I think a natural progression of having an attraction to something, is to follow that attraction.”

The family-member whose musical habits seem most shaped by Sonos is Flora. According to Patrick, from a very young age “Flora took to a kids program called Music Together. That became a backdrop to her childhood, associated with movement and social time, a real positive thing.

Following his attraction shaped Patrick’s own life. Music, and discovering its many variations has been core to the relationship between Hallahan and My Morning Jacket’s primary songwriter Jim James since they first met in grade school. They’re a part of small cabal of friends who’ve been in and out of each other’s bands since 7th grade, united by the kind of growth that creates career musicians.

“We just formed this group of people who liked to talk about music and turning each other onto stuff.” They relied on each other to move from Joni’s Motown singles and Led Zeppelin (“holy sh*t, that’s not hair-metal”), to the then-current Louisville hardcore and indie scene (“Urchin and Rodan and Slint, bands that were blowing our minds, totally different than anything we were listening to at the time”). “We were never scenesters,” Patrick says. “We were always just kind of in the middle of all of it.”

This is the atmosphere in which Patrick and the rest of My Morning Jacket first discovered the power of SONOS. “One great thing about being in a band like ours is that everybody is actively seeking new music all the time. It’s a great brain trust of people, sharing and comparing.” While recording the 2015 album The Waterfall, the band set up pairs of PLAY:5s and PLAY:3s in the Stinson Beach house they all camped in together, extending the studio sessions and playing tunes off their iPods and iPhones for another. “We found that it became our jukebox, but more of a visceral listening experience.”

Naturally, the possibilities of a personalized listening experience have taken firm roots in the Hallahans’ home. There’s the huge record collection Patrick’s built over his lifetime, which is now newly transportable. “I have my Sonos set-up through my main stereo, and I can drag a PLAY:5 out to the screen porch, drop a needle and listen to my records out there.” He says that Brigid likes to “set it and forget it. She just puts on, like, a Dinosaur Jr. playlist and, boom, she’s off and running.”

 

Patrick Hallahan playing with Flora and listening through a PLAY:5.

 

The family-member whose musical habits seem most shaped by SONOS is Flora. According to Patrick, from a very young age “Flora took to a kids program called Music Together. That became a backdrop to her childhood, associated with movement and social time, a real positive thing. When we got Sonos, we selected the Music Together radio station on Pandora, and both Brigid and I were paying attention to what she was reacting positively to, and started building a customized station for her. It’s been great because it introduces her to music we wouldn’t necessarily play; and now there are voices that she gravitates towards like…” he snaps his fingers. “Belafonte, Bob Marley, Ray Charles, that Louie and Ella Verve album.

“And her choices are changing and growing…” — it is then wonderful to hear Patrick’s parental aspirations as a music fan excitedly spread their wings — “…Like, she started reacting to The Clash the other day and I thought I was going to faint cause that’s one of my favorite bands of all time.” Of course, there is a great, age-old pop vs. rock moment a few minutes later though, when Flora, asked if there’s any music she likes to listen to, does not hesitate to say, “Taylor Swift” — before adding “and daddy’s rock and roll.” The 45s of Joni’s glass case have found a new form.

Towards the end of the chat, Patrick pondered which parts of fatherhood he had already internalized, while simply and unconsciously tying together the traditions of his familial past and future: “My mornings with her,” he said as the morning light streamed in through the kitchen window. “The Music Together playlist that we’ve accumulated over two years. Those are some of my most tender moments. I go to those when I am out on the road and I am lonely, and when I am thinking that I can’t wait to get back home, and make banana bread with her. Watch her add the ingredients and mix it up. Those are just really special times for us as a family.”


Flora’s Banana Bread Recipe

Ingredients

3 over ripened bananas (Place in freezer two days before. Thaw before baking.)
1/3 cup room temp butter
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups all-purpose flour
Repeat listens of Harry Belafonte’s “Jump in The Line” and Dion’s “Runaround Sue”

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Coat a 9×5″ bread pan with butter.
  2. In one bowl, sift together all dry ingredients.
  3. In another bowl, cream the butter and sugar until smooth using a mixer. Add in bananas and vanilla extract. Take a sniff. Life is good.
  4. Gradually add the dry mixture to the wet mixture, stirring only until fully combined.  Make sure there’s is plenty of good music playing.  We find that dancing helps bring the ingredients together.
  5. Pour into buttered bread pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 55-60 minutes (or until a toothpick comes out clean).
  6. Lick the bowl and mixer clean!  Make sure to get some of it on your nose.  This step is most important.
  7. Remove finished cake from pan and let cool for 30 minutes.
  8. Share cake with friends…it just tastes better that way.