Experienced rock ‘n’ roll musicians Molly Nova and Turk Krause of Molly Nova and the Hawk may be in their 40s, but they feel like they’re just getting started.
Between the two of them, Nova and Krause spent 30 years playing with The Blue Band, a group Nova co-founded in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. However, they grew tired of performing cover songs and the pair wanted to try their hand at original numbers. They also decided that they wanted to highlight the sound of Nova’s five-string custom-made acrylic, electric violin — something their former band-mates resisted.
Nova and Krause split from the group and headed north.
"I realized that I hadn’t been growing artistically," said Krause, who also plays bass. "We were becoming complacent, and we saw that there were still mountains to climb out there."
The couple moved to Bryn Mawr in September 2002 to relaunch their musical careers. Coming to the Twin Cities, said Nova and Turk, who sings and plays drums, has breathed new life into the duo’s creativity.
By January 2003, they were writing songs and performing as Molly Nova and the Hawk, along with guitarist Paul Czyzewski of Lino Lakes, keyboardist T.J. Ike of Mound and bassist Jeff Walker from Hopkins.
They call their musical style "sweet rockin’ roots and blues." The band is influenced by Southern rock and blues legends like The Allman Brothers Band and Lynyrd Skynyrd, Krause explained. Yet Nova’s violin sweetens their sound. "Roots" stands for the many years he and Nova spent in the business before realizing they made a good songwriting team.
In September, Molly Nova and the Hawk’s collection of original songs, "Another Shade of Blue," was awarded the 2003 Minnesota Music Award for Best Blues Recording.
Molly Nova and the Hawk play a regular gig at the South Side Music Caf in Burnsville. Krause said this is exactly the kind of work that will tide them over the winter. They spend their summers on the road, playing outdoor music festivals in places like Memphis, Denver, Chicago, Kansas City, Denver and Fargo.
"We thrive on being road dogs," Krause said. "You get a decent truck and you go. There is a toughness that you develop just by having to travel and meet audiences."
The couple learned the ins and outs of road life when they were based in Cedar Rapids, Iowa and they had to travel great distances between venues.
While they enjoy road dog life, they said one of the reasons they moved to Minneapolis is because it has bigger venues and more local places to perform.
However, the couple admits that their Hawkeye roots make many in the music business cringe.
"It’s a lot easier if you do not publicize the fact that you are from Iowa," Nova said.
The new kid in town
Nova spied Krause for the first time from the back door of the Circle Bar in Cedar Falls, Iowa in the late 1970s. He was playing drums, she said, with a band called Headstone; Nova was too young to get into the show (at least, through the front door).
Now they’ve been friends for almost 25 years and a couple for six. They began collaborating artistically three years ago, an effort that culminated in the award-winning "Another Shade of Blue."
While one might think performing would be a real challenge for a couple, Krause described being on stage together as "a very calming sort of thing . . . Those weird little idiosyncrasies don’t happen with us. At a show, it’s important that she talks to as many guys as possible. It’s all professional, and it’s all good. I know at the end of the night she is going home with me."
While there are many more available venues in the Twin Cities than there were around Cedar Rapids, there is also a lot more competition. There are dozens of long-standing bands with greater name recognition, they said, making Molly Nova and the Hawk the new kids on the block.
Establishing themselves with local club owners has been difficult. The duo said it’s a Catch-22: club owners want to hire bands who have a following to ensure that people will show up for the performance, but a band can’t generate a following unless they’re allowed to play.
To make ends meet, they work for and housesit for their friend Mikee Cusack, who is in the events merchandising business. Cusack has been traveling with George Thorogood and the Destroyers and the Barenaked Ladies for the last few months, marketing their t-shirts and hats.
Another issue the band confronts is blending their own material, which they love, with the audience’s preference for familiar tunes.
"You have got to play the money songs. Those are songs that have been on the radio and that people know. When you play them the dance floor fills up," Krause said.
Nova said the band tries to find the middle ground, interspersing covers with their original tunes.
"But you don’t have to be playing songs like ‘Mustang Sally,’" Nova said. We like to pick ones that fit in with our signature sound."
Despite the difficulties of the rock ‘n’ roll lifestyle, the veteran couple said they are committed to it.
For more information on Molly Nova and the Hawk, check out their Web site, www. mollynovahawk.com.