Tim Hockenberry of Mill Valley

Aching. Yearning. Burning. Brilliant. These are just some of the words critics have used to describe local musician Tim Hockenberry. He’s a bit more self-effacing with Facebook quips such as “I’m disgusted with myself, but I’m happy” or the more provocative “If I think of myself less, I end up thinking more of myself”—poetic musings one can expect from a singer/songwriter described as somewhere between Tom Waits and David Gray. Having just returned from a three-month East Coast tour with the Trans-Siberian Orchestra (TSO), Hockenberry will be spending equal time on his bike exploring the mountain (abs like his don’t just happen) and playing the city and Marin lounge circuit. He has a few CDs under his belt and his single "Believe" is gaining recognition on TSO’s Nightcastle CD (No. 5 on the Billboard top 200 last month). Who is Tim Hockenberry and what what does he think of the cougars who prey on him? 

New Year’s resolutions? To stay sober. I’ve been on-and-off sober for 20 years and sober always looks and feels better. I’ve given up pretty much everything, except women. 

Is it hard to leave your kids? The boys get by OK and are in some ways, I am sure, glad to see me go, but it’s hard on Lola, my 6-year-old. This time, last fall, before I left I picked her up from school on my bike and we rode up to West Point Inn for a sleepover. I always miss her terribly.

Why Marin? Marin’s weather is as easy to swallow as the politics of its people. 

Where were you born? Upstate New York, Binghamton. Where that guy shot all those people.

Who has influenced you most? It is a toss-up between Louis Armstrong and Oscar Wilde. 

What’s your desert-island favorite book or album? Lord of the Flies or the Beatles’ White Album.

Favorite place to unwind? On my bike going up the Railroad Grade or in the pool at the Mill Valley Tennis Club with Lola.

Favorite Marin view? Yes...from my living room on Panoramic Highway.

What do you like about yourself? I don’t drink, smoke or use drugs, and I don’t steal.

The bill in the martini glass in your Hard Times video–is it real? Yep, Paul O’Neill, the creator of the Trans-Siberian Orchestra, knew I loved books on the Holocaust, so he gave me a first edition signed print of my favorite book by Elie Wiesel, called NIGHT, and inside of it was an actual thousand-dollar bill to be used as a bookmark to always remind me of the value of the written word. Paul is a very generous man.

You just had a birthday. How does it feel to get older? It just sorta happens way too fast. The original script for The Graduate calls for a 36-year-old woman to play Mrs. Robinson. Here in Marin, that’s a kindergarten mom. 

Favorite Marin venue? I love playing in Marin—Bungalow 44, 142 Throckmorton—and I have a great time playing at Famous For Our Look, a little clothier in downtown Mill Valley, where sometimes I play for two hours to the public and afterwards, Larry, the owner (and my spiritual adviser), gives me a bunch of really cool Italian clothes.  

How do you want to be remembered? As a pretty goddamned good singer (who didn’t steal).

Cougars? As I told my mostly significant other/best friend—Mill Valley would be more interesting if there were fewer of them.

Marin Magazine
January 2010