Virginia standup comedian Winston Hodges just released his first professionally-recorded album, Already Aware, with Helium Comedy Records. But he’s far from new to the comedy game, as RVA Mag’s Ash Griffith learned during their conversation.
Winston Hodges is doing pretty okay these days. Originally from Farmville, VA and getting his start in the Richmond comedy scene, Winston now is travelling through the stand-up circuit in Washington DC, amongst other places. He posts his schedule regularly on his Instagram account, and he often has shows in DC and the Virginia area.
On top of all that, Winston released his first professionally recorded album, Already Aware, last week. Recorded in front of a live audience, Hodges brings us some of his best material from the last six years or so, including some that was newly written at the time for the recording.
“This is closer to what you would see if you came to see me headline,” said Hodges. “I wanted to make sure to get as much of the jokes [that I] haven’t done in awhile, and stuff that was brand new when I started recording. [It’s] a good mix of stuff that I was proud of from my first few years, stuff that was currently in my act, and stuff that I had written the last month or so of the pandemic. It’s really what it’s like to see me live – a mix of old, a mix of new, a mix of me trying new stuff.”
When record label Helium Comedy Records asked Hodges to record an album with them, it was just a chance meeting. He was already performing on a show with his friend, fellow comic Chris Alan. Like the fabled story of the NFL manager seeing the college quarterback at a home game and offering to sign them, Helium Comedy Records loved his set and offered to record.
While this is his first professional record release, it is by no means his first record or special all together. 2020 saw the premiere of his special, Grieving Productively, which was about his father’s death. The first album he ever released was recorded in his first two years of doing comedy and recorded at The Southern in Charlottesville.
While Grieving Productively obviously was a project he was passionate about, his first record was more just to prove that he was here at all.
“It was a cool thing, but it was an album I made [so that] if I died tomorrow, to have proof that I did do comedy,” said Hodges. “I feel like every band is allowed to put out a terrible album.”
At this point it’s safe to say that Hodges has plenty of proof that he has made a few people laugh. With over six years under his belt, one of the biggest hurdles was actually whittling down what material went on the album.
Thanks to friends who were able to let him do some hour-long sets in order to prepare for the record, he ended up with over ten hours to carve from. Those who have been following his work for awhile will be happy to know that some of their favorites from a few years ago just might have made the cut.
“A third of the album is stuff that I don’t really do anymore, but am proud enough of to want it recorded,” said Hodges. “A third of the album is [stuff] I’m never going to do on stage again unless someone is like, ‘Hey I really like that joke, can you do that one?’ I would say the other third to a little more than a third is the stuff that, when I headline, I do every single time. It’s tight, it’s good, I really enjoy it.”
Recording his first professional album was if nothing else, a learning experience. The backing of a professional label certainly provides less work and stress on your end, but the biggest lesson learned was pretty to the point.
“You don’t ever really know when you’re going to get an opportunity like this,” said Hodges. “Even though I had just released the special that had thirty-five minutes of material, even though it isn’t normally what I do onstage, I’m like ‘I’ve got time to prep for my next thing.’ Just constantly being ready, and not being afraid to say yes just because you’re not sure you’re ready.”
Hodges is nothing if not appreciative of the experience. It is obvious that he is a dedicated artist who works hard, and anyone who has worked with him or seen him perform can attest to that. But sometimes it’s just nice to be recognized.
“I’ve always wanted to be asked to make something,” said Hodges. “I think as independent artists it’s cool that we can make and do whatever we want, and we’re on our own terms. But there is something really neat about having someone go ‘Hey, we really like you can you create an album for us?’ And I think that was the part that I was really excited for.”